Posts Tagged ‘America’

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Sitting in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California looking back on his wasted life is Sirhan Sirhan, the aggrieved pro-Palestinian Jordanian who fifty years ago today fatally shot Bobby Kennedy for his support for selling war planes to Israel.

But what he killed that day was not only the wildly popular primary contender for the Democratic nomination for President, but also the post-war “big government” consensus that had held sway in America since the Depression. With Kennedy effectively died the idea that Government had a legitimate role in enabling social cohesion and attacking evils such as poverty and the racial divide.

After his death, the Democrats turned to Hubert Humphrey as a consensus candidate, but the bumbling Humphrey was never going to be a match for the charismatic and experienced Richard Nixon.

That event began a thirty year or more realignment to the right in American politics, which eventually led to a wider realignment around the democratic world, which affected both future Democratic candidates (such as Carter and Clinton) as well as notable Republicans such as Ronald Reagan. By the end of the process the “post war consensus” around enabling government and Keynsian economics was largely broken, and it is not clear yet whether or not it will ever be revived.

Texan political scientist Walter Dean Burnham’s 1970 book Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics presents a theory of American political development that focuses on the role of party systems that endure for several decades, only to be disrupted by a “critical election”. Such elections not only hand presidential and congressional power to the non-incumbent political party, but they do so in a dramatic way that repudiates the worn-out ideas of the old party and initiates a new era whose leaders govern on a new set of assumptions, ideologies, and public policies. The elections of 1860 and 1932 are perhaps the clearest examples of critical elections, and scholars have disagreed about how well Burnham’s theories still explain American electoral politics. Others contend that 1968 was a realigning election for Republicans holding the presidency from 1969 to 1977 and again from 1981 to 1993.

Some political scientists, such as Mayhew, are skeptical of the realignment theory altogether, saying there are no long-term patterns: “Electoral politics,” he wrote, “is to an important degree just one thing after another … Elections and their underlying causes are not usefully sortable into generation-long spans … It is a Rip Van Winkle view of democracy that voters come awake only once in a generation … It is too slippery, too binary, too apocalyptic, and it has come to be too much of a dead end.”

That is in all probability true. “Realignment” elections are probably the result of long-term trends that then coalesce around an individual or event. In this sense, the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK is unquestionably onesuch, in that it can be seen as not so much an enthusiasm for Thatcher personally (for some time after her election in 1979 she actually languished in the polls and could arguably have been defeated in the 1983 election were it not for the Falklands War) but as an enduring and growing response to militant trade unionism that had disrupted the country during the previous Heath and Callaghan premierships.

In this sense, though, it is interesting to debate what type of America we might now see had Robert Kennedy survived and won the election. Would we have seen a rejuvenated consensus around government intervention, led by Kennedy’s personal charisma, and fervour? Or was Kennedy a “man out of time”, a liberal consensus man who belonged ten or twenty years earlier? It is an enticing discussion.

Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in response to the dissent brokered by the civil rights movement thoroughly moved large numbers of older, conservative and male whites (most directly) into the Republican camp. Whether or not Kennedy’s personal appeal and rhetorical flourish would have kept them in the Democrat fold is impossible to say. Republican leaders consciously appealed to many white Southerners’ racial grievances in order to gain their support. Whether or not Kennedy could have “sold” a different narrative is hard to say. The Southern Strategy and its effectiveness certainly annoyed black and other minority voters. In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologised to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a national civil rights organisation, for exploiting racial polarisation to win elections and ignoring the black vote. The very substantial preference for the Democrat ticket currently evidenced by the black population stems in part from this period and there can be little doubt that the election of Donald Trump reresented the most stark division between black and white voters in modern electoral history. Would Kennedy have reduced or prevented that divide? Who knows?

Certainly, many left-leaning leaders at the time felt Kennedy’s loss very keenly and for many Kennedy’s death ended the revival of American liberalism.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 2.31.06 pm“King had prepared us for his death, and after it [MLK’s death] happened, there was no weeping, we immediately started figuring out how we were going to carry on the Poor People’s Campaign,” says former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s closest aides.

But that maintenance of effort was scuppered by Kennedy’s death. “That was when I broke down,” says Young. “I think that the rational liberal democratic socialist view of the world, from Franklin Roosevelt all the way to Lyndon Johnson, was really cut short by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.”

Others disagree. “By the end of the 1960s, the forces that were swelling up against the Great Society, which was an extension of the New Deal of the 1930s, were going to defeat whoever the Democrats put up,” says HW Brands, historian and author. “Americans were disillusioned and angered by the violence of the 1960s, and by the failure of the Democratic governments of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to take Vietnam to a successful conclusion.”

Brands notes how also the Civil Rights movement had largely achieved its legislative aims, and so if either Martin Luther King Jr or Robert Kennedy had lived they would have had to battle the great American conundrum of economic inequality and poverty that has thwarted all others.

“That’s a much tougher nut to deal with going off the last 50 years of American politics,” Mr Brands says. “You can repeal laws against blacks, but can you mandate economic equality? Nobody’s figured out how to do it … for a society that is organised economically along capitalist lines.” It’s a fair point.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 1.44.58 pm.pngWhat is certain is that the election of Nixon and the general drift to the right that continues to this day resulted in economic policies – an understanding of the economic framework – that are wildly different to what went before … right up to until, perhaps, the election of an innately interventionist Trump administration, with its talk of directly investing in rustbelt industries, trade wars, and all the rest of it – which election can at least in part be squarely laid at the door of voter dis-satisfaction with the actual out-workings of the very “trickle down” economics that the Republicans for a generation have been enthusiastically promoting.

Yet as the result of the Trump revolution, American economic policy is now a curious (and not necessarily sustainable, or necessarily successful) mixture of lowering taxes and increasing spending, of triumphalist nationalism and “America First”, and an apparent rejection of free tradeism. Aided, no doubt, by Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity in some sections of the population, Trump’s election was above all a reaction to the fact that the new consensus, established after Kennedy’s death and pursued by both Democrats and Republicans, hasn’t really “worked”, either.

So it is at least worth speculating exactly what Sirhan Sirhan destroyed that day, 50 years ago. Jeremi Suri, a history professor and author, has commented: “Kennedy … was the last politician who came from a background of Franklin Roosevelt-influenced social welfare policies who could connect with rural voters,” Mr Suri says. “What ended in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a set of policies of expanding rights, expanding government services and assistance for those in need, and the backlash against that was facilitated by the absence of effective figures like Robert Kennedy.”

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So was Kennedy-ism the last gasp of the liberal consensus, or will we see that consensus revived, at least in part, by a new crop of populist centre-left politicians, in America and around the world, of whom Trump is merely, perhaps, a somewhat confused example?

How do we judge, for example, the huge popularity of a character like Bernie Sanders, a self proclaimed “democratic socialist”, whose economic prescription for America could have been written by any “big Government” thinker from 1926-1966 without anyone finding it in the least unusual or even worthy of much comment?

Was Kennedy’s death merely a pause in left-liberal consensus building, or the end of it?

Time, as always, will tell.

(Some of the quotations in this article previously appeared in a BBC article.)

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Watching video footage of a Florida student recording the noise of a gunman firing an “AR-15 style rifle” inside their school – killing at least 17 people, and possibly more when the injured either recover or tragically do not – was not good for one’s peace of mind.

The horrific and terrifying noise that such a rifle makes just a few feet from you will live in the mind of viewers forever. What the long-term effect will be on those who were actually there will be, God only knows. The by-now all too familiar photographs of traumatised children and parents are almost too awful to contemplate.

Indeed, one of the greatest dangers of the current situation in America is that people will turn away, feeling helpless, or simply ignore events through compassion fatigue.

This was the 18th school shooting in the USA this year. Which, it should be pointed out, is not even into its third month.

Worse, the alleged perpetrator was known to the school, had been disciplined while there, and previously banned from the campus with a backpack on.

The time for America to ignore its hugely powerful gun lobby and take action to prevent more occurrences of these acts is now so long overdue that it is not even worth fulminating in shock any more.

America must do take following steps now, or accept that disenfranchised marginalised youths – nearly always male, and clearly disturbed – will continue to act like this with relative impunity.

No, this problem will not be fixed overnight – the solution will be long, tortuous and depressingly tough and complex – but every day that is wasted simply invites another such event. America has to start this journey sometime. If not now, when?

  • “Assault style/AR-15” rifles must be banned throughout the country. For everyone. They are unnecessary for vermin control on farms, they are unnecessary for hunting, they are unnecessary for personal protection, and in the wrong hands they are irreparably and uniquely harmful. That’s it, no discussion, the time has come. Someone needs to show some leadership and get this change implemented.
  • No gun of any kind should be sold, by anyone, to anyone, without thorough psychological and background checks. America needs, as far as it can, to keep guns out of the hands of people who are likely to turn them on themselves or others.
  • The USA needs a gun amnesty to encourage legacy guns out of the community so they can be destroyed. This will reduce the number of guns stolen (currently 200,000 a year from legal gun owners) that end up int he criminal community.
  • People keeping unsecured weapons in their home should be subject to tough new nationally-agreed sanctions including, but not limited to, the permanent removal of their weapons and a ban on them replacing them

None of these aims should be rejected by reasonable advocates of gun ownership. Most people outside of America consider, as we have said many times before, that the right to bear arms is as inherently unwise as the right to arm bears. But it has to be accepted that the American public has a unique view of the matter. But that view can still be respected while making America’s children – indeed, all their population – much safer.

Some will say, again, that the problem is schools that are gun free zones, that all that is needed is more and better armed security. This is, of course, a simple nonsense. No school facility can ever be adequately secured against a madman with a semi-automatic rifle, and that’s the only point that matters. Unless you want to turn schools into the equivalent of armed prison camps, which is not only impractical, but is also not healthy for the children inside them. Why would America want to do that, when Americans can choose instead to rid society of semi-automatic weapons if they so wish?

Some will say, again, that guns are not the only deadly weapon available to assailants. And they’d be right. But it is much more difficult to kill 17 people with a knife, or a baseball bat. And that’s the point. And it is unarguable. It is also unarguable that the vast majority of attacks are carried out with guns, and the most deadly have always been with AR-15 style weapons, simply because of the ease with which multiple shots can be got off.

Some will say again that getting rid of such weapons is too hard, that illegal arms will continue to circulate amongst the criminal classes, and the argument needs to be confronted honestly. Yes, it will be hard to eliminate such weapons from the streets of America, and it will take time. As each such weapon is discovered, it must be destroyed. The population of such weapons will fall only slowly. (Although a gun amnesty will speed the process.) But people committing massacres are not career or professional criminals. They are not even gang members. They are loners, and normally not criminal in any other identifiable sense. In other words, the argument is a simple furphy.

The argument in favour of starting the process of reducing the population of such guns vastly outweighs any difficulties.

Because the question always comes back to “if not now, when?”

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Without political leadership – without bi-partisan political leadership – America is simply doomed to seeing these scenes over and over. What is clear is that the current situation is unacceptable in a modern, free country. If anyone doubts that it is, they should visit 17 households in Broward County tonight.

Already there is evidence that tourist numbers to the USA are being negatively affected by the widespread perception of the country as riddled with gun violence.

And the psychological impact on America’s own population can hardly be imagined.

Let’s work together on what CAN be done, rather than waste any more time arguing about whether anything should be done. And before any smart-alec remarks that this is nothing to do with a writer in Australia, we would simply make three points.

  • Sometimes, a little distance is required to give perspective.
  • We have successfully tackled this problem in Australia and largely eradicated these weapons from our society.
  • We have friends in America. Many of them. And some of those friends have children.

Only when we have sought to address the core problem is it appropriate to say “Prayers and sympathy” to the victims. Because to express such sentiments, but to refuse to even begin to seriously tackle how to prevent events like today’s terrible massacre, is utter hypocrisy. Damnable hypocrisy. And it should be called out as such.

Something must be done. Starting today. That’s the bottom line.

 

 

civilianAs we have wandered Facebook and Instagram and all the rest of it, catching up on friends’ and acquaintances’ (and a few celebrities’) wishes for the New Year, one thing has struck us forcibly.

In the 1980s and 90s it seemed to us, most of the wishes were about health and happiness and wealth – hope the New Year brings you lots of money and the energy to enjoy it, essentially.

In this new century, the world seems a more anxious and thoughtful place. And as we near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, even more so.

It’s easy to see why. The old order is collapsing, or at least seems to be, at least to a degree.

The European experiment, which was always about unity and not just economics, regardless of how it was “sold”, seems mired in intractable problems. Not just the misguided Brexit – an especially self-immolatory act of political lunacy born of lies, anti-immigration sentiment and a generalised angst given something to focus on by weak leadership, especially that of David Cameron – but by the difficulties in keeping Eastern European countries with no strong tradition of liberal democracy signed up to the particular rules demanded of that heavy burden, and the eternal problem of encouraging people to work to a common good rather than a local or regional one.

Those in rich countries or areas are rapidly becoming sick of bailing out poorer areas.

The ultimate failure, of course, is political – as it always is – is in explaining to them why that’s good policy, and a burden worth shouldering. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking Brexit, Greece, Catalonia, Northern Italy or elsewhere. The failure is not economic, it’s political.

The United States, for so long the arbiter of seemingly everything both good and bad in the world, at least from, say 1943 onwards, now seems lost and uncertain of its role.

In part, this is very obviously because economically the country is no longer the source of unending world wealth, but also because Russian and China (in particular) have parlayed their growing economic might into political clout. Rumours of America’s demise have been hugely over-inflated – it is still the world’s biggest economy by far, with the largest armed forces by some distance, and massive diplomatic clout. But increasingly the country looks like a wounded beast thrashing around in its death throes. There is inadequate investment in the technologies of the future which America must lead in order to maintain its competitive advantage, and its political influence is deeply harmed by the perception outside the USA that its political leadership has, essentially, collapsed.

trump handsThe President looks to all the world, and increasingly to even his own supporters,  to be a scary mixture of stupidity and even mental illness, the Congress seems little more than a quacking collection of self-interested ducks, and any level of informed debate which might turn this miasma around seems largely drowned out by a mixture of bread and circuses and mindless partisanship.

Ranged against this, and perhaps most worryingly, significant numbers of young people look to the command economies of America’s greatest rival with some degree of envy. And every excess of bluster (of which the current standoff with Iran and North Korea are only the most obvious) makes the apparent stability of Russia and China look more attractive, and by implication, their systems. In reality, of course, Russia is little more than a dictatorship by kleptocracy, with highly dubious international ambitions and no regard for the freedom of its own people, and China is run by a ruthlessly domineering state apparatus that papers over substantial internal divisions whilst attempting to feed the middle-class ambitions of its people.

There are, of course, great problems with poverty and lack of opportunity in both countries, just as there are in the rust belt states of the USA or the china-poor-migrant-workers.jpgwobbling rural American states trying to make their way in a world where the produce market is increasingly borderless, or in Latin America, but we hear very little of the problems faced by the command economies of China and Russia (and their imitators) because the first thing throttled by their leadership is a free press.

The argument that judiciously managed free trade conducted by democracies is the fastest and most reliable route to the greater good of all – which should be the clarion call of all sides of Western politics – has sadly morphed, driven by localised economic hardship, into rampant protectionism in the USA, which is hardly how to inspire the people to believe in the system long term.

Capitalism’s own internal contradictions gave us the GFC in recent memory. Instead of pinioning it for what it was – a failure of sensible regulation and the inevitable result of uncontrolled greed by a small elite – America has circled the wagons and thinks it can fix the problem by being rude to its friends and neighbours, investing directly in protecting industries that should rightly be exposed to the winds of competition, and continuing to ramp up endless castles of debt, the construction of which mountain will now be enhanced by reducing its tax take.

To those casting about for security and predictability, it looks like madness, and it is.

The paper claimed mainstream climate models misunderstood the role of clouds

Pile on top of this the very obvious fact that the weather is getting “worse”. This worrysome trend is becoming patently obvious to anyone with half a brain, and debates about why seem so yesterday when the facts are faced up to. Against a US President who jokes in a snowstorm that some global warming might be helpful is a growing understanding in the population as a whole that something serious is up. The message that global warming really (and immediately) means more (and greater) extreme weather events is hitting home. Bigger and more destructive storms of all kinds, including snowstorms. Habitat change threatening species (and many more than polar bears) and subsistence farming across the planet. Large populated areas of low-lying country threatened with likely inundation. Industrial-scale farming patterns worldwide need adjusting and fast.

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And last by by no means least, the entire world seems doomed to engage in a seemingly never-ending asymmetrical war with the forces of extreme violence – now, notably, “Islamic” violence – which represents a tiny fraction of the religion’s worldwide ummah, but which taints it all with sometimes tragic consequences, despite the very obvious fact that many more Muslims are killed by the extremists than are Westerners.

The current paralysis of world political thinking is nowhere better illustrated than by the failure to deal with the philosophical basis of the extremism. The philosophy of extremist Islam is nothing new, but its ability to de-stabilise the world is new. Free availability of arms both large and small, (many supplied from the West), instant digital communication, and a perpetual media spotlight make the menace much greater than it ever has been.

And to even say “Maybe if we stopped bombing towns and villages with enhanced munitions then at least some people might stop becoming radicalised?” is to invite howls of derision and even cat-calls of “Traitor”. As we move into 2018, patriotism has become not just the refuge of scoundrels, but also those who wish to deny palpably obvious realities. The equivalent for Muslims is to say “Maybe we Shia and Sunni should stop killing each other and live in peace?” Even to voice the opinion risks swift retribution.

It is hardly surprising, faced with all this, that worldwide people are retreating into a sort of mutualised depression, for which social media provides one poor outlet, with plaintive appeals to enjoy “A peaceful New Year” replacing “Health, Wealth and Happiness”.

Part of the problem is the seemingly intractable nature of all these problems.

In all these scenarios, the themes seem simply too large, too complex, and too “far away”, for ordinary people to wreak any meaningful change in a positive direction. And it is in this specific context that we propose a return to basics.

We offer you these critical commandments to guide us all in troubling times.

  • Get out and vote for what you believe in.

Abstention-ism is not a viable option. It is leaving “it” to the elites that has got us into this awful mess.

The First Vote

But don’t just vote. Get involved with the political party of your choice. Ask questions, and demand answers.

Get involved in policy-making. Be a squeaky wheel. If you don’t feel qualified to talk about the niceties of defence planning or international economics, then start with what you do know. Your local school district. Rubbish collection. Parks and gardens. Traffic flow. Take back control over your life.

The resulting empowerment is not just good for society, and good training in how to effect change, it’s good for your own psychological well-being, too.

The demise of party membership is just the first and most obvious example of how we willfully gave away our influence over those that rule us.

This is as true in China and Russia as it is in Australia and America. Governmental systems vary, but the power of the people doesn’t. Ultimately, when exercised, the power of the people always and inevitably wins, because there’s more of “us” than there is of “them”. And their control rests on our acquiescence. (That’s why the elite are more than happy to keep us satiated with sports and hamburgers and alcohol.)

So if you want to win, get in the game. Don’t be a spectator. “Subvert the dominant paradigm”, whoever and wherever you are.

Secondly, if the drift towards climate disaster or world conflict terrifies you, (and it should), then channel that fear into something that makes a difference.

  • Don’t like climate change? Turn it off. Reduce your energy consumption.

flashing-panda-wall-switch-light-nightlight-6-led-aaa-batteries-led-wall-switchEveryone can do this, even if it simply involves turning a few lights off.

Only use heating or cooling systems when you really need to.

The planet will be grateful, and your hip-pocket will thank you too.

It really is that simple. And spend two minutes more a week recycling properly, and encouraging everyone around you to do the same.

While you’re making this change, eat a little less meat. Meat (which we freely admit we adore) is highly harmful to the environment. If you’re a dedicated carnivore, maybe enjoy just one vegetarian meal a week?

Never was “Think global, act local” more true, yet we seem to be bored with that call already. Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s time to remind everyone that tiny changes, multiplied by millions, really do make a massive difference.

  • And don’t be silent on violence. Ever.

Silence equals consent. Our silence. Your silence.

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It is odd, isn’t it, how we can become deeply involved in the consequences of a mugging death of a grandmother round the corner from where we live, but become inured to images of warplanes bombing civilian areas, often carried out in our name? The grandmother killed in such an event is no different from the grandmother who got mugged. Each grandmother hoped for a quiet and happy retirement, with enough to live on in a simple, life-sustaining way, surrounded by the happy cries of her grandchildren, tending to a few plants, passing the time of day with friends and neighbours in the sunset of their life. And then this dream was cruelly snatched away from them.

How do we decide to be broken-hearted about one, but cold and unmoved by the other?

To reduce and then prevent war, we simply have to – en masse – make it clear to our leaders that violence conducted in our name is not acceptable to us, and we will withdraw our support from those who conduct it.

Sounds simplistic? It is. That’s the beauty of it. It really is simple.

Over-complicate the goal and it becomes un-do-able. So keep it simple. Support candidates who support peace, and don’t support those who don’t. And make your choice known, on social media, to family and friends, and to the politicians themselves.

Want to do more? Start by arguing that our governments should not sell arms (of any kind) to other governments. Over 90% of the deaths in armed conflicts worldwide are from bullets. If we stop making those bullets, many of those people will not die. Better still, shorn of the ease of pulling a trigger to resolve a conflict, many such conflicts will be more likely to result in negotiations.

Continue by demanding that we choose to withdraw career progression from those who ache to create conflict in order to “use” the weapons and service people at their disposal. Bellicose commanders at all levels are progressively replaced by those who know the reality of war, and will do anything to avoid it. We do not do this partially, we do it on all sides.

And then tell those that govern us that we demand that they reduce the reliance on weaponry to “achieve peace”. (In reality, of course, it is not about peace at all, but is used to achieve political influence.)

We demand that armed forces everywhere are pared back to the lowest level concomitant with providing an effective defence posture against all likely events. In countries like Britain, for example, historical nonsenses like the “independent” Trident nuclear weapon system are simply scrapped. The money released by this ratcheting down of defence spending become a “peace dividend” to re-engineer businesses that rely on the military-industrial complex for survival, and to support servicepeople adjusting to civilian life.

Yes, we know we will immediately be accused, of course, of being namby-pamby, of not living in the real world, of misunderstanding how power works, of being naive. You will, too. But we are none of those things.

We have spent a life watching closely (and sometimes intimately) how the people at the top of power structures work. What motivates them. And what motivates them most is the maintenance of their power.

It is not always that they are simply power hungry, although power is unquestionably very attractive and an aphrodisiac, both to the practitioner and those around him or her. But few people get involved in politics in any system merely to aggrandise themselves, merely for career-ism.

Most genuinely believe they are acting in the greater good, and this motivates them to stick with the long hours, the dangers, the disrupted family life, the huge responsibilities, the petty treacheries, and all the rest of it.

Threaten to take that opportunity to “do good” away – the psychological bedrock of their career – is the most powerful thing any of us can do to affect their behaviour.

That is why the consent – or withdrawal of consent – for politicians to simply do as they wish regardless of our opinions rests on every single one of us. Alone, we can achieve little, but building a consensus rests with every single one of us. We can hide under the covers, or we can speak our mind. We can stand up and be counted, and when enough people are counted, politicians and rulers react.

Every single one of us can say “Not that, this.” Some of us will be ignored. Some of us will mocked for doing so. Some will lose friends. Some will even be injured or killed. But every one of us has the capacity and the right to say “Not that, this.” It is the one thing that no one can take away from us. We control our own opinions. Our voice is our own, whatever the cost. And the choice to use it is always ours and ours alone.

And that’s why this is our New Year’s wish. For you, and for the world.

Because war really is over. If you want it. Badly enough.

Here’s a thought. Why not share a link to this blog? That’d be a good start.

PS A number of people have asked why Churchill – a famous war leader – heads this column. The answer is simple. As someone who actually experienced war, Churchill hated it, whilst nevertheless waging it ferociously. His most relevant quotation on the topic is also perhaps his least quoted: “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war”. That’s why. If Churchill “got it”, anyone can.

Abril Gallardo rode 15 hours in a van to Austin to protest new immigration laws, and to urge fellow Hispanics to fight back.

“Fear motivated me to get involved,” said Gallardo, a 26-year-old Mexican native who entered the U.S. illegally at age 12.

Texas cities and immigrant rights’ groups have challenged the legality of the law, hopeful for a legal victory like the one in Arizona, but that could take months to have any effect.

But even as some vowed to fight, others have begun fleeing the state. Their ranks are still too small to quantify, but a larger exodus — similar to what occurred in Arizona — could have a profound effect on the Texas economy.

Texas has more than 1 million immigrants illegally in the country, according to the Migration Policy Institute. No one seems to have considered the effect on Texas’s economy should those people abruptly leave, or get kicked out.

Some are abandoning Texas for more liberal states, where they feel safer — even if it means relinquishing lives they’ve spent years building.

Jose, a 43-year-old Mexican living in the U.S. illegally since 2001, and his wife Holly left Austin for Seattle in January in anticipation of Texas’ immigration crackdown. That meant parting with Jose’s grown son, their community of friends and their beloved home of eight years.

“I felt like we ripped our roots up and threw ourselves across the country,” said Holly, a 40-year-old Kentucky native who wanted to protect her husband.

Holly said as soon as Donald Trump was elected president, she and her husband began preparing to move. They expected Texas would “follow Trump’s agenda trying to force local law enforcement to do immigration’s job.” And when they heard Texas had approved a crackdown on “sanctuary cities” she said they “finalised the decision.”

At Wellthisiswhatithink we think these changes are crazy. Why tear apart families that have lived peacefully and constructively in a country for ten, twenty, thirty years? Productive citizens should be given a simple and non-discriminatory path to citizenship. What the hell ever happened to “send me your poor and huddled masses”?

America has lost its soul, and its way.

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May we correct a much-repeated mistake in coverage of the petition to the UK Parliament to prevent Donald Trump making a State Visit to the UK?

This has often been erroneously reported in Australian and United States media as a desire to prevent Mr Trump visiting the UK per se

This is not so. In fact, the petition refers specifically to such a visit being a State visit, the highest possible honour conferred on a visitor, and specifically so that he would not have to be entertained by the Queen.

As the petition states, Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen. The petition continues “Donald Trump’s well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales. Therefore during the term of his presidency Donald Trump should not be invited to the United Kingdom for an official State Visit.”

This is a little detail, perhaps, but surely a significant one. 

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Britons are presumably concerned that a man who used his Twitter account to encourage Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, (then known as Kate Middleton), to sunbathe topless so that paparazzi could photograph her would be especially offensive to the Royal Family, who have frequently had to protest at the unwanted attentions of photographers, and who successfully sued to have the Middleton photographs restricted. The Royal Family would be far too polite to point this out, so the public are doing it for them.

And just days after Princess Diana died in a car crash, in which the paparazzi were again involved, President Trump notoriously asserted on the radio that he could have slept with her.

Howard Stern asked him: ‘Why do people think it’s egotistical of you to say you could’ve gotten with Lady Di? You could’ve gotten her, right? You could’ve nailed her.’ ‘I think I could have,’ Trump replied. 

The internet is full of funny memes about the Queen and Donald trump. This is our personal favourite.

The internet is full of funny memes about the Queen and Donald Trump. This is our personal favourite.

On the same radio show three years later, he referred to Lady Diana as ‘crazy, but these are minor details’, again saying he would have slept with her ‘without even hesitation’.

Presumably more than 1.8 million people feel the Queen shouldn’t be forced to share a royal carriage with such a man, much less have to make polite chit chat sitting next to him at dinner.

And no doubt similar considerations were behind House of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s overnight decision not to ask Mr Trump to address Parliament when he visits.

In a post-truth world, it surely pays to remember facts.

It seems like Donald’s election is causing a few problems for American companies doing business abroad, if this is anything to go by.

Just made us laugh to be honest … and struck us as a very funny piece of marketing given Trump’s approval rating in Europe, which would struggle to register on any opinion poll.

 

trump-label

 

Meanwhile, we see a petition to the UK Parliament to stop Britain offering him a State visit, as that means he would have to be met and looked after by the Queen, has currently reached over a million and a half signatures.

Will anything ever get through his thick skin? Probably not.

Read the facts, and make your own mind up.

Read the facts, and make your own mind up.

Wikipedia has a thorough and excellently sourced article on Chelsea, formerly Bradley, Manning, and his life, actions, trial and imprisonment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelsea_Manning

It should be required reading before anyone – anyone – comments on her case, or on Obama’s commutation of her sentence.

Manning’s story is a modern heroic tragedy. More than anything, it is an exemplary lesson about the difficulties faced by gay and transgender people in a strongly machismo-rich environment like the United States armed services. Given her challenges, and the way she was treated in the Army, Manning was essentially a mentally fragile train wreck waiting to happen, who should never have held such a sensitive position. The US Army must at the very least being considered morally culpable for her transgressions, especially as Manning herself made them aware of the difficulties she was experiencing on multiple occasions.

There is no question that Manning is highly intelligent, strongly motivated, and ethically-driven. She may also suffer from a variety of mental challenges, such as Asperger’s. Whilst this would normally elicit sympathy for her, because of her role in Wikileaks it is ignored. It certainly wasn’t taken into account in the brutal 35 year sentence she received, of which she has served 6, often in appalling circumstances that were officially judged to amount to torture.

Ironically, the West awards and applauds a movie like The Danish Girl, addressing exactly the same topic, and yet Manning receives little or no care, no understanding, and plenty of abuse.

Let us be absolutely clear: whether born of personal distress or a sense of rage at the injustices she discovered – and it was in all likelihood a mixture of the two – what Manning did when she realised what was being perpetrated by American forces and diplomats was morally entirely supportable, and resulted in a wide-ranging re-assessment of international relations and the conduct of war both specifically and in general.

Those who believe she should not have been a “whistle-blower” need to ask themselves, “What is it that was in the Wikileaks Iraq files that you consider that you personally – because that is where we must reduce this matter to, in making a moral judgement – that you personally are either too stupid or too dangerous to be trusted with?”

The answer of course is “Nothing”.

Manning shone a torch on the machinations of armies and their political leaders, and the world is much better for it. She exposed murder, committed in our name. She exposed double dealing and bare-faced lying. She exposed corruption. She was the agent for the oxygen of publicity on a variety of topics that we needed to know, and we should thank her for it.

Did anyone suffer harm as a result of her disclosures? No. Multiple intelligence sources have confirmed that no one was hurt as a result, because of her own redacting of the files to remove personally identifying information, and subsequent redactions by media organisations.

Was she embarrassing to those in power? Yes – hugely. Did she do anything wrong? Strictly legally, yes, but then so do many whistle blowers. Is she a hero? Yes, she is.

We owe her a great deal, and that should include, we would argue, making every effort to help her get on with rebuilding her life.

It’ll all make a great movie, too. And when Oliver Stone (or someone similar) makes that movie, we are certain that history will come down very sympathetically on her side. For today, we just rejoice that she will soon be free.

kennedyIn recent times, we have seen an upsurge in a rejection of the status quo and the success of populism, overwhelming the accepted norms of political discourse. The litany of events is very obvious … Erdowan in Turkey becoming progressively more authoritarian, the election of Syriza in Greece to oppose the EU-imposed austerity, the British public voting (albeit narrowly) for “Brexit”, the near-defeat of the Liberal-National coalition Government in Australia, the ascent of a virtual fascist to the Presidential run off in Austria, the likely ascent of the far-right National Front in France to a run-off in the coming French elections and the inability of a left-centre candidate to even make the frame, the rejection of Prime Minister Renzi’s attempt to rationalise decision-making in Italy leading to his resignation, the likely future success of the ultra-right in Holland, and above all, the election of businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump to the most powerful position in the Western world, President of the United States.

In reality, this trend can be traced back even further, to the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union (although this was also a more complex situation than mere discontent with the failures of the incumbent power structures). It could also be argued that the ultimate example is the steady move towards a command-capitalist model in China, with attendant liberalisation – creeping, at times reversed, but inexorable in its trend – of the media, of criticism of Party officials, and of the material expectations of a growing middle class. Indeed, in unleashing the forces of capitalism on Chinese society, Deng Xiao Ping can be said to have headed off a more dramatic and cataclysmic change in China.

When people are asked why they are participating in these quiet (or not so quiet) electoral revolutions they invariably answer with comments like “I am just sick of all of them”, “I am tired of the status quo, we need someone to shake things up”, “Politicians have failed us”, “We need someone to fix things up.”

The danger, of course, is that the people wreak major changes based on their discontent, without necessarily taking the time to consider whether those changes are what they really want. Fed a diet of rubbish and lies by both the media and their political leaders they simply cannot work out what is true or not, and therefore fall back on their gut instinct. And their gut instinct is that they are being badly led – which they are.

This is emphatically not to say the people are stupid – not at all. It is simply to note that in their desire to punish the under-performing elite they place rational decision-making of what might come next as secondary to their desire to give the establishment a damn good kicking. They argue, if questioned on precisely this point, that “it couldn’t be any worse”.

Winston ChurchillThe fact that it could, definitively, be much worse, is ignored because of the same anger that created the switch to populist idols in the first place.

Churchill’s warning that “democracy is the worst form of Government, it’s just better than all the others” is forgotten as the public elevate people who do not essentially subscribe to democratic ideals to run their democracies, with as yet untested outcomes.

In Russia, for example, the putative glasnost and perestroika of the Gorbacev era has now been thoroughly replaced by the quasi-fascist rule of Putin and his cronies, with uncertain outcomes that could be argued to threaten peace in Europe, at least. The Brexit vote at a minimum calls into question the “Union” part of the European Union, which is now on the nose throughout most of the EU, and the great dream of a peaceful, co-operative Europe that transcends mere trade freedom seems to lie in tatters. We might also note Churchill’s prescient remark that “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” People used to understand the limits of Government to “fix things”. No longer, it appears.

How did it come to this?

It is important to see this collapse of the ruling consensus as more than any desire to attend to this particular problem, or that, because the matters creating the angst vary from theatre to theatre.

Unquestionably, above all, the refugee flood around the world (and not just from the Middle East, at all) has created great tensions – great fear of “the others” – because it has happened at a time when the world seems to be collapsing into an ongoing conflict between the West and extremist Arabist/Muslim sects. But when massive population shifts occurred immediately after the Second World War there was considerably less social angst about an inflow of refugees, although by no means was there none, as any of the Italians, Greeks, Albanians and others who were shipped en masse to Australia (and America, and Canada) can attest. But it produced no mass revolution against the status quo. As recently as the late 1970s, huge inflows of refugees from the communist takeover of Vietnam produced barely a ripple of protest. So something different is happening here.

Unquestionably, economic uncertainty is playing its part.
The lost of traditional jobs has devastated some areas,
and not been replaced withtightrope anything else. That politicians seem unable or unwilling to recognise and successfully the problem is a staggering failure. During the 1930s, a huge “whole of Government” effort in some countries prevented the compact between the governing and the governed from breaking down altogether. The “New Deal” in America being the best and most successful example. But the mass unemployment caused by the breakdown of capital in that decade led inexorably to World War 2 and all that meant. That Western politicians can look at societies with 50% youth unemployment, can gaze on as we witness the wholesale collapse of traditional industries, can make mealy-mouthed contributions when someone brings up the obviously inadequate funds to support the aged and the ill, and yet imagine that such a cataclysm could not occur again? This is the ultimate desertion of responsibility.

It seems to us that the world is experiencing a “perfect storm” of fear – endlessly beaten up by politicians and the media – at precisely the same time as politicians are struggling, and usually failing, to come to terms with the stresses and strains created in economies by “instant” international banking (which can change the dominant rules of a market in seconds), globalisation (which has led to the wholesale demise of “old” industries in the established economies), a series of scandals that imply that our political leaders are little more than a series of ever-hungry pigs with their snouts so deep in the trough that their eyes can’t see anything over the top, and, and this is critical, a failure of leadership.

On the one hand we have the populists, with their broad brush stroke slogans, their breathlessly simple solutions, and their fellow travellers that constantly beat the drum praising the perspicacity of their chosen flag bearer. Only he (or she, in the case of Marie le Pen) have the strength and vision to ram through “the change we need”. And like parched wanderers in the desert, the people turn inevitably to the promise of relief. Tongues hanging out for any water, no matter how brackish.

But this is just a mirage of “we can fix it”. It’s a big lie. A big con. So big, indeed, that people swallow it, because surely no-one could be so ruthless, so uncaring of the effect they are having, so roguish in their pursuit of power, as to promise relief with no real idea of how to deliver it. But they can. As Stalin so chillingly said, “one man’s death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic”. The same hideous calculation is made by the populists when they promise change they cannot deliver, and solutions that are paper thin in their analysis.

But what has the response of the liberal democracies, the “ruling elite”, been to this challenge? It has been to bury themselves in perpetual over-intellectual obfuscation, to sneer at the populists as if they do not represent a threat, to blithely fiddle as their Rome burns. It has been to bleat “but we are doing our best”, when Blind Freddie can see that their best is woefully lacking. It is to lock themselves in their ivory towers – towers made of parliamentary walls, and TV studios, and offices – and to make little or no real attempt to explain to the people why they are doing what they are doing, and that is assuming they are doing anything much, at all.

How has this situation been allowed to persist?

The reasons are many and various, but in our view they come down to this:

THE FIVE GREAT FAILURES

The failure of vision

Politicians are no longer driven by a desire to create better societies – to serve their people – but by careerism. There is no doubt that no one succeeds in climbing the slippery pole without a strong streak of self-regard, but until the relatively recent past politics was still full of people whose primary, over-riding motivation was the betterment of their electorate, and more widely, humankind. There were more “enthusiastic amateurs”, drawn from all walks of life, chock full of useful experiences. To be sure, they never turned their noses up at the perks of office, nor the thrill of handling the levers of power. But at the core was a desire to conserve what was good, and to develop what was promising, and – based on evidence – to eschew what was failing. It is highly questionable whether that still applies to most politicians today – certainly those of reach the top of the heap – and the people smell the rot with absolute accuracy.

The failure of honesty

It is now a dispiritingly long time since any politician, anywhere in the West, dared to say “Actually, we’re not really sure what to do”. And yet, in huge swathes of decision making, it is perfectly clear that our leaders do not know what to do. The pace of change, and the relentless news cycle, is leading them to pretend they know what they’re doing when they really don’t. In vast areas of public policy – balancing the structural changes in economies, achieving unanimity on climate change, reducing the proxy conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, preventing a new Cold – or Hot – war, it is plain they are thrashing about, confused and dispirited. And yet, turn a camera and a microphone on and they act like Mastermind contestants with all the answers.

This has two linked effects. Firstly, it destroys trust, when it becomes clear that the assurances and calming words are so much hogwash. Second, it removes responsibility from the public to be part of the solution to intractable problems, leaving them reliant on blowing up the entire system when they are – inevitably – disappointed, as they had no part in devising the solution, and no ownership of the outcome.

The failure of communication

Politicians seem to no longer be able to phrase their goals in simple language, without succumbing to the temptation to reduce everything to focus group-led slogans.

It would be hard to think of a single major Western politician – with the possible exception of Angela Merkel, although her days may well be numbered – who still has the required “common touch”, although Justin Trudeau in Canada is undoubtedly a standout exception – and he, it should be noted, is of the left, and is an intellectual, thus giving the lie to the assertion that all this change is merely a revolt against “left intellectualism”.

A politician like Churchill, for example, could be autocratic, even waywardly so, but he never forgot the absolute need to take the people with him. Perhaps in war-time this need is more obvious. But in the recent past – much as we disagreed with some of her policies – a politician who widely admired Churchill – Margaret Thatcher – also had the ability to communicate broad themes in a popular way, while making changes that many argue were long overdue in Britain despite being sometimes achingly difficult.

Where are the democratic politicians who offer us soaring rhetoric, yet rooted in common sense, to enliven and inform civic debate? Certainly Obama offered the soaring rhetoric, but outside of campaign mode he so often failed to return to those heights, and was too often hidebound by a toxic combination of an obstructive Congress, a swingeing economic crisis, and his own innate conservatism.

The cupboard is depressingly bare.

The failure of thought

The West, in particular, but by no means exclusively, is failing itself. The essence of democracy is free, vibrant and deep debate, the development of philosophy, the parsing of solutions. One of the inevitable results of the dumbing down of Universities – through the diversion of their funds increasingly to commercial “applied science” rather than humanities such as literature, politics, and philosophy – even theology – has starved our system of thinkers. The problems we face are massively complicated, yet those who used to work diligently behind the scenes in thousands of “thinking hives” are increasingly no longer there, and no longer contributing. Political parties are increasingly less full of thinkers and increasingly full of yar boo sucks partisans. Where political thought across the political divide was once welcome and respected, now it is virtually unheard of. While politicians of different ilk may well be friendly “behind the scenes”, for them to acknowledge the thoughts of an opponent as having value, of being worthy of consideration, is apparently political death. Little wonder the public don’t trust them, faced with such ludicrous and childishness obstinacy.

The failure of media

Our media organisations have become helplessly addicted to the brief, and the sensational.

Whilst this was always true of the tabloid media, it is now true of all media.

The people they employ are largely intellectual pygmies, and in television in particular they are in the job because they look good and can follow a producer’s brief.

Across all types of media, they don’t scare the horses, because they rarely ask any hard questions. Hard questions require that the journalist has knowledge and the politician can address that knowledge intelligently, taking whatever time is required. Neither is true, and anyway there is no time.

There are exceptions, to be sure, but they are very few and far between, and becoming more so. The success of the series “Newsroom” showed the public’s deep desire for a form of journalism that is principled, erudite and independent. But of how many journalists today can those three qualities be said? And increasingly, anyway, mainstream media is being over-taken by social media, where the provenance of any story is impossible to divine, and where the impact is so transient that clear nonsense is forgotten almost as soon as it has trended, but not before it has added to the dominant zeitgeist, whatever that may be. If we are in the era of “post truth politics” – a terrifying concept in itself for admirers of democracy – then the most brutal criticism of all must be levied at the media – all of the media – that simultaneously tolerates and encourages the situation.

So what’s to be done?

It may indeed be way too late to close the stable door after watching an entire herd of horses bolting in all directions. Or to mix our metaphors, we may all be just a bunch of well-boiled frogs who should have acted to redress the decline a long time ago.

Yes, we will be accused of being pessimistic because it appears “our side” of politics is currently losing, and we will also be accused of succumbing to conspiracy theories.

In fact, we confidently expect we will be today’s Cassandra, doomed to wail on the battlements while all around mock us.

But in our view, the first step in redressing this danger – the danger of the collapse of modern liberal democracy – is to acknowledge the problem and seek to persuade others to address it. Others, we note, regardless of their native political bent. This is a task for all of us, whatever our political persuasion.

As we do not have the influence to turn the ship around on our own, we simply point to the mounting evidence, and suggest the general shape of a solution.

It will take a mighty effort to reverse the trends outlined here. But as Horace said 2000 years ago, “A journey, once begin, is half over.” To begin this journey, we have to agree that there is a problem, yes?

“Yes, We Can!”

barack-obama-yes-we-canIt seems like just yesterday that Obama came to the fore of world politics with this optimistic and energising slogan, shouted back at him excitedly by hugely enthusiastic crowds.

Eight years later, despite Obama winning a second election and ending his Presidency with quite high approval ratings, (reflecting a generalised opinion that he’s a likeable guy), that promise frankly seemed to many people more like “No, We Couldn’t.”

Whilst there were some successes in Obama’s presidency, too many people felt left behind. From Florida to Michigan via Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin, people came out in their droves in yesterday’s election to register their discontent.

Trump’s victory is going to be spun – everywhere, endlessly – as a great uprising against the elites, a sort of Western “Arab Spring”, and a repudiation of Obama (and by implication, Clinton), a generalised push back against left-of-centre liberal intellectualism, against feminism, against so many isms that people will be frothing at the mouth to get them out. And Brexit, we will be told constantly, was a similar rejection of the ruling European elite, and Trump, as he famously predicted the night before the election, was just Brexit plus plus – surely the only time a political event in another country has been quoted the night before an American election.

The problem is that this analysis of what’s going on in world elections at the moment is actually wrong. Too shallow. Too simplistic.

Not because people aren’t reacting against elites. They are. Blind Freddie can see that. But that’s really not the point. The real issue here is that people are scared, frightened, confused and casting about for someone to blame for what ails them, and the elites are merely the most obvious and useful target. After all, they’re in charge, so it must all be their fault, right?

“What must be their fault?” “This shit we’re in.” “So what do we do?” “Chuck the elites out.” “Yay! Pass the pitchforks.”

"Who's to blame?" "Dunno, but he'll do."

“Who’s to blame?” “Dunno, but he’ll do.”

The problem is that that analysis is skin deep, and chucking out the elites, if that’s going to be the solution, is only step one of a change, anyway. After all, if you’re going to chuck out the elites, you have to replace them with new administrators. Who are they going to be?

So before we assume we know what’s going on, let’s roll back a bit. WHY are people so scared and angry?

The answer is actually very simple. Breathtakingly simple.

The world has been going through a massive structural change – a fundamental change to free-er trade, and integrated global markets, fuelled by the freest and fastest movement of capital in human history. Massive movements of money wreak chaos in the world’s economic systems. Businesses get blown up overnight. Currencies wobble and slide alarmingly, with the knock on effect on future orders, travel, banking and a dozen other areas.

At the same time, new manufacturing bases like China, India, and elsewhere have sprung up to feed products and services into older, more established economies.

All this has cut the guts out of many key industries in America in particular, and because they have a Government which is periodically ideologically opposed to interfering in the economy, the people affected by the changes are often left to fend pretty much for themselves.

(Layered on top of this is a generalised concern about terrorism and conflict which keeps people permanently unsettled. The obvious fact that hardly anybody, in statistical terms, ever gets hurt by terrorism, is no compensation for those watching lurid pictures of those unfortunates that do, and especially when irresponsible politicians take every opportunity to talk up the threat instead of cutting it down to size.)

But back to economics. Because “it’s the economy, stupid”, right?

The only solution is for economies to be quicker, more flexible, and more innovative. The world might not want your eight cylinder Detroit-built gas guzzler any more, but it seems to want a super-fast electric Tesla, not just because it’s cheap to run, and environmentally friendly, but because it’s a bloody good car, chock full of driver goodness.

But for every Tesla there are dozens of clunky, slow-moving businesses, frantically trying to build firewalls around their markets, and failing.

Many of the people running these companies are more focused on merging with another company and making a quick buck out of stock options, and while they talk a good story about the need to expand and innovate it’s not really their focus. Otherwise they would, yeah? So sooner or later, the hungry and the fast eat the slow and the complacent, as they always do, and the hungry and the fast are increasingly somewhere else, not in our old, established economies. They are in places with fewer restraints on business – especially on labour issues and environmental protection – and they are frequently quasi-command economies where decisions are taken very fast, and without opposition. It’s a potent mixture.

The real problem has been that the political elites are locked into a zero sum game.

They can’t get elected, or re-elected, without saying they know how to fix things. But in reality, they don’t really know how to fix things.

The changes that are going on are so fundamental that they aren’t actually amenable to “being fixed”. Certainly not quickly, and certainly not just by saying it. Many of the changes taking place now are “forever” changes – the clock simply can’t get turned back. People are going to have to adjust, and no amount  of overblown rhetoric from the elite is going to smooth over or resolve the problems.

So if a business in America, for example, (or any old economy market), wants to continue to compete in low-tech commodity marketplaces that they once previously dominated, what are they going to do? Slash the wages of their workers to those of workers in China? India? Mexico? Vietnam? Indonesia? And increasingly – Africa, too? Install better (and more expensive) automation? And anyway, where’s the money going to come from?

What happens to the worker voters then? Longer hours for smaller pay – or being replaced by some whizz-bang new production line – isn’t going to go down well with a workforce that has been cosseted for generations by the terms won by pro-active and powerful unions.

So here is our fear.

The real terror we have is that Brexit will have little or no effect on whether or not Britain can compete on the world stage in the way that it used to when the country had preferential access to cheap colonial resources, and technological leadership in areas like car manufacture, aircraft design, heavy engineering, added value food manufacture, and much more. Brexit may, indeed, happen – or some version of it – but when it fails to produce some magical re-ordering of the state of Britain’s economy, and vast swathes of the country continue to be over-crowded and under-employed, where will electors turn next?

And what about America?

greatagainWhat if “Make America Great Again” turns out to be just so much more polly-waffle. Because America actually can’t be made great again, because it’s hopelessly under-capitalised (seen the deficit recently?) with a shrinking tax take, too turgid, not innovative enough, and rapidly being muscled out by new, cheaper more agile competitors.

And America’s too political. Just too damn political. So when someone calls for huge investment in “green energy” for example, sensible, laudable forward-thinking initiatives are killed by a bunch of old-economy oil barons protecting their turf, aided and abetted by politicians who are either in their pocket, or who would rather deliver a smart soundbite about how alternative energy sources will never match up to our needs, and anyway, “who believes all that global warming stuff anyhow?” rather than take on the task of educating the public as to why such investment isn’t just a good idea, it’s mandatory.

The very obvious point is that moving to alternative energy sources will simply make the planet cleaner, anyhow, and wouldn’t that be nice, even if global warming isn’t happening and 99% of the scientists in the world are wrong? And anyway, old-style energy sources are running out whether or not the planet is warming. One day we will run out of gas, oil, coal, and uranium, or it will simply be too expensive to extract what’s left. What then?

Doesn’t it seem to make sense to have a fall back solution?

Of course it makes sense, but we are idolising politicians who could care less if it makes sense. Look at Trump’s insistence that he will wind back support for solar energy and expand the coal industry. It plays well amongst unemployed coal miners, it played well in key swing states like Pennsylvania, and the owners of coal companies will be delighted. Not so much the future-focused industries. Among solar-power installers, SolarCity Corp. which Tesla Motors Corp. is currently trying to acquire, closed down 4% on Wednesday. Rival Vivint Solar Inc. was among the biggest decliners, ending the day off 6.3%, while SunRun Inc. tumbled 4%. Solar-panel makers and solar-power developers fared no better. SunPower skidded 14% and First Solar Inc. lost 4.2%. The American depositary receipts of China-based solar-panel manufacturer JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd. fell 8.4%; Trina Solar Ltd. ADRs closed 2.3% down for the day. The Guggenhim Solar ETF  was off 5.6%.

This is just one industry sector out of dozens we could consider. We’re going to make America great again by massacring an industry of the future and pumping up a tired old industry of increasing irrelevance. Irrelevance, we say? Yup. Coal prices have fallen more than 50% since 2011 as it has faced stiff competition from plentiful natural gas which is easier to extract and transport, cleaner to use, and cheaper. That isn’t going to change.

We’re going to rob Peter to pay Paul – lose jobs and wealth in the solar industry to prop up jobs and profits in the coal sector. And in doing so, we will send the American ability to compete (against the Europeans, especially) backwards, again. And for what? So we can make it look like we are keeping in line with our hugely overblown promise. “Back to basics! None of this wanky new stuff! Let’s get those mines open again!” We’re in the process of doing exactly the same in Australia.

Politics, pure and simple.

But the stakes here are simply enormous. The howling, inchoate anger of the masses that saw Trump elected will absolutely not tolerate another failure. Trump has massively raised expectations of his (and by implication, the Republicans’) ability to fix things with a massive tranche of people who have lost all hope and trust in “the system’s” ability (or desire) to help them.

He’s their last throw of the dice.

He has blindly and repeatedly promised jobs, jobs, jobs with no plan as to how to create them, other than slashing taxes for business and for the well off, and vaguely “getting government off people’s backs”. Which is all well and good, except the evidence is that cutting taxes very often does not create jobs, because the “trickle down” effect of lower taxes for the rich is illusory, and there is no evidence that cutting corporate tax results in higher levels of investment in business, either.

And “getting government off people’s backs” is simply code for slashing the social credit: cutting money for hospitals, education, welfare, veterans, transport and more. Which are precisely the things that the disenfranchised people that vote for him need to survive. So in four Trump/Republican supporting areas in America last night electors voted to increase the basic wage – because they can’t live on what they’re getting now – an act which will now be opposed by the very people they voted for.

Sometimes, looking around can be instructive. This interesting little article about how constantly pumping up the electorate’s expectations has essentially wrecked the Icelandic economy and destroyed the trust of the voters is well worth reading.

Is there an alternative? Yes there is. We need politicians (and opinion leaders) who can explain the realities of the world in simple enough terms for people to understand. It is not a coincidence that Trump’s largest area of support drew from the under-educated. The same was true of Brexit. If the Legia Nord persuade Italy to leave the EU, or the National Front take power in France, the same will be true again.

That’s not a value judgement, it’s an indisputible fact that needs to be understood. If you haven’t finished high school, let alone done further education, you simply aren’t going to have the head skills to understand complex arguments. So what do we do in response? Do we work out how to make those arguments genuinely accessible? Do we re-examine our communications techniques to explain what’s going on to the widest possible number of people, to prevent an expectations bubble blowing up? No, we don’t – because we don’t think we can get elected that way. So we reduce our political messages to the mindlessly boiled down and un-achievably aspirational. We’re going to Make America Great Again. How? Sorry, I need to move on and talk about emails.

Trump has ratcheted the expectations for his incoming Presidency to impossibly high levels. If he crashes and burns, we genuinely fear for the very fabric of society. And we fear that effect appearing all over the world.

churchillOne of the most famous political speeches of all time was made by Winston Churchill when he took over Government in the most parlous situation in May, 1940. With Britain’s very existence at stake, he said:

“I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terror — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”

The national unity that was engendered, and the national effort it produced, has never been exceeded before that time, or after. Indeed, many consider Britain’s War Cabinet from 1940-45 to be the most effective UK Government of any era.

Blood? Toil? Tears? Sweat? An Ordeal? Struggle? Suffering?

Didn’t hear a lot about that sort of stuff in recent years, did you? And yet now is exactly when the angry, bitter, betrayed working and middle classes desperately need our political leaders and our media to tell them the truth.

They won’t, so we will.

A lot of the next ten or twenty years are going to be shit, quite frankly, and there’s no real sign that we know what to do about it.

Our kids will probably be less well off than we are, at least some of them will, and some of us will be, too. Our kids are going to have a whole heap of challenges we can only guess at now.

Our world is changing faster than we can manage, the stars are realigning, and the very first thing we need to do is face up to it, because unless we do, there is not just a vanishingly small chance we’ll work it out, there is no chance whatsoever.

We need a massive effort, akin to being in a war against a tyrant. And we are going to make mistakes, there are going to be mis-steps, and if we try to slay our opponents or burn the house down every time there is, we’re never going to get anywhere.

The days of plentiful cheap resources and endlessly expanding markets are gone. Forever. And we can’t rely on population growth to take up the slack, because it creates as many problems as it solves.

How we handle the coming change, with its inherent difficulties, will be the measure of our shared humanity. Let’s start by facing up to the challenge, and taking the people with us.

 

 

trade

 

As everyone by now knows, this is an incredibly tight election, and it is looking increasingly likely that Donald Trump will pull off an historic victory.

The race is very close in Michigan, a state where polling indicated a win to Clinton by 4-10%, and getting better for her, not worse. And Wisconsin is looking dodgy for Clinton. She really cannot afford to lose either of them, and definitely not both of them.

One motivating factor in these states is the decline of manufacturing jobs, particularly in the automobile sector, and particularly in Michigan. Although Clinton was favoured to win Michigan by FiveThirtyEight’s forecast and many others, Trump has touted a message that could appeal to many voters there: International trade has harmed the county.

Sure enough, exit polls indicate that 50 percent of Michiganders agreed that trade with other countries would “take jobs away” from the U.S. Only 31 percent thought trade “creates more jobs.” And among Trump supporters, a whopping 65 percent had a negative view on trade.

Think about that. The party of business, bouyed up by those who don’t believe in business.

How does trade “take jobs away”? It “takes jobs away” in a country where ignorance is frighteningly rife, where self-confidence has plummeted to hitherto never seen before levels, a country that has been constantly sold an untruth, which is that America leads the world economically, when it has been clear for some time now that this is no longer true. A country where a majority of people now say they think things will be worse for their kids than them, and they are probably right. But they have the wrong target in their sights.

Trade doesn’t take jobs away. Trade is the only thing that creates jobs. America used to know that. It’s forgotten. Ignorance has triumphed, egged on by those who should know better – assuming they care – egged on by the very people who use the global economy to feather their own nests.

In other words, this is not a win against the elite. This is a win for one portion of the elite running a better lie.

The rest of the world has a great deal to fear from a blindly protectionist American administration. There may be celebration in Trump Tower tonight, although that is yet to be completely confirmed. There will be no celebrating in world markets.

 

 

pinProvided even a reasonable percentage of her supporters turn out, as opposed to spending the day in a bar drowning their sorrows at what has become of America, then Hillary Clinton has already won the Presidential election.

Barring an opinion earthquake, of course. Of which, yes, there is always a tiny possibility – especially in this most unusual year – but we surely now know everything there is to know about Mrs Clinton after her much-touted thirty years in public life. The chances of anything truly dramatic coming out now is vanishingly low, especially after the Wikileaks big expose, which kept some right-wing Americans up all night with excitement waiting for the goss, turned out to be a complete fizzer.

How can we be so sure? Simple. The size of the mountain Trump has to climb.

This is famed statistician Nate Silver’s latest forecast of the likely result.

Likely election result

This takes into account a wide range of opinion polls, some traditionally favouring one side, some the other, but only some of which factor in opinions SINCE the Trump “groping” scandal broke. The CNN poll on “who won the debate” isn’t factored in, but that strongly favoured Clinton too, even though it generally overstates Clinton support slightly, a factor that CNN acknowledge.

In other words, if Trump’s scandalous remarks are not fully factored in yet, and the debate isn’t either, then this is a dire result for Trump. His position, already looking rocky, has declined further. And still has some downside to go.

This is how Trump has been faring recently:

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

 

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

 

Chance of winning

The “chance of winning” calculation looks insurmountable for Trump.

 

The “path to a win” problem

Most pointedly, when we look at the Electoral College likely result, Trump’s path to the White House now looks impossible, because the polls are predicting critical wins for the Democrats in Florida (up by more than three points) and Pennsylvania (up by nearly seven points), in North Carolina and Virginia by comfortable margins, and, indeed, in every other battleground state except Nevada and Arizona, and in Nevada Trump’s lead is just 4%, and in Arizona it’s “even stevens”, but then again we also know that the main newspaper in that state is now campaigning for Clinton.

Trump simply doesn’t have a route to win, on these figures. As things stand, Clinton will win 310-340 electoral college votes: more than enough for a very comfortable victory. Trump may well pile up votes in very conservative locations, but that doesn’t help him, no matter how much “singing to the choir” he does.

But the real killer for Trump is that things are going to get worse from here, not better. Blind Freddie can see that there will be some fallout from the recent furore that will be reflected in polls that will get reported by about Wednesday or Thursday, American time. How big a hit Trump will take is as yet unknown, but a hit there will be.

And as Silver argues:

Trump couldn’t really afford any negative shock to his numbers, given that he entered Friday in a bad position to begin with. Let’s say that the tape only hurts him by one percentage point, for instance, bringing him to a 6-point deficit from a 5-point deficit a week ago. Even that would be a pretty big deal. Before, Trump had to make up five points in five weeks — or one point per week. Now, he has to make up six points in four weeks instead (1.5 points per week).

In other words, Trump’s mountain is growing, not getting smaller. A gain of 1.5 points a week will require a massive sea change in opinion and there is no evidence whatsoever that is happening.

In addition, we see three more anti-Trump factors that will be starting to bite against him, given that is always a delay between things coming up and them affecting the opinion polls.

Trump’s “non payment of Federal tax for 20 years”

The expose over Trump’s tax situation is, we believe, much more telling than some people have realised. It’s simply too smug for Trump to dismiss it as “smart business” to use write offs to reduce tax seemingly forever. The idea that a billionaire doesn’t need to pay ANY tax, year after year, is a lousy atmospheric for the Republicans, especially for a party often condemned as being only interested in the big end of town. Trump’s natural support base is angry. Angry in an inchoate, unspecific way.

And they all pay their taxes, on much lower incomes. Sure, a few will say “good on him”, and a few will argue “he did nothing illegal”, but that is emphatically not the point. Most will say, “Well, f***.”

Trump’s stunt on Sunday with “the Bill Clinton women”.

No one would argue that Bill Clinton is anything other than a womaniser: it’s a near-fatal character flaw when his record is judged. But there’s a reason that Republican strategists have historically NOT gone after him as a means to get at Hillary. It’s because every time it’s brought up, it produces more sympathy for Hillary than everything else, especially amongst women voters. In desperation, Trump broke that rule. It won’t help him, and could hurt him.

Also, every time Trump brings up Clinton it reminds people of his own transgressions. His first wife accused him of rape – an allegation withdrawn after a confidential settlement. A “live” rape case with a thirteen year old plaintiff is in the courts now. Trump denies both, but, you know, so did Clinton …

The Republican backlash.

Sure, the Republican Party is split right down the middle. Sure, Tea Party types will accuse all those Republicans now abandoning Trump as being the best possible reason to back him and his intra-party revolution. But not all Republican voters are Teapublicans, and they and “independent” voters leaning towards Trump will be dismayed at his own colleagues’ thumping rejection of him. Some of those voters will plump instead for the Libertarian, Johnson, some will simply stay home rather than vote for the hated Clinton. Neither of those possibilities help Trump. By contrast, the centre and left have coalesced effectively around Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is fading.

Now opinion polls have been wrong in the past. (Most notably with “Brexit”, which we and everyone else called wrong.) But not this wrong.

Which is why we say, as we have all along, it’s all over. Somewhere, a fat lady is singing her lungs out.

Probably one that Trump insulted.

Endorsement: Hillary Clinton is the only choice to move America ahead. The Arizona Republic editorial board endorses Hillary Clinton for president.

We reproduce the following with comment or embellishment.

“Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.

What Clinton has (and Trump doesn’t)

The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.

Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.

Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.

Clinton knows how to compromise and to lead with intelligence, decorum and perspective. She has a record of public service as First Lady, senator and secretary of state.

She has withstood decades of scrutiny so intense it would wither most politicians. The vehemence of some of the anti-Clinton attacks strains credulity.

Trump hasn’t even let the American people scrutinise his tax returns, which could help the nation judge his claims of business acumen.

Her flaws pale in comparison

Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State was a mistake, as she has acknowledged. Donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of State raise concerns that donors were hoping to buy access. Though there is no evidence of wrongdoing, she should have put up a firewall.

Yet despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice.

She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.

That cannot be said of her opponent.

Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down.

Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.

That’s beneath our national dignity.

When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet.

Whose hand do you want on the nuclear button?

Clinton has argued America’s case before friendly and unfriendly foreign leaders with tenacity, diplomacy and skill. She earned respect by knowing the issues, the history and the facts.

She is intimately familiar with the challenges we face in our relations with Russia, China, the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere. She’ll stand by our friends and she’s not afraid to confront our enemies.

Contrast Clinton’s tenacity and professionalism with Trump, who began his campaign with gross generalities about Mexico and Mexicans as criminals and rapists. These were careless slaps at a valued trading partner and Arizona’s neighbor. They were thoughtless insults about people whose labor and energy enrich our country.

Trump demonstrated his clumsiness on the world stage by making nice with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto only a few hours before appearing in Phoenix to deliver yet another rant about Mexican immigrants and border walls.

Arizona’s been there on immigration (it doesn’t work)

What’s more, Arizona went down the hardline immigration road Trump travels. It led our state to SB 1070, the 2010 “show me your papers” law that earned Arizona international condemnation and did nothing to resolve real problems with undocumented immigration.

Arizona understands that we don’t need a repeat of that divisive, unproductive fiasco on the national level. A recent poll shows Arizonans oppose both more walls and the mass deportations Trump endorses.

We need a president who can broker solutions.

Clinton calls for comprehensive immigration reform, a goal that business, faith and law enforcement leaders have sought for years. Her support for a pathway to citizenship and her call for compassion for families torn apart by deportation are consistent with her longtime support for human rights.

Clinton’s equality vs. Trump’s lack of respect

As secretary of state, Clinton made gender equality a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This is an extension of Clinton’s bold “women’s rights are human rights” speech in 1995.

It reflects an understanding that America’s commitment to human rights is a critically needed beacon in today’s troubled world.

Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes.

They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern.

Trump mocked a reporter’s physical handicap. Picked a fight with a Gold Star family.Insulted POWs. Suggested a Latino judge can’t be fair because of his heritage. Proposed banning Muslim immigration.

Each of those comments show a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together they reveal a candidate who doesn’t grasp our national ideals.

A centrist or a wild card?

 Many Republicans understand this. But they shudder at the thought of Hillary Clinton naming Supreme Court justices. So they stick with Trump. We get that. But we ask them to see Trump for what he is — and what he is not.

Trump’s conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing. There is no guarantee he will name solid conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Hillary Clinton has long been a centrist. Despite her tack left to woo Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton retains her centrist roots. Her justices might not be in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but they will be accomplished individuals with the experience, education and intelligence to handle the job.

They will be competent. Just as she is competent.

If a candidate can’t control his words

 Never in its 126-year history has The Arizona Republic editorial board endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican.

Trump’s inability to control himself or be controlled by others represents a real threat to our national security. His recent efforts to stay on script are not reassuring. They are phoney.

The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can’t command his own rhetoric.

Were he to become president, his casual remarks — such as saying he wouldn’t defend NATO partners from invasion — could have devastating consequences.

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, a thug who has made it clear he wants to expand Russia’s international footprint.

Trump suggested Russia engage in espionage against Hillary Clinton — an outrageous statement that he later insisted was meant in jest.

Trump said President Obama and Hillary Clinton were “co-founders” of ISIS, then walked that back by saying it was sarcasm.

It was reckless.

Being the leader of the free world requires a sense of propriety that Trump lacks.

Clinton’s opportunity to heal this nation

 We understand that Trump’s candidacy tapped a deep discontent among those who feel left behind by a changed economy and shifting demographics.

Their concerns deserve to be discussed with respect.

Ironically, Trump hasn’t done that. He has merely pandered. Instead of offering solutions, he hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to take a swing.

In a nation with an increasingly diverse population, Trump offers a recipe for permanent civil discord.

In a global economy, he offers protectionism and a false promise to bring back jobs that no longer exist.

America needs to look ahead and build a new era of prosperity for the working class.

This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns.

She can move us beyond rancour and incivility.

The Arizona Republic endorses Hillary Clinton for President.”

streicher

 

Comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles – three of which may be poisoned, so best to discard the whole bowl – is an idea that has deep roots.

The concept of one bad apple threatening the peace of society dates back at least to 1938 and a children’s book written by an especially nasty demagogue called Julius Streicher, called Der Giftpilz, or The Toadstool, in which a mother explains to her son that it only takes one Jew to destroy an trump handsentire people.

Active in politics from 1919 onwards, Streicher’s arguments were primitive, vulgar, and crude but he believed in what he said and was an uninhibited, wild agitator, to whom masses would listen; which was what mattered to the Nazis and their backers.

streicher hitlerIn November 1923, Streicher participated in Hitler’s first effort to seize power, the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Streicher marched with Hitler in the front row of the would-be revolutionaries and braved the bullets of the Munich police. His loyalty earned him Hitler’s lifelong trust and protection; in the years that followed, Streicher would be one of the dictator’s few true intimates.

As well as “The Toadstool”, Streicher also published a newspaper that Adolf Hitler loved to read, Der Stürmer. The newspaper published anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-communist, and anti-capitalist propaganda.

In 1933, soon after Hitler took power, Streicher used his newspaper to call for the extermination of the Jews.

One of Streicher’s constant themes was the sexual violation of ethnically German women by Jews, a subject which served as an excuse to publish semi-pornographic tracts and images detailing degrading sexual acts. These “essays” proved an especially appealing feature of the paper for young men. With the help of his notorious cartoonist, Phillip “Fips” Rupprecht, Streicher published image after image of Jewish stereotypes and sexually-charged encounters. His portrayal of Jews as subhuman and evil is widely considered to have played a critical role in the dehumanization and marginalization of the Jewish minority in the eyes of common Germans – creating the necessary conditions for the later perpetration of the Holocaust.

This “Otherisation” is today eerily repeated in the claims of Donald Trump that “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And also arguing that all Muslims must be refused entry to the United States because they are potentially terrorists.

Do such statements resonate? The evidence is they do. In just one reported event, two brothers reportedly attacked a 58-year-old Hispanic homeless man in Boston, breaking his nose and urinating on him, in mid-August. They allegedly told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.” After the GOP candidate was told of the attack, and instead of denouncing the act Trump said his followers were “passionate.” Later (no doubt after taking advice) the Twitter-friendly presidential candidate tweeted about the incident, saying he would “never condone violence.” Yet Trump has denied protesters their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, assembly and dissent; currently at least three protesters are suing Trump after being manhandled and physically abused at his campaign events. Peaceful protestors have been verbally abused, manhandled, pepper-sprayed, beaten and kicked by Trump supporters. Trump has repeatedly talked about the virtues of punching and otherwise abusing protesters. At one rally he encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters. He offered to pay the legal fees of his supporters who attacked protesters. He expressed his personal desire to punch protesters, although one late night comedian observed that Trump seems more like the evil mastermind who would stroke a white cat while someone else does the punching.

Streicher’s attitudes were so disgusting he even offended many of his fellow Nazi leaders. For his twenty-five years of speaking, writing, and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as “Jew-Baiter Number One”. In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution. Each issue of Der Stürmer, which reached a circulation of 600,000 in 1935, was filled with such articles, often lewd and disgusting. As we now know, the mood of terror created by Streicher and others resulted in the industrial extermination of millions of people as state policy.

juliusstreicher225Julius Streicher was not a member of the military and did not take part in planning the Holocaust, or the invasion of other nations. Yet his pivotal role in inciting the extermination of Jews was significant enough, in the prosecutors’ judgment, to include him in the indictment of Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal – which sat in Nuremberg, where Streicher had once been an unchallenged authority as Gauleiter. Most of the evidence against Streicher came from his numerous speeches and articles over the years. In essence, prosecutors contended that Streicher’s articles and speeches were so incendiary that he was an accessory to murder, and therefore as culpable as those who actually ordered the mass extermination of Jews (such as Hans Frank and Ernst Kaltenbrunner). They further argued that he kept them up when he was well aware Jews were being slaughtered.

He was acquitted of crimes against peace, but found guilty of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to death on 1 October 1946.

With various histrionics on the scaffold, Streicher was hanged in October 1946.

The consensus among eyewitnesses was that Streicher’s hanging did not proceed as planned, and that he did not receive the quick death from spinal severing typical of the other executions at Nuremberg. Kingsbury-Smith, who covered the executions for the International News Service, reported that Streicher “went down kicking” which may have dislodged the hangman’s knot from its ideal position. He stated that Streicher could be heard groaning under the scaffold after he dropped through the trap-door, and that the executioner intervened under the gallows, which was screened by wood panels and a black curtain, to finish the job.

The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is this Monday evening, in America. It will make interesting viewing.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-4-50-39-pm

This is one very possible outcome for the USA presidential election.

It shows Clinton winning by 308 electoral college votes to Trump’s 191, crucially giving Florida to Clinton, plus North Carolina and Pennsylvania. A couple of states are left as toss ups.

The rationale for the above map is quite simple. We do not believe Trump can win a Latino heavy state in Florida (29 precious votes), and Clinton is ahead in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina (which in the two last elections were toss ups, won once each by each side, but where court actions to disallow Republican voter restrictions may tip the state to Clinton, and where she also holds a 2% opinion poll lead currently). Trump cannot really find a path to the 270 electoral college votes he needs without Pennsylvania, and whilst his raw appeal may swing some disgruntled blue-collar votes to him, it will be destructive of the Republican vote in the more liberal city suburban areas.

You can have your own fun speculating on various scenarios here.

 

trump__clinton

 

So far so good, but it’s all pure speculation at this stage, of course. There are plenty of days to go, all of them with potential trip ups for both candidates, and both candidates are hugely unpopular anyway. We happen to think the televised debates will see a very startling poll bump for Clinton, the first of which is next Monday night in America, at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. We think Clinton – who is fearsomely bright – may wipe the floor with Trump, who isn’t. But we may be way wrong. Clinton has a habit of appearing stiff and starchy, and that won’t play well against Trump’s famously informal style.

Still, we think she will effectively expose what a nonsense the man is intellectually, and that, as they say, will be that. If there’s a “gotcha” moment, it will be very clear.

But that isn’t really what this article is about.

This article is really to discuss the nightmare scenario that America is actually splitting – psychologically and emotionally, if not literally – into two states with strongly opposed views. One made up of the industrial north, the east and west coasts, and one made up of the centre of the country. It’s very clear to see in the map above, which with a few wrinkles will almost certainly be roughly what the country’s electoral map will look like after the election.

Is the Union actually under threat once again?

We must remember that the United States descended into a civil war that was essentially a conflict over slavery, but more essentially a conflict over the economic influence and wealth that slavery allowed its practitioners. (Concepts of “states rights”, incidentally, have comprehensively been shown to be an intellectual red-herring as regards the cause of the war.)

America is today divided into two states economically again. Much of the (much more populous) north and the coasts are leaving the centre behind as regards economic recovery, and where that is not the case, lugubrious amounts of Federal monies are pouring in to take up the slack. The centre, and much of the south, mostly much more agriculturally-based, feels neglected. And angry.

Where the centre is doing well economically – Texas, for example – there is little latent enthusiasm for the Union, and even a spasmodic resurgence of arguments that the State would do better on its own. Much of the centre and South is still virulently “anti Washington” and “anti Establishment” – opinions that have largely remained unchanged since the conflict of the 1860s.

So what does this mean for America’s future?

One obvious outcome is that it becomes increasingly difficult to see how the necessary reforms can be enacted to allow America as a whole to take advantage of its recent economic growth can be made – certainly not with the general cross-aisle agreement that would be necessary. The atmospherics and mutual dislike will simply be too fierce.

Yet whichever party wins in November there simply has to be a concerted attempt to reverse the massive Federal Government debt – and the debt held by States – but a country riven by division is very unlikely to agree a program to do much more than slow the growth in debt, which is all the Obama administration and the Republican Congress have managed to achieve in the last eight years. That achievement is to Obama’s credit, but it isn’t enough.

A country cannot live “on tic” forever. A fact realised in Australia, where the conservative Government and socialist Opposition just agreed a package of spending reforms.

In foreign policy, America still faces very serious challenges in the Middle East, and especially with a newly assertive Russia and China. The country needs to be essentially “speaking with one voice” to effectively address a whole morass of scenarios that threaten world peace.

Then there are the core social attitudinal differences. The centre is overwhelmingly Christian (and fundamentally so, to a large extent), the north and the coasts are much more socially liberal and culturally diverse. As both parties seem to lose any sense in which they are competent economic managers, so people increasingly eschew making a judgement about that, and vote on the basis of other matters, despairing of anyone’s ability to “make America great again”. So matters such as abortion, and LBGTI+ rights, assume a higher significance. In 2016, opinions on those and other matters could hardly be more divided.

Whatever the result in November – and we still believe it will be a strong win for the Democrats – the incoming party will have a massive job putting America back together again. And we are not at all sure that they can. Exactly how that would play out is yet to be seen.

It is rumoured that the hard heads in the GOP have already given up any hope of Donald Trump winning the Presidential election in November and are casting their minds to 2020 with increasing attention. They were hardly helped by the laughable plagiarism scandal of Donald’ Drumpf’s poor wife reading a speech written for her that was in part lifted holus bolus from a previous Michelle Obama speech – really, who is running this shambles? – but today’s appearance by beaten candidate Ted Cruz was a killer.

Just look at this:

 

We are by no means fans of Cruz. We just honestly don’t think he’s an awfully nice guy, and he’s a few light years to the right of our own opinions. Mind you, it was hard to disagree with any of the platitudes he delivered in this address. And watching a bunch looney-tunes red-necks booing him for sympathising with the child of a dead Dallas policeman was not the most edifying thing we’ve ever seen.

But today the chickens came home to roost as he very obviously did NOT endorse the equally loathsome Trump as the GOP’s candidate, ripping any semblance of party unity to shreds. Hardly surprising when Trump attacked his wife on a very sexist and personal basis during the campaign and also dubbed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”. Probably a bit much to expect them to kiss and make up, although the managers of the GOP obviously lived in hope. If we had been running this convention we would have given all of Trump’s critics inside the party a week’s free vacation somewhere without Twitter or journalists, but hey, what do we know?

Anyhow, as you can see in the video, he was booed off stage at the Republican National Convention in Oklahoma after failing to endorse newly elected presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Now Cruz has been accused of ‘snubbing’ Trump during his speech, after finishing in second place in the primaries. And while his speech initially began with a standing ovation from the audience, the mood quickly changed after Cruz noticeably neglected Trump from his address.

 

Ted Cruz took the stage at the Republican convention. Photo: Getty

“I want to congratulate Donald Trump for winning the nomination last night. And like each of you, I want to see the principles our party believes prevail in November,” Cruz began.

But that was the first and last reference of Trump’s name.

So as he continued, an increasingly restless audience began to realise an endorsement for their leader was not on the cards.

“We want Trump! We want Trump!” fans shouted out over Cruz, as he reminded everyone to vote in November.

 

Cruz was jeered off stage after he failed to endorse Trump. Photo: Getty

“If you love our country and love your children as much as I know you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience and vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the constitution,” Cruz went on.

The final minutes of his speech were virtually drowned out by booing and chanting, leaving him to simply smile ironically and wave as he made his way off stage.

A reporter for CNN said other members of the Republican party were infuriated by the speech.

“The anger is boiling over. So much so that I am told by a source, who was in a donor suite, when Ted Cruz walked in after he said his speech, the people were so angry at Cruz that they were calling him a disgrace to his face,” reporter Dana Bash said.

 

Donald Trump looked unimpressed as he stood at the back of the arena with his family. Photo: AFP

“A state party chair was yelling at him so angrily that he had to be restrained. That gives you a sense of just how intense the anger is now on the floor.”

And Cruz’s wife Heidi had to be escorted from the audience after her husband was jeered off stage, while US Political media site FiveThirtyEight labelled the speech as a “giant middle finger to Trump”.

During the end of Cruz’s address, Trump appeared at the back of the stadium where he waved to his fans before being seated with his family.

Pass the popcorn. This party is unelectable. Not only will Clinton beat Trump hands down – a remarkable achievement for a women who has been ruthlessly pursued, pilloried and calumnised for years now, and as a result is toxically unpopular with vast swathes of the population – but it’s very likely Republicans will lose seats “up and down the ticket”. Exactly how this will play out nationally is as yet indistinct, but it’s an effect that scares Republican grandees and candidates mightily. They will lose good people, vital if the drift of their party to the wilder outreaches of the political wilderness is to be resisted.

And frankly, more fool them. After years of pandering to the “anti-politics” mob in their own party, (of whom Cruz was a leading light), Republicans have been warned again and again and again that they are converting their once great party into a basket case, and effectively transforming America into a one-party-dominated country that is bitterly – very bitterly – divided between “everyone else” and the beaten down, angry, marginalised white working class, the lower middle class, and the elderly.

The Republicans are eating themselves. It’s going to get uglier before it gets better, if it ever does.

A US mum is seeking $133,000 compensation after her disabled teen daughter was allegedly beaten, and jailed for a day, by airport security. Reporting (which we pass on here) certainly doesn’t reflect well on the airport, although we have not contacted them for comment and there may be another side to this story. If that comes out in coming days we will report that, too. In any event, it’s an ugly incident.

 

Hannah Cohen after being detained. Picture supplied.

Hannah Cohen after being detained. Picture supplied.

 

We all know that airport security is important in these troubled times, and staff are understandably a bit jumpy. But when a partially blind, deaf and paralysed teenager flying home from brain tumour treatment was slammed to the ground, received a bloodied face and was thrown in jail when she became startled going through airport security, we have to ask whether this anxiety has gone too far, or whether security staff are given adequate training.

As the story is being reported, Hannah Cohen was 18 when she was returning with her mother Shirley from Memphis International airport to Chattanooga in southeastern Tennessee on 30 June, 2015 – a trip Shirley says they have done many times before without incident.

The young woman set off a metal detector at a security checkpoint and became confused when armed agents approached her and grabbed her arms, startling her, the Guardian reported. The girl’s mother was waiting at the other side of the security gate, wearing a mobility boot to nurse a broken foot, when she saw the harrowing incident unfold.

She said she hobbled to a security supervisor and told them: “She is a St Jude’s patient, and she can get confused. Please be gentle. If I could just help her, it will make things easier.”

Security agents told Hannah they needed to take her to a “sterile area” to do a further search. She said she was afraid, and, (very sensibly, in our opinion), suggested she remove her sequined shirt which appeared to be triggering the alert, as she had another top underneath. But officers allegedly laughed at her and instead called for backup.

When armed security arrived, Hannah became afraid. Her mother said the brain tumour left her partially deaf and blind in one eye, so she was startled easily.

“I tried to push away,” Hannah said. “I tried to get away.”

Her mother alleges the guards then detained Hannah and slammed her body to the ground, with her face hitting the floor, leaving the teen “physically and emotionally” injured.

“They wanted to do further scanning, she was reluctant, she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” her mother told Memphis TV station WREG3. “She’s trying to get away from them but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere. Another guard pushed me back 20ft, in my boot, and told me I couldn’t be nearby,” the girl’s mother told the Guardian.

Shirley said she quickly grabbed her phone from the security conveyer belt and took a photo of her distraught daughter on the ground.

The terrified young woman was then arrested and taken from the airport in handcuffs to jail, with blood dripping from her face. She was released 24 hours later.

Her family has filed a $133,000 lawsuit against the US Transport Security Administration and Memphis-Shelby County airport authority claiming Hannah was not given adequate accommodation to be screened, and alleging she was discriminated against her because of her disability.

Unbelievable: it looks like the slide to authoritarian behaviour by some security staff and police in America continues apace, or at least that’s how it appears from the way the story is being reported. At the very least, a PR disaster.

Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in a Montreal Metro station Wednesday and took part in a random act of kindness when a person with a disability was having difficulties because of a broken down escalator.

trudeau

 

Like everything he has done so far, very classy. Note, this is not a semi-official “photo op”. The snap was taken by a passer by and posted on Twitter.

Americans are apparently so impressed with Trudeau’s leadership of his country that many are begging him to come South and run for President. Apart from that being a legal impossibility, we strongly suspect he’d have more sense.

And Liberals in the UK, still smarting from electoral near-destruction, view him as something akin to a Messiah. Especially as he took his party from third to winning a majority in one leap. A move is afoot to get him to address their autumn conference in Brighton later in the year.

Good looking, charismatic, humble, compassionate, well-educated. Little wonder women in particular find his allure almost irresistible. This is the man, remember, who almost single-handedly re-set the public debate about countries taking in Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict, and just last week spontaneously explained quantum computing to a smart-arse journalist.

His father was a remarkable man. It looks like the son is even more so.

 

"And we should put all the long haired ruffians in the army, too, that'd wake em up ..."

“And we should put all the long haired ruffians in the army, too, that’d wake em up …”

One of the things that drives us into a blue billy-oh state of mouth-foaming rage is that oft-repeated moment where people cheerfully announce “I’m not a racist, but …” and then proceed to say something effortlessly racist and dumb, because you just know they’re going to say something to emphasise someone else’s perceived otherness.

So today, this made us laugh.

Actually laugh out loud, not just typing lol, but really, you know – lol.

We hope it does you, too.

 

I'm not a racist

 

PS Dear Reader – and you know who you are – the next time you feel moved to pronounce “I am not a racist, but …” you are almost certainly about to say something racist. So don’t.

“Awa’ an bile yer heid”

Bundy

 

It looks like the feds are going to throw the book at the Bundy bird refuge occupiers. And the book keeps getting bigger.

The group was already facing the charge of “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from the refuge occupation”.

A number of them were also facing charges relating to the 2014 Bundy Ranch Standoff, including “conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, weapon use and possession, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction, extortion to interfere with commerce, and interstate travel in aid of extortion.”

Yesterday, new charges were added against several of the defendants. Penalties for conviction on the charges range from five years to life in prison.

  • Ammon Bundy: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Ryan Bundy: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence and theft of government property”
  • Jon Ritzheimer: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence and theft of government property”
  • Ryan Payne: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Brian Cavalier: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Shawna Cox: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Jason Patrick: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Dylan Anderson: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Sean Anderson: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence and depredation of government property”
  • David Lee Fry: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Jeff Wayne Banta: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Sandra Lynn Anderson: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Kenneth Medenbach: “Theft of government property”
  • Wesley Kjar: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Corey Lequieu: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Jason Charles Blomgren: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Darryl William Thorn: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Geoffrey Stanek: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Travis Cox: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Eric Lee Flores: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”

It’s the charge of “carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence” that carries the life sentence. Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with seven others were charged with that offense.

Kenneth Medenbach’s theft charge stems from his taking an Agency Ford pickup. Ryan Bundy and Jon Ritzheimer stole cameras valued at more than $1,000.

I suspect they’re all starting to wish they’d simply stayed home. Our opinion? If they’d done what they’d done and been Muslims or inner city African Americans they’d all be dead as doornails now, so they should count their blessings.

If convicted – and we are all for due process, and let us state categorically they are currently innocent – then one hopes the powers-that-be will throw the proverbial book hard and accurately.

trump handsWe love presidential election year in the USA, but this year it is especially rewarding for all election freaks with the universal excitement/horror at the elevation of Donald Trump to current front runner in the Republican stakes.

As we have opined as recently as yesterday, the Trump phenomenon is really not new – we have seen it all before – although never with such a marked disrespect from any major candidate for either facts, analysis, talent, civility, truthfulness or knowledge.

The hard fact that everyone has to bite down on is that Trump is, in truth, a classic fascist populist – an “anti politics politician” – and whilst that may play well with the disenchanted and ignorant, and it is also evidenced in election results elsewhere in the world – it is extremely dangerous for the fabric of democracy and the civil good.

He is the end product of a country that has dumbed down its civil discourse to a level far below where it has ever been before, and where “entertainment” is now generally little more than the endlessly mindless repetition of idiotic reality TV shows and celebrity-for-celebrity’s-sake. Cheap, stupid pap. Donald Trump is the archetypal candidate for a society where cheap, stupid pap is the new normal.

Yet despite our distaste for what he represents, we see him, essentially, as a paper man – simply incapable of winning a general election. (Mind you, they said the same about Hitler.)

And sure, those who adore him (or the mindless celebrity and nihilism he represents) are merely further driven to greater ecstasies of pleasure when he is attacked and exposed.

But attacked and exposed he is, and frequently it is not the organised political establishment that is rearing up – although belatedly it now is – but rather it is social media that is doing the attacking.

Social media – the rise and rise of interested or concerned individuals expressing their opinions directly to other individuals, singly, in the tens or hundreds, or sometimes in the thousands and even millions – is the great leveller in this election, and, we suspect, all future elections, everywhere. It talks to everyone, not just ironed on supporters of one party or another, and thus its reach is impressive and significant.

Here are a few of favourites from today. We are looking forward to the GOP debate later to see just how vitriolic the Republican mutual slaughter will become. We suspect, very bloody indeed. As we have said to supporters of the right in America for years, “be careful what you wish for”.  Well, this is what you wished for.

Pass the popcorn.

 

Trump2

 

Trump3

 

Trumps wives

 

round up


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