Friday, February 17, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
A brief aside...Worth mentioning is the fact that in the European political systems, nation and government are represented by two different figures, whether that’s the Queen and the Prime Minister in the U.K., or the president and the chancellor in Germany, respectively – and it’s similar in virtually all countries with a parliamentary system. That enables them to put all their efforts into assuring the national leader will be person of universal respect, while the political leader is expected to get his or her hands dirty. Schulz, once a small town mayor, later head of the European Parliament, was once an alcoholic. He never got his Abitur. He's not a "top drawer" type but he's drawing admiration from the voters for that very reason, a self-made man of the provinces with a bunch of kids. At the same time, Steinmeier, also a socialist, has become the national symbol. He will now represent the nation, and the praise (most of it sincere, as far as I can determine) is coming in from all directions. You see the current Chancellor coming in with a bouquet of flowers, even though her chief rivals in September will be those very socialists who were (and still are, at the moment) her coalition partners. It appears Germany has worked out how government should be run. Contrast that with the American way of putting those two jobs, government leader and national leader, in the same person. Look what that has led to. People wanted a dirty fighter who could smash the establishment as a political leader. What we got is a symbol of the nation who humiliates it on a daily basis, with his lies, with his demonstration that he was working for the 1% all along, with his out-of-control ego and his instinct for nepotism. The shame never seems to end.
I’m not kidding when I say I prefer the parliamentary system. We might have kept our dignity as a nation by electing an Obama or a Jimmy Carter to represent that nation. And allowed a Trump to have a go at running the government. Until he revealed his true intentions. Then we could have had a vote of no confidence and bounced him out. Instead we are stuck with a tyrant for at least four years.
I hope it's clear that I'm not trying to paint a black-and-white picture here of a lousy America and a spiffy Germany. It's not that America is bad and Germany is good. It's not even that the German political scene is better than the American political scene - that's true, I believe, for the moment, but things change. The only certainty is that things change.
What I am saying is that "America First" is an absolutely deplorable slogan to go by, and maybe the best evidence that American democracy has gone off track. Democracy is not a competition. It is - or should be - a universal cooperative effort. Of course, we should work to make things better where we live. But we don't live on an island, and we don't have to assume a zero-sum game. We can watch other winners, and applaud them when they do well. And try to learn from their example.
Germany is, I think, a good example. I can think of lots of others - Canada, Australia, Holland and the Scandinavian countries come first to mind, but there are others, as well. Japan's bopping along. Look at how far Taiwan has come. New Zealand, of course. South Africa shed apartheid. Most people think Costa Rica's pretty nifty. Lots of places have people who can be proud of their countries, imperfections notwithstanding.
I am just partial to Germany, when it comes to good examples.
And not just because among all the many candidates for chancellor at Steinmeier's inauguration is Olivia Jones, né Oliver Knobel.
That's her, in the picture at the top, with her arm around Chancellor Angela Merkel. To Angela Merkel's left is the head of the Green Party, one of them, Katrin Göring-Eckhard. And just to round out the picture, that's Joachim Löw, the chief coach of Germany's World Cup winning soccer team, on the left.
And here she is again, sitting among the delegates to the presidential election convention, of which she was a member.
And one final time, congratulating President Frank-Walter Steinmeier personally:
photo credit: Olivia Jones photos (all three)
Saturday, February 11, 2017
It was a sad day for me when Andrew Sullivan decided to shut down his blog, The Dish, about a year ago and retire. I was a regular reader and I have missed it. So I’m delighted to find he’s back at it with at least an occasional commentary. His latest, which appeared the other day in New York magazine, has a short review of Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, Silence, and some thoughts on the tragedy that is Trump.