Thursday 12 January 2017

Why I've been overdoing it on LinkedIn

'Arguing with a fool makes two,' is one of the few motivational saws I've liked on LinkedIn. Which hasn't stopped me doing it, in the last couple of days especially, rather defeating the purpose of my not joining Facebook or Twitter (reason: I'd waste time and get into pointless spats). Why? Because I still can't get my head around the difference - which still seems to me to hang in the balance in these crucial few days - between this,

namely a truly lovable President, with an equally adorable wife and daughters, pictured above with Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and this,

which I don't need to explain.

Meryl Streep had the unarguable moral high ground on that one. Anyone who defies her speech has to be a retarded school bully; and Trump's lie that he wasn't imitating the reporter's disability is negated by three seconds of horrible video evidence. I can't bring myself to watch the press-conference meltdown; am I wrong in replaying instead both Obamas' last speeches, and Michelle's best speech of the election campaign? Like so many millions, I can't believe the President-Elect will arrive in the White House.

But that's America for you. Which won't stop the fightback against Trump, Putin and Brexit, with renewed fury and focused vigour. Take confidence in the fact that America's best President - in my lifetime, at any rate - and the best of First Ladies will be there to hold the country's hand and speak out more forcefully in the eye of the storm, should it arrive.

Meanwhile, one good piece of news which doesn't seem to have made the UK press: Somalian-born refugee Ahmed Hussen has been appointed Canada's Minister of Immigration (pictured with Justin Trudeau above). What a parallel universe to that of America, Russia and the UK - though we do have our so-far impeccable Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. But we also still, unbelievably, have dangerous doofus Jeremy Hunt as Minister of Health. It bears repeating that Trudeau's cabinet of experts includes an opposite number who's a respected doctor and medical expert as well as a Minister of Education who's long been well thought of in that profession. Again, enough said.


Willym said...

Yes many of Mr Trudeau's cabinet appointments are based on solid experience and knowledge of their portfolios. However sadly Mr Trudeau has proved as ruthless as his father in dealing with his cabinet shuffle. What he has done to Stephane Dion is beyond disgusting and has lowered him considerably in my estimation. I realize that political payback is nothing new but what he has done and the way he has done it to a man to whom Canada owes much marks him not as a leader of "sunny ways" but just another vindictive little politician.

He also set up the Minister who was assigned Election reform to fail so his promise of the recent election being the last we will have that is "first past the post" is an empty one.

And lest you think I'm being harsh I'll be forwarding an article to you by e-mail.

Susan said...

It's important always to remember--and to emphasize when you are debating with folks in the other camp at LinkedIn or anywhere else--that the US election was tainted, and the result is therefore illegitimate. (See Paul Krugman, "The Tainted Election."

At least as to the presidential candidates, the majority of people who voted in the US election did NOT vote for the individual that a great friend of ours up here calls the Insane Leader, but for Clinton. Or, as Paul Krugman put it in his recent talk at the New York Public Library (as only he can), "I don’t want to understate the horribleness of what has just happened and what may still be about to happen, but you do need to realize that it was not the case that rationality was overwhelmingly rejected, even by the American public." And, of course, our illustrious forefathers bear a good deal of responsibility, too, in creating the profoundly undemocratic electoral college, under which we have had an election in which 3 million more voters, give or take, voted for Clinton than for the IL, and yet a paltry 70,000 to 80,000 voters in a handful of states nonetheless sealed our current fate.

I do think, over time, we will see a number of new leaders emerge who will help guide us out of these dark ages. I look particularly to California, which is already a majority-minority state, for that leadership. In California, BTW, it was reported that California's margin of support for Clinton was the second-highest percentage that a Democrat received in the state since the emergence of the Republican Party. Indeed, the only Democrat to get a higher percentage of the vote in the state (including both of Obama's runs) was FDR in 1936. Orange County (home of Richard Nixon) went Democratic for the first time since FDR. The enlightened diversity that these results in California represent is where hope for the future lies. If only it were the present.

David Damant said...

Gladstone ( I think it was) said that to be a good Prime Minister one had to be a good butcher. It is not possible always to be considerate in the personal sense and run good government. Politics at the highest level is a matter of dealing with clashes of people and policies which can only be resolved with a degree of ruthlessness.

The Founding Fathers wanted to prevent the big populous states from dominating Presidential elections. It so happens that these states are now the Democratic, liberal states.

One can criticise Obama for not being good enough at political manoeuvring, though the degree of that required if the US constitution is to work well is amazingly high. One needs the talents of an FDR to manage it ( or a combination of Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson)

I cannot see much hope of better things in future so long as democracy is defined as everyone having their say, that everyone's opinion must be taken into account, and the elite ( = those who know what they are doing) are distrusted. It is the 24 hours news and the social media that have largely contributed to the feelings of dissatisfaction which are widespread, but the dissatisfaction is to a large extent a dislike of the problems of the modern world, which will not go away whoever is in charge.

David said...

Will, could you give a brief summary of the situation with Stephane Dion here, please, so that more folk know what you're talking about? I'll read that article anon. Anyway, this appointment at least is to be celebrated, no? I'm surprised that you've scrupulously avoided all mention of the horrors over the border on your blog.

Sue, I know that, but LinkedIn is of the ephemeral now, and the battles we face day by day, minute by minute, though of course trying to debate with a Trump supporter is like getting with child a mandrake root. I also know that it's not more than 50 per cent versus less because of the even more despicable folk who didn't vote (what was it, 47 per cent)? I may have written this to you already, but a pair of adorable American architects we met at lunch the week after the election said that a big hope for the future is invested in Los Angeles' Democrat Mayor Eric Garcetti. One of them met him when he came to the firm and marked him out as a potential President in four years' time (God forbid that it takes even that long to get rid of Il Douche-ay, my favourite phrase for DT, which now takes on a whole new meaning...)

David, I don't quite get most of what you write in relation to the above. Obama may not have been the greatest manoueverer - he did pretty well under the circumstances - but no-one other than the determined haters would deny that he is a true Mensch, which counts for a lot when you're talking about role-models capable of inspiring people.

Unlike you, I see the potential for huge shifts and change once the worst is out in the open, which it now is. I'm very cautiously optimistic.

David Damant said...

I agree in one sense with your comments on Obama as a role model but remember that the values he portrayed alienated a lot of Americans. I suppose that I may have gone a bit over the top as regards FDR but he was able to manage and win votes even though the New Deal had alienated the Right Wing people, and in the period before Pearl Harbour he was able to support the Brits against Hitler despite the strong feelings of Isolationism in Congress. This sort of ability requires ruthlessness and political sleight of hand which when seen in politicians should not be judged as undesirable, so long as the overall aim is right

I cannot share your optimism especially as it is now said to be undemocratic unless everyone can have a say. As Clement Attlee put it, referendums ( and that can apply to all general voting systems) are the device of dictators and demagogues ( Farage, Trump). The other day a BBC commentator remarked that the choice of the new Secretary General of the UN ( by the Permanent Members of the Security Council - who else knew the candidates?) was undemocratic since ordinary people were not involved.

David said...

Then it's a case of the education of ordinary people. Civic responsibility classes in schools. US and to a lesser but still palpable degree UK education CAN improve.

As for the notion that Obama's values 'alienated a lot of Americans', I don't get it: surely you're talking about Republicans who were alienated already. And if people didn't like the state America is in, a lot of that can be blamed on the legacy of the Bush years as well as the intransigence of the Senate and the HoR. Obama turned such a lot around so quickly. Foreign policy, not so good, but I wonder if any administration could really have solved any of the problems in the Middle East, or ever will. Certainly not this one, threatening Armageddon by moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, for starters.

Anyway, democracy in action has produced so much good. It's just that the bad is currently in the ascendancy, in one of those swings which at this point in my life I begin to see as the way 'history' works.

David Damant said...

I wish that I could share your optimism

Willym said...


I have no qualms about most of Mr Trudeau’s recent appointments to cabinet – though once again appointing a tyro to the portfolio charged with instituting election reform can be seen for what it is – a guarantee that the initiative to go to some form of proportional representation is a failure. Mr Trudeau promised us that our recent election would be the last one in Canada where “first past the post” determined the makeup of parliament. However when – like our Premier here in PEI – he realized that it could well cost him the next election that promise must be seen to be addressed but guaranteed to fail. Had he been serious about it and actually wanted reform the perfect candidate for the portfolio would have been Stephan Dion.

On the question of Stephane Dion – he is a long serving member of parliament who was brought in 21 years ago when the Parti Qubecois was making serious headway towards separation. He was a unifier and it was primarily through his work and efforts that Canada is still a united country. He has also been interim leader of the Liberal party twice – first when Paul Martin lost to Stephen Harper and up and quit because he couldn’t stand defeat, then when the first rate academic they choose as leader proved to be a third rate politician. He has always been a bit of a loose canon – an dedicated environmentalist, human rights activist and proponent of electoral reform – and someone who did not suffer fools gladly but never aired the party’s dirty laundry in public. Mr Trudeau and his people set Mr Dion up to fail and then in the most recent shuffle attempted to get him out of parliament (and caucus) altogether by giving him an Ambassador’s position. And it was all done with a heavy hand and total disregard for what the man has done and was still capable of doing for Canada. In that Mr Trudeau is showing himself to be his father’s son.

As to the lack of political commentary on my blog – I will address that later today.

Susan said...

David N: Ah, I see. I had the sense somehow that you were trying to figure out how we got here (it was your phrase, "I still can't get my head around the difference . . .").

Re the conversation in comments, to understand the extent of presidential maneuverability, one can't look at the presidency alone: it is essential to look at the make-up of Congress, also. FDR had solid-to-huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress throughout his tenure, and for six years a filibuster-proof Senate. LBJ also had solid Democratic majorities throughout his tenure and a filibuster-proof Senate for 4 years. In stark contrast, Bill Clinton and Obama each had a Democratic Congress for only the first 2 years of their 8 year tenures, and, while I seem to recall that Obama had a filibuster-proof Senate for about 2 weeks, other than that, if the stats I'm working from are correct, and I believe they are, neither one enjoyed a filibuster-proof Senate. That, in the face of this, the ACA (Obamacare) was passed at all was nothing short of a miracle, and now it's all about to be undone.

Obama himself has said (and this would have been true for Hillary Clinton, too, if she'd won the electoral college as well as the popular vote), even if the Dems had won the election at the presidential level, it would be impossible to govern. Here's how Obama put it: "Well, part of what I've been saying to -- to people, and this was even when I thought we were gonna win, was that -- that narrow Democratic coalition, the quote/unquote "Obama coalition," that if -- if properly executed, yes you can probably win presidencies repeatedly. It constitutes the majority of the country, but you can't govern. So part of the challenge for Democrats and progressives generally is that if we cannot compete in rural areas, in rural states, if we can't find some way to break through what is a complicated history in the south and start winning races there and winning back southern white voters without betraying our commitment to civil rights and diversity, if we can do those things, then we can win elections. But we will see the same kinds of patterns that we saw during my presidency, a progressive president but a gridlocked Congress that can't move an agenda for us."

So here's where we are now: As a result of the 2016 election, the Republicans hold majorities in both houses, as well as holding the presidency. The filibuster rules have been relaxed, as well, and they don't, in any event, apply to budget reconciliation. So what you see right now, as one example, is that key pegs that hold up the ACA structure are being pulled out through the budget reconciliation process--the Republicans in the Senate have already passed this, and now it goes to the House, where I anticipate the result will be the same.

I see absolutely no reason for optimism; the best hope we have, I believe, to stanch that destructive flow and have hope to repair the damage, is for the Democrats and aligned independents to take back both houses of Congress in 2018, and that's very, very unlikely to happen.

Susan said...

David N: I didn't see your last comment before I wrote mine. Absolutely agree with your characterizations about those opposed to Obama (and the Democrats). They were never with us, and indeed, the Republican Party has become a rogue, extreme right-wing party over here. As a friend said, "our democracy has been highjacked." You put it well, and I agree with your statement: "democracy in action has produced so much good. It's just that the bad is currently in the ascendancy, in one of those swings which at this point in my life I begin to see as the way 'history' works." All very Orwellian at the moment: "The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be forever averted—if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently—then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity."

David said...

The lunatics are indeed in charge of the asylum - or are about to be, though they're hacking furiously around them even now, condemning thousands of Americans to untimely death (the repeal of Obamacare amounts to murder, or manslaughter, doesn't it?)

I see your point about a bleak future - and with American systems as they are, it's realistic. Eventually the pendulum will swing back; nothing ends. Except through humans' self-annihilation, of course, which re-enters the picture again.

Will, all you write is disturbing, but it is rather a case of 'whataboutism', and you still won't celebrate with me the singular achievement of the minister in question's appointment.

David Damant said...

(1) It is the US constitution that is wrong. It is a medieval monarchy ( albeit elected) The President is the King in his palace, the Congress is the gathering of the great lords, and the Supreme Court is the Church. Terribly inefficient. And nothing to be done about it. But FDR was able to win votes for Congress also. He knew how to manoeuvre

(2) The opponents of any democracy have always warned that if ever it was truly implemented with everyone having a say we should be ruled by the wrong people

(3) First past the post produces good governments. Proportional representation leaves the way open for constant horse trading, and often squalor. One should look not at what sounds nice but what has worked

Willym said...

Ah I hadn't realized that was what your were referring to. Indeed I do celebrate the appointment. The gentleman in question has shown the benefit of a healthy immigration programme which I guess I take for granted. Even in the darkest days of the Harper government our immigration programme was something I was proud to see Laurent work on as hard as he did and to do my small part during our time in Rome.

David said...

And of course the way Canada deals with immigration has been rightly feted throughout the world. Hurrah for that! And congratulations to your 'well travelled soul' (which applies to you, too, of course).

David, isn't it funny that so relatively recent a constitution as America's should be quasi-medieval. A nightmare to negotiate. Younger countries with smaller populations and less baggage like Iceland and Estonia manage their democracy very well (so far). So two cheers for it, as Orwell rightly put it.

Susan said...

I want to make a note related to David D's point about "everyone having a say." Absolutely, I would agree that, never, ever, should something as complicated as the UK-EU arrangements be decided by referendum, a recipe for disaster, indeed. I would say that the situation is different when it comes to choosing representatives (e.g., over here, the president and members of Congress). We are then choosing who will represent us, rather than how any individual issue is to be decided--and in the case of the 2016 election, the majority of those voting chose wisely (IMHO).

I disagree with David D's characterization of the US Constitution as medieval in design, a clever construct, but not remotely accurate. Just as one example, neither the Senate, nor, certainly, the House, bears any relationship to the House of Lords. And, if there is any comparison to be made between US Presidents and Kings, the President is far closer to a modern figurehead of a monarch than the kings of yore. So, I'd caution against taking those comparisons and running with them. That said, to David D's essential point, the Constitutional design is emphatically wrong as to the electoral college (though, amusingly, at least for some of the Founders who promoted it, that feature was intended precisely to protect democracy from the poor choices of the unwashed masses of voters).

As to FDR's ability to maneuver--and LBJ's, who is under-sung as a master maneuverer of quite a different stripe--let's please do not forget, as I wrote earlier, that it's a hell of a lot easier to maneuver when your own party controls Congress by a good margin. On the domestic side, Obama did remarkably well, with the ACA as one example, without ever having had an equivalent advantage, and once the Democrats lost Congress, he was almost completely stymied.

What I would say of Obama, on the other side of the equation, is that he appears to be temperamentally unwilling to, as I call it, get mud on his shoes. (For that very reason, not to mention his intellect, he would make a brilliant Supreme Court justice.) As an example of what I mean, in the handling of Comey, though he's Comey's boss, he simply was not willing to play that card. I've no doubt LBJ would have; FDR, too.

David said...

Can't argue with any of that. 'Quasi-medieval' is still a useful term in my mind, though. Our House of Lords and monarchy are even odder, though mostly ineffectual.

d said...

I did not say that Congress was like the House of Lords.....rather that the President has to deal with Congress in the same way as the medieval kings in England had to take account of the power and the views of the great territorial earls and barons. A pretty exact parallel, I would suggest.

Also, I do not believe that the population at large should choose leaders. We cannot know how the man or woman would act in running a country, how he or she will react in committee or in a crisis etc etc - even though we may be able to judge personality and policies. Frau Merkel and Mrs Thatcher would never have been leaders if it had been by popular vote. And, as Attlee said, referendums ( and the vote for President in the States is the same) is the device of dictators and demagogues.....and if Trump is not a demagogue what is he?

David Damant said...

The UK is a republic, run by parliament, the cabinet and the prime minister. The head of state is not the head of government, as in Germany, but unlike Germany the UK head of state is hereditary. The monarchy is constitutional and is an ideal way of keeping the republic and its politicians in their place. In this sense it is far from ineffectual.

David said...

Referendums, no; democratic elections, of course: as Sue says, 'the people' elect representatives and that's the best way of doing things: tell me if you know a better (or maybe not, as this has run on).

Let's see what the law has to say about Parliament being allowed a say in Brexit. It seems almost certain that this vilified (by the right-wing press) group will uphold common sense and stop this government trying to ride roughshod over anything it doesn't like (going to be a lot worse in America, already is).

As for king vs earls and barons, Trump has them in his pocket, of course; but he might like to take Ivan th Terrible's example and set up his Oprichnik or Iron Ring. Oh, I forgot, he's already got them, subject to approval, and the lunatic are, as already mentioned, about to run the asylum.

David Damant said...

Might I add that it is not for the courts to courts to uphold common sense but to state what the law is. It seems to me that - in the face of some competition - the attacks on the courts for their interpretation of the law is the worst of all the pro-Brexit positions. I wonder if those who vilify the courts have even begun to think what it would be like to live in a state in which the rule of law did not apply, and that the courts were at the mercy of politicians, or the mob?

Yes, electing representatives and then they taking the decisions is by far the best way to run a country. I keep quoting a socialist PM Attlee on this !!

David said...

Agreed on both counts.

larrymuffin said...

My two cents is that you cannot compare US Politics with next door Canada. Our history is very different and so is our culture. People tend to say that both countries are the same but that is untrue, having lived in the USA I saw great differences at all levels. Canada is multi cultural, diverse country, 20% of our population was born abroad which is a very high rate amongst the G7 nations.
We have done immigration right by making it universal and on a point system for fairness to all applicants. I cannot imagine someone like Ahmed Hussen becoming Minister of Immigration in Europe or in the USA, it simply would not be accepted. Now young Mr Trudeau has shown how machiavellian he can be by getting rid of a learned academic like Stephan Dion who was back in 2007 an opponent when Justin was entering politics. In politics it is important never to forget the past if one wants to survive. But Dion was also someone who had gravitas and knowledge where Justin does not and that rubbed him the wrong way. Trudeau represents the young hipsters where Dion represents the old intellectuals in an age where that is a suspicious label. Now in a few days we will have the great buffoon as President, that will be a considerable challenge to Canada and it will be interesting to watch how Trudeau will manage Trump or won't.