Monday, January 23, 2017

Trump - Day 3 - Year Zero "Alternative Facts"

Trump's press secretary made a series of silly remarks about the size of the crowd that gathered for the inauguration on Friday.

It seems that president Fart was upset that more people showed up for Barack Obama than for him in an equivalent ceremony years before.

To their credit, the normally passive and naive United States press were spurred into an rare energetic burst of fact checking, and quickly published photographs and mass transport data to show that Obama did pull a far bigger crowd.

But what really made people smile and shudder was one of Trump's advisers, a right wing former beauty queen Kellyanne Conway who went on television to claim that the press secretary was giving us "alternative facts" about the inauguration. 

Oh shit - they're even worse than I thought.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump - Day 1, Year Zero

I watched Donald Trump being inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States yesterday afternoon. 

 Actually I was in the car while the actual inauguration took place so I heard it on the radio and then watched a recording of it with M about an hour later. He gave a horrible speech in when he didn't make a single reference to Hillary Clinton (present at the ceremony and putting a brave face on things). 

Instead he sounded like some vile dictator from the 1930s, blithering on about political elites and how power has passed to the people. I wonder if there's ever been a dictator who hasn't claimed he's a man of the people? Never mind - all political careers end in failure. There are many ways in which the career of Donald John Trump can end. He can: 

  • Be voted out out of office in 2020. 
  • Be assassinated 
  • Be impeached 
  • Resign, either voluntarily or involuntarily like Richard M Nixon
But the speech itself wasn't entirely nonsense. The best passage was a surprisingly eloquent description of the closed factories scattered all over the American landscape like grave stones. 

Since the era of Ronald Reagan (a fuckwit, now regarded by many fuckwits as a great president), the gradually evolving dominant theme of politics has been globalisation, and how it's impossible to do anything but accept and embrace it. 

Thomas Friedman was onto this idea quite early with books like The Lexus and Olive Tree (1999). Tony Blair was onto it (or more likely his advisers were) in a speech he made in 2005 at the Labour Party Conference. According to John Harris Blair said:

"The pace of change can either overwhelm us, or make our lives better and our country stronger,” he went on. “What we can’t do is pretend it is not happening. I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer.” 

His next passage was positively evangelistic. “The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition. Unforgiving of frailty. No respecter of past reputations. It has no custom and practice. It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change.” 

 John Harris then goes on to describe his own thoughts:

“Most people are not like that.” The words rattled around my head: “Swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change.” And I wondered that if these were the qualities now demanded of millions of Britons, what would happen if they failed the test?
Blair describe[d] his vision of the future – in which one’s duty was to get as educated as possible, before working like hell and frantically trying not to sink."
That really was the dominant theme of both Left and Right for the past couple of decades. The Right embraced globalisation as the ultimate expression of the free market, while the Center Left saw it as a natural phenomenon that could only be coped with rather than stopped.  Only the hard Left saw it as evil, but they were regarded as foolish and extreme, just like the hard Right, who wanted to oppose mass immigration and who saw globalisation as destroying nation states.
It was Trump's genius, probably an accident, that he was able to appear as neither Right nor Left, and to promise people what everyone had been telling them was impossible - a return to a pre-globalisation golden age of well paid jobs in stable successful companies in local communities. 
In many ways I think Trump is dangerous, stupid and reckless. But in one way, I'm rather exhilarated, in that he shows that in a democracy, you only go so far before people will bite back. Since 2008 we've had eight long years of economic misery which people have by and large endured. But with Hillary Clinton promising nothing but more of the same, people were willing to try anything to get meaningful change. That's democracy, in all it's cross-eyed, foolish brilliance. Nobody but nobody after Trump's term of office will be able to take the effects of pure free-market capitalism on the uneducated and the semi-skilled for granted. 

That's a good thing.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year

A happy new year to everyone who reads or is connected with the blog.

2016 was a shocking, memorable year.

Let's hope 2017 is more settled, and that Donald Trump and the start of the Brexit process aren't as bad as many people fear.

Thanks once again for reading the blog.

- roGER