Saturday, March 26, 2016

Did the Democratic Party Forsake the Middle Class?

In his new book ‘Listen, Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People’, author Thomas Frank (‘What's the Matter with Kansas?) points out that the Democratic Party’s historical role of protecting the working middle class has all but vanished. Since the 80’s, many policies implemented by both Republican and Democratic administrations have hugely benefited the ‘professional class’ as well as the ‘business class’. By ‘professional class’ Frank refers to affluent professionals, lawyers, doctors, investment specialists, etc. This class is very liberal in a cultural sense, but very conservative economically.

The shift in policy in the Democratic Party came after George W. Bush’s victory, when the ‘New Democrats’ tried to be centrist by combining right-wing economic policy with left-wing social policy, which they called the ‘Third Way’.

Frank is especially harsh on Bill Clinton. He was the prototypical New Democrat. He signed the NAFTA agreement, deregulated Wall Street and ‘reformed’ Welfare by putting pressure on the unemployed. Barak Obama continued this trend, trying to fast track the TTP and, although he put the Healthcare Bill into law, Big Pharma and the insurance companies are still in control of health insurance. Read more...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What to do About Terrorism?

Tuesday March 22, 2016: Brussels, Belgium: ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack kills at least thirty four (so far). This is Belgium’s “9/11:” In proportion to the US population, it is the equivalent of 1,100 dead. The bombs contained nails and shards of glass, to inflict maximum suffering.

My first reaction upon hearing this was, “Oh no! Not again!” Coincidentally, I was in Belgium just a couple of weeks ago. I was also there a year ago, in Liege. On that occasion, I was flabbergasted when I saw practically no Belgians downtown Liege. The entire city seemed to have been repopulated by immigrants, primarily from Africa.

I taught Violence and Terrorism at the university for fifteen years. It may be helpful to put things in historical perspective: Back in the 1980s, the groups terrorizing Europe were all named “Red this” and “Red that.” There was the Red Army Faction, (the Baader-Meinhof), the Red Brigades, the Action Directe, etc. They blew up caf√©s, restaurants and other places with grim regularity, killing dozens of innocent Europeans. But in time, this scourge was defeated. Its foreign base of support collapsed. And that base was a hell of a lot more powerful than ISIS or AlQaida are today. It consisted of the USSR and its satellites in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Which Countries are the Most and the Least Hospitable?

We hear that the number of “displaced persons” in the world is at an all-time high. Today, I want to talk about the number of migrants. According to a recent issue of   The Guardian (see Number of Migrants) there were in 2013, the last year for which comprehensive data are available, 232 million international migrants in the world;  that is, people who have moved permanently from their country of origin to another.

In this article, I do not address any of the innumerable aspects of the topic of international migration. I wish  to show one thing and one thing only: what proportion of the total number of migrants do various countries take in. Facts are important, especially when accusations of racism and xenophobia are flying in all directions, as they currently do. 

It is not clear whether The Guardian’s number - 232 million -   is an all-time record or not. If it is, it would certainly only be so in absolute terms. There have been times in history when a far greater percentage of the world’s population was on the march.  Think  of the vast  migrations aptly named  V√∂lkerwanderung in German, that took place during and after the collapse of the Roman Empire. More recently, millions were forced or chose to migrate, including for example 14 million Germans from Eastern Europe after World War Two.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Century's Worth of Living (Part 3)

My mother Ata sleeps a lot. She is often in pain because of some nerve damage in her feet, but is happy that I have come all the way from Boston to visit her. It is peaceful here in Bergen. Ata lives in an assisted living abutting the 'polders', vast meadows where sheep, horses and cows share the lush, green grass. The enormous sky dwarfs this flat landscape; I have stepped into a Vermeer painting, the church steeples and windmills dotting the low hanging horizon.

I am trying to come to terms with Ata's life ending soon. Part of my life will also come to an end and I don't know how to separate the two. Soon, I will no longer come to Holland. I will no longer sleep in this little guest room, waiting for the day to break while the smell of cow manure, the cawking of the seagulls, the muffled sound of a truck on its morning delivery mingle in the air. It will all be as faded as the photographs that hang on Ata's walls.

Visiting my mother has always been an intense experience. With all that moving from country to country, she has managed to always bring the family past with her. There are so many boxes where I find pieces of myself, boxes stuffed with old letters, drawings, poems and of course, photographs. Read more...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

President Donald Trump's Inauguration Speech as 45th President of the United States, January 20, 2017

My fellow Americans.
This is a new dawn for America.

First, I want to thank you all, you amazing American people who voted for me and put your trust in me, to lead the country back to being great again.

You have chosen the best man. As your president, I will do amazing things for you. We are not gonna pussy-foot anymore with China, with Mexico, with the Arabs or with all those other foreigners. When I am in charge, America will come first and not last, like during my predecessor (yeah, that’s a great word I like to use now, it means “the guy before me,” which was Obama, who by the way was never born in this country).

So here is the thing: You voted for me because you hate those liberals who are politically correct, right? Well, I got good news for you: I also hate them, and I promise you: I am not gonna be politically correct. And by the way, I am not gonna appoint women, blacks, Mexicans and other people just because they are black, or women, or some other thing. I will appoint the best man for the job, whoever that might be.