Friday, November 09, 2018

Thoughts from Hamburg, Germany: 9.11.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here. Garish but informative.

Matters Hamburg/German
  • Possibly because I'm staying in wealthy part of a rich city, but I don't see any of the boarded-up/papered-over show windows that I pass in Pontevedra. Perhaps La Crisis affected Germany less than it did Spain . . .
  • I confess to having old-fashioned architectural tastes, meaning that I'm much impressed by Hamburg's glorious, 6-storey flat blocks. Of which the contents don't come cheap, I'm told.
  • My host, having suggested I needed a haircut, took me to a place where the price would be €10. But the sign on the window informed us that: 1. This was now €16, and 2. It'd cost me double that if my hair were longer than 20cm, or 8 inches. Happily, it ain't.
Matters Spanish
  • Can you imagine a herd of sheep sitting down to discuss herd security with a pack of wolves? No, neither can I. Hence my surprise at reading this item.
  • Spanish tour operators – a little belatedly – are getting worried about a no deal Brexit. Well, planning is not much of a Spanish thing, so this was pretty inevitable. Spontaneity is highly prized here. Despite its downsides.
  • Good news for Spanish truffle eaters, of which I am not one.
  • Lenox Napier reports that, although the granting of Spanish nationality has been a very tardy business to date: The Government wants to put an end to the bottleneck in applications and plans to grant nationality to more than 300,000 people. Most, then, of the current 360,000 'unresolved cases'.
  • Spain's national prosecutor – Attorney General? – who might not be very up on comparative legal systems - is upset by coverage in the overseas media of Spain's treatment of the Catalan 'rebels'.
  • Motoring News 1: Reader Sierra advises that the speed limit on secondary roads without a 1.5m hard shoulder is already 90kph. As of next year, this won't be a factor, as all such roads will have this max. So, I haven't wasted my time being cautious.
  • Motoring News 2. The new government is carrying out plans to remove tolls from some highways – the opposite of the Portuguese government's policy, as it happens. The first one to benefit is the A1 from Burgos northwards.
Matters USA
  • The article below starts with the claim that, bad as things now are, America’s age of extremes will only get worse. And it ends with: Elections can be healing events, forcing political opponents to come together to execute the people’s expressed choices. Then there are elections that offer hope and encouragement to both sides, driving them even further apart. Only a wild optimist would think America is on the first track.
  • In between, the writer avers that: The midterms confirmed that centrism is dead, tribalism is back and identity is everything. Politicians must now adapt to survive 
  • Meanwhile, can the White House sink any lower than using a doctored video to support a blatant lie? I suspect so. Do they care, so long as their electoral base tolerates this? I suspect not.
  • And is there anything more ironic and hypocritical than Fart's people criticising the touching of young women? Again, I suspect not.
  • “You are a rude, terrible person” . . . This reminded me that one US commentator said a while ago that Fart's accusations are invariably confessions. Could well be. Transference??
© [David] Colin Davies, Hamburg: 9.11.18


America’s age of extremes will only get worse: Gerard Baker,  The Times

Mixed gains for both Trump and the Democrats point not towards compromise but a vicious struggle for supremacy

If you think the past two years in American politics have been boringly harmonious, characterised by excessive civility and an uplifting search for the common ground, you’re in for a treat.

Both political parties had hoped that the US midterm elections on Tuesday would point the country in a clear direction after two years of strife. Democrats believed they would persuade voters to reject President Trump’s agenda and methods. Republicans were seeking validation, if not of every aspect of the Trump style, then at least of the policies they argue have helped the economy to its strongest performance in a decade.

Instead, the results were a parody of modern American politics: a split decision that not only echoes the divisions in the country but also sets it up for two years of hand-to-hand combat that could make the past two seem like a golden age of courtesy.

Elections have two principal functions. They produce an institutional outcome: a government that runs things until the next election. But they also convey a message from voters: a signal about what people like and dislike about the political parties. On both counts, the conclusions point to more strife.

Democrats advanced significantly in the House of Representatives, winning a majority there for the first time since 2010. Perhaps most encouraging was winning the governor’s race in three crucial midwestern states that gave Mr Trump the presidency in 2016: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

But it’s control of the House that will have the most immediate consequences. The party can now exercise a constitutional check on Mr Trump’s ambitions and use the formidable investigative powers of Congress to make life uncomfortable for him.

Democrats were eager throughout the campaign and in the first flush of victory to downplay suggestions that the new House will be hungry for impeachment. In her victory speech, Nancy Pelosi, who is likely to be restored as Speaker of the House, didn’t mention anything about investigations and claimed that nothing could be further from her mind.

Don’t be fooled. Listen to excited Democrats behind the scenes and it’s virtually all they talk about. The new leaders of congressional committees are itching to get their considerable staffs digging into every aspect of the president’s business and political record. Jerrold Nadler, a longstanding enemy of Mr Trump’s from New York, will chair the judiciary committee, the body that will consider any impeachment recommendations. You’ll be hearing a lot from him in the next few months, and also from Richard Neal, likely new chairman of the ways and means committee, that will attempt to subpoena Mr Trump’s tax returns.

Every member of the Trump administration will be “lawyering up” as they say in Washington, facing the daily threat of demands for files, summonses for interview, backed by the sanction of federal law.

In the Senate, meanwhile, the Republicans increased their majority from 51-49 to a projected 54-46. This was a significant shift. In the last Congress the party’s majority there was so slim that the president was often dependent on two or three centrist Democrats and needed to tailor some legislative proposals to bring them along. Now the margin is more comfortable.

Republicans were also encouraged by wins in some high-profile contests. In Florida, where it seems every election is decided by a fraction of a percentage point, they upset pollsters by winning both the Senate seat and the governorship. Ted Cruz held off a fierce challenge from the Democratic superstar and media darling Beto O’Rourke in the Texas senate race.

The Senate results amount to a personal vindication for Mr Trump. He campaigned enthusiastically in key states and the result is a Republican Party both more beholden to him and more like him in its composition. Democrats will take heart that, despite the strength of the US economy, voters still expressed personal disapproval of the president in the exit poll.

It’s just possible that both sides will abjure partisanship and try to get things done. Mr Trump, who after all used to support the Democrats, may choose to work with them now on immigration, investment in infrastructure and reducing the deficit. But that requires a willingness to shoulder responsibility and to compromise. Compare that with the instant gratification and base-rousing impact of a 5am tweet.

For their part, some Democratic voices will urge caution. Moderate senators worry that impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump would only succeed in energising Republican voters and alienate the swing voters the party needs if it is to defeat him in 2020.

But the Democratic base is fired up. With a divided Congress, the chances of getting many laws passed are remote so all the political action will be on impeachment. The contest to pick the party’s 2020 presidential candidate begins now and leading contenders will come under pressure from the grass roots to talk up the president’s alleged crimes.

Nicolas Checa, managing director of McLarty Associates, a political consulting firm, says: “The better than expected Senate result gives Trump unquestionable political legitimacy among Republicans. The result in the House will embolden Democrats to pursue impeachment.”

Elections can be healing events, forcing political opponents to come together to execute the people’s expressed choices. Then there are elections that offer hope and encouragement to both sides, driving them even further apart. Only a wild optimist would think America is on the first track.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

AIN'T ?????

You use 'AIN'T? ?????

YOU ????

Who always criticise other for.... Never mind


Colin Davies said...

You are seemingly unversed in the nuances of British irony. But, in your favour, you are not alone . . .

Perry said...

A touch of re-orientation would not come amiss as a palliative to the despair that snares cognition.