Klaus Brinkbäumer

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Anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and other evils have been ushered into the mainstream by the opportunists and hatemongers who helped enable Donald Trump into the Oval Office, and it makes no difference that some of them fall into the very groups now being targeted (Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Stephen Miller, namely). 

In the early days of the GOP nomination process, when it seemed done deal that Donald Trump would soon fall from the race after disgracefully gaining attention for his idiotic “brand,” Edward Luce of the Financial Times warned that even if the Mussolini-Lampanelli madman fell from the sky, the dark clouds that had formed would not go away. They would spread, becoming more ominous.

Then the worst of all possible outcomes occurred when Trump won the Electoral College, with the aid of Putin, Comey, neo-Nazis and so-called geniuses like Peter Thiel and David Gelernter. Now we have Indian people shot in Kansas, bigoted domestic terrorists arrested for murderous plots and Jewish cemeteries desecrated. Meanwhile, international scholars are interrogated at airports and undocumented workers flee for the Canadian border, willing to sacrifice fingers and toes to frostbite. That’s the nightmare version of America–the un-America.

So far, citizens, journalists, judges and the Intelligence Community have stood tall against the threat of tyranny, while the opportunists and regressive minds in the legislature have performed as poorly as has been expected. Trump has targeted news organizations with the zeal of Putin and Erdogan because his type of hatred exists like a barnacle on the back of a created enemy and because the truth is not his friend.

From Klaus Brinkbäumer in Spiegel:

In Trump’s America, meanwhile, the press has been declared an “enemy of the people.” “You are fake news,” the president says when he sees a CNN reporter. A colleague at The Washington Post recently shared how the White House no longer answers any of his questions, only to then start blasting insults every time a story is published. It isn’t until that point that the president’s spokesman actually bothers to return his call, but only to say, “Fuck you, asshole. We’re going to make your life hell.” The effect of all of this is that truth and lies are getting blurred, the public is growing disoriented and, exhausted, it is tuning out.

This, in turn, aids the wrong people. Erdogan and Trump are positioning themselves as the only ones capable of truly understanding the people and speaking for them. It’s their view that freedom of the press does not protect democracy and that the press isn’t reverent enough to them and is therefore useless. They believe, after all, that the words that come from their mouths as powerful leaders are the truth and that the media, when it strays from them, is telling lies. That’s autocratic thinking — and it is how you sustain a dictatorship. 

The idea of freedom of speech first came into being hundreds of years ago. The poet John Milton issued a plea for the “liberty of unlicensed printing” in 1644. “The destruction of a good book ends not in the slaying of an elemental life,” he wrote, “but strikes at that ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself.” The seed had been planted and England moved to eliminate censorship in 1695. In 1776, the state of Virginia in the United States established the freedom of the press in America. The move was bold, enlightened and precious, making it that much more astonishing that some Turks and Americans now allow themselves to be lied to or have simply become too lazy to think critically.•

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Following up on the recent post about contracted and temporary work proliferating in America, putting citizens on an insecure and downward path, there are a couple of just-published pieces about the same dynamic in Europe.

Part of this new normal is the result of the aftershock of the 2008 collapse, which may have been even worse in Europe due to that region opting for austerity, but other factors like poor Labor policy, wealth inequality and technological change are also playing a role. Perhaps as much as anything the corporate mindset that workers are disposable has had a corrosive effect. As we’ve seen, this instability has done much to provoke increasingly risky political choices.

It’s not only those in the manufacturing sector facing a steep climb but also oncologists and nanotechnologists, the type of high achievers who were supposed to be largely impervious to such vicissitudes. The generation may not be completely lost but it’s certainly being underutilized.

Liz Alderman of the New York Times has an excellent article that profiles some Europeans lost in the shuffle, and Klaus Brinkbäumer, Markus Feldenkirchen and Horand Knaup of Spiegel address the topic in an interview Martin Schulz, SDP candidate for the German Chancellery. Two excerpts follow.


From the NYT:

After graduating with degrees in accounting and finance from a university in Finland, Ville Markus Kieloniemi thought he would at least find an entry-level job in his field. He studied potential employers, tailoring his applications accordingly.

He wound up churning through eight temporary jobs over the next three years. He worked variously as a hotel receptionist and as a salesman in men’s clothing stores, peddling tailored suits and sportswear.

“It’s hard to manage your finances or even get housing, let alone start a career,” said Mr. Kieloniemi, 23, who added depth to his résumé by accepting unpaid office jobs and internships in New York and Spain, mostly at his own expense. “You feel pressure all the time.”

Meet the new generation of permatemps in Europe.

While the region’s economy is finally recovering, more than half of all new jobs created in the European Union since 2010 have been through temporary contracts. This is the legacy of a painful financial crisis that has left employers wary of hiring permanent workers in a tenuous economy where growth is still weak. Under European labor laws, permanent workers are usually more difficult to lay off and require more costly benefit packages, making temporary contracts appealing for all manner of industries, from low-wage warehouse workers to professional white-collar jobs.  

For those stuck in this employment netherworld, life is a cycle of constant job searches. Confidence can give way to doubt as career prospects seem to fade. Young people talk of delaying marriage and families indefinitely. And though many were grateful for any workplace experience, they were also cynical about companies that treated them like disposable labor.•


From Spiegel:

Spiegel:

In the early 2000s, SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder introduced tough and controversial cuts to Germany’s welfare and unemployment aid programs, a reform package known as Agenda 2010. Was that a mistake in hindsight?

Martin Schulz:

In the Old Testament, Solomon preaches that “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” In 2003, 14 years ago, the Agenda was the correct response to a phase of stagnation. On that issue, I always supported Gerhard Schröder. The fact that today we have record employment is also thanks to Gerhard Schröder. But we have also made mistakes. We should have introduced the minimum wage at the same time and taxed the super-rich at a higher rate. Because we didn’t do that, many got the impression that the reforms were unfair. The Agenda was advantageous for the country, but the SPD suffered significant collateral damage as a result. It is now time to focus on fairness.

Spiegel:

In times of globalization and digitalization, where politics can no longer exert influence in many areas, how can you promise greater fairness?

Martin Schulz:

I cannot guarantee people absolute fairness. I can only promise that I will do everything in my power to secure fairness or create a greater degree of fairness. The old fundamental principles must continue to apply, even in our changing society: Democracy knows neither master nor slave. Equal education opportunities for all, no matter where they come from and no matter who their parents are. Equal access as well when it comes to digitalization.

Spiegel:

That sounds nice enough, but it’s also rather ambiguous. Let’s be a bit more concrete. How do you intend to limit the number of temporary jobs and limited contracts?

Martin Schulz:

Labor Minister Andrea Nahles (SPD) has already achieved a lot in that regard. We could limit the admissibility of temporary and limited work to a much greater degree if we had the necessary parliamentary majorities to do so.

Spiegel:

How do you intend to limit the number?

Martin Schulz:

We need to roll back precarious employment models. Temporary and limited contracts were initially seen as a way of introducing more flexibility so as to bridge periods of need in certain phases of production. Some employers have taken advantage of the model to push down wages. In general, we must strive for equal pay for equal work.•

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This election revealed an evil that existed deep in the hearts of enough people, ill feelings previously stilled by expectations of civility. It was unloosed by the most disgraceful political campaign in modern times, one steeped in bigotry, hatred and disrespect. It’s like a good deal of white people, especially older ones, realized they could no longer control the world around them and decided freedom wasn’t for them–or at least for others–as if our constitution were a toy to be taken from disobedient children.

President Obama, a master of understatement, explains in a Q&A with Spiegel/ARD, that he feels the changes to our country revealed by this close election may be overstated. Except, wow, not. There’s no modern parallel to what just happened, when a candidate openly espousing white nationalistic memes and dancing like a vulgar, fascistic clown, was able to not only come close but win. Maybe the the citizenry wakes up in due time and we become America again, but it’s hard to take the long view on this one.

The opening of the interview conducted by Klaus Brinkbäumer and Sonia Seymour Mikich:

Question:

Mr. President, Donald Trump won the election, revealing massive discontent and rifts within American society. Did the amount of anger actually surprise you?

President Obama:

I think it’s important not to overstate what happened. The truth is that America has been closely divided politically for quite some time. That was reflected in some of the challenges I had with the Republican Congress. What was unusual in this election is that my approval in the United States is as high as it has been since I was elected. And the economy is going relatively well. I think what is true is that there’s been an underlying division in the United States. Some of it has to do with the fact that economic growth and recovery tends to be stronger in the cities and in urban areas. In some rural areas, particularly those that were reliant on manufacturing, there has been weaker growth, stagnation, people feeling as if their children won’t do as well as they will.

There are cultural, social and demographic issues that came into play. They’re not that different from some of the issues that Europe faces with immigration, the changing face of the American population. I think some reacted there, and Trump was able to tap into some of those anxieties. 

American politics is always somewhat fluid. In this age of social media, it means that voters can swing back and forth. I mean, there were probably millions of voters who voted for me and supported me and this time also voted for Donald Trump, and it just indicates that some of this is less ideological and more just an impulse towards some sort of change.•

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I haven’t yet read Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, the one that Elizabeth Kolbert took to task for not being bold enough. (Kolbert’s own volume on the topic, The Sixth Extinction, was one of my favorite books of 2014.) In an often-contentious Spiegel interview conducted by Klaus Brinkbäumer, Klein contends that capitalism and ecological sanity are incompatible and calls out supposedly green captains of industry like Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson. An excerpt:

Spiegel:

The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Naomi Klein:

Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

Spiegel:

What should their goal be?

Naomi Klein:

Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

Spiegel:

Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Naomi Klein:

Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

Spiegel:

If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Naomi Klein:

Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

Spiegel:

You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Naomi Klein:

No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.•

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