Dutch Terms for Caribbean Support Are Reasonable

Willemstad Curaçao
View down the Breedestraat in Willemstad, Curaçao (Unsplash/Lakeisha Bennett)

Politicians in the Dutch Caribbean have reluctantly agreed to spending reductions and reforms to qualify for €370 million in financial support from the European Netherlands:

  • 25-percent cut in the salaries of politicians.
  • 12.5-percent cut in the salaries of other public-sector workers.
  • Capping public-sector wages at 130 percent of the prime minister’s salary. (Such an income limit already exists in the European Netherlands.)
  • 20-percent contribution from firms to wage subsidies for the unemployed.
  • Oversight from the Dutch Central Bank in the financial industry of the islands.

With their tourism-dependent economies in free fall due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease, the leaders of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten felt they had no choice but to agree to what Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao called “unrealistic demands” and John Leerdam, a former Labor Party politician, who was born on Curaçao, called a “diktat” from The Hague.

But the terms (which do not apply to emergency food and health-care aid) still fall short of the more thorough and long-term reforms Dutch governments, of the left and right, have advised for years, in some cases decades:

Right-Wing Italians Swap Salvini’s for Even More Right-Wing Party

Matteo Salvini
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

It’s been a bad few months for Italy’s populist right-wing leader, Matteo Salvini.

First his erstwhile governing partner, the Five Star Movement, and the opposition Democrats outmaneuvered him by teaming up to avoid snap elections which polls predicted Salvini’s League would win.

Now his antics in reaction to the government’s coronavirus policy are falling flat.

Salvini and his party “occupied” parliament (refusing to leave the chamber) to demonstrate against the COVID-19 quarantine. He has tweeted out disinformation about the disease, claiming it was created in a Chinese lab. Few Italians care.

Polls find two in three have little faith in the EU anymore, which many Italians feel has been too slow to come to their aid. (Italy has had one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus disease in the world.) Yet it hasn’t given the Euroskeptic Salvini, who once argued for giving up the euro, a boost. Read more “Right-Wing Italians Swap Salvini’s for Even More Right-Wing Party”

Policing in America Is Broken. There Are Solutions

Seattle Washington protest
Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle, Washington, May 30 (Kelly Kline)

Since George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, cops have been caught on video arresting and beating up Americans for speaking out or doing nothing at all, driving their cars into a crowd, tear-gassing peaceful protesters and bystanders, and arresting and attacking journalists.

The New York Times puts it well: “Facing protests over use of force, police respond with more force.”

They are being egged on by President Donald Trump, who has described the protests as “acts of terror”, called on governors to “dominate” the streets and threatened to deploy the military; Republican senators, who have suggested the police commit war crimes to suppress the protests; and conservative media, who portray all demonstrators as far-left radicals. Read more “Policing in America Is Broken. There Are Solutions”

Trump Once Again Throws Europe Under the Bus

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Kremlin)

There have been some constants in Donald Trump’s otherwise haphazard foreign policy. He will invariably side with Russia and against America’s allies in Europe. He sympathizes more with authoritarian regimes than democracies. He doesn’t believe in multilateralism or free trade.

Anything the president’s advisors or allies can portray as a show of “strength” Trump will support.

Anything his supporters in the Republican Party or the conservative media portray as “weakness”, whether it is consultations, compromises or concessions, Trump will resist.

The latest casualty of this simplistic, zero-sum worldview is the Open Skies Treaty, which includes most countries in the Northern Hemisphere and allows reciprocal flights over military facilities. Read more “Trump Once Again Throws Europe Under the Bus”

Left-Wing Criticism of Macron Isn’t Grounded in Reality

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

Seventeen left-wing lawmakers have quit President Emmanuel Macron’s party in France and started their own group, called Ecology, Democracy and Solidarity.

The defections have deprived Macron of his absolute majority in the National Assembly. His La République En Marche is down to 288 out of 577 seats, although it still has the support of the centrist Democratic Movement (46 seats) and the center-right Agir (9).

The defectors accuse Macron of shifting to the right and neglecting income inequality and climate change.

That has more to do with perception than reality. Read more “Left-Wing Criticism of Macron Isn’t Grounded in Reality”

Support for Quarantine Weakens in Spain

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Support for maintaining the coronavirus quarantine is weakening in Spain. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has partly lifted a two-month lockdown, allowing small stores to reopen and restaurants to serve takeaway, but the opposition is calling for a quicker return to normalcy.

Deaths from coronavirus disease have stabilized at under 200 per day. The infection rate is also slowing.

But Spain still has more known cases of COVID-19 than any country except the United States.

The government fears that without strict controls, the virus might rebound in the next six to eight weeks. Read more “Support for Quarantine Weakens in Spain”

Setting the EU Up to Fail

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with other European leaders by videoconference from the Élysée Place in Paris, March 10 (Élysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

First coronavirus itself was going to kill the EU. Now we are told the bloc’s fate was sealed in the first weeks of the outbreak, when creditworthy nations in the north refused to pool their debts with crisis-struck Italy and Spain.

Ulrich Speck, one of Germany’s top foreign-policy analysts, cautioned against jumping to conclusions:

With the corona crisis we see the return of a slightly hysterical discourse about the EU: if X, Y and Z do not immediately happen, the EU will be dead. We should have learned during the crises of the last years that the EU rests on quite solid foundations.

Not everyone has. Read more “Setting the EU Up to Fail”

Democratic Primary News

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, January 4 (Phil Roeder)
  • Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee.
  • Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, his last two opponents, have ended their campaigns and endorsed the former vice president.
  • So have Barack Obama, the former president, and Elizabeth Warren, another former rival. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Trump: Absolute Power, Absolutely No Responsibility

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 1, 2018 (USAF/Robert Cloys)

The outbreak of coronavirus disease in the United States has, if little else, given us an encapsulation of Trumpism.

As Patrick Chovanec of Columbia University puts it on Twitter:

According to the president, he has absolute power but absolutely no responsibility.

On Monday, Donald Trump falsely claimed he, not governors, have the power to impose and lift restrictions to contain the spread of the virus:

When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.

Yet when he was asked earlier this month why he hadn’t issued a nationwide stay-at-home order, Trump did remember, “We have a thing called the Constitution,” and said, “I want the governors to be running things.”

Which was accurate, but also an abdication of duty. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez regularly consult with the leaders of German and Spanish states to coordinate the closing and reopening of businesses and schools, even though that is not strictly their responsibility. Trump could have done the same.

Now some neighboring states opposite policies in place and they are bidding against each other, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for medical devices and gear. Trump could have federalized the procurement of medical equipment, but didn’t. He could have distributed medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile to the states that need it most, but didn’t.

He has found time to criticize Democratic governors, including Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Andrew Cuomo of New York, from their handling of the crisis.

The president’s attitude is best summed up by the answer he gave in March, when a reporter asked him about the shortage of testing kits in the United States: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Read more “Trump: Absolute Power, Absolutely No Responsibility”