Six German state governments have elections this year. Two others have local elections. That’s a total of eight states of sixteen having some kind of elections. Everyone in Germany has the all-important national Bundestag election in September 2021, eight months from this writing. They’re calling it a Superwahljar (Super-Election-Year). It’s really a Super-Election-HalfYear, because they all occur between mid-March and late-September, good weather months.
Recent news has brought my attention back to something big that happened in Germany in 2020, which I followed closely at the time and wrote about on these pages. It was the sudden breakthrough of the AfD party in forming a state government, in Thuringia. I wrote about the Thuringia shock and crisis (Post-383: High Drama in Erfurt) and then a series of long comments on the political crisis as it happened, and reactions to it, a kind of political journaling mixed with my own recollections and insights. Thuringia was a big deal, and remains a big deal as I look back, now, almost one year later.
But then the Virus Panic of 2020 happened and shifted political support levels significantly. In fact in such a dramatic way, in fact, that one understands why politicians have dragged on the irrational responses. The media succeeded in scaring people, who were then easy pickings for political demagogues.
In any case, this is the biggest year for German electoral politics in a while. Following are comments and observations.
What to “make” of the occupation of the U.S. federal Capitol grounds, in Washington, in the afternoon and into early evening, Jan. 6, 2021?
My immediate impression. This will be remembered as a major, historic, ‘landmark’ moment in history. A moment ranking with the most historic of my adult lifetime so far.
As a protest, and as protests go, it was a stunning success. The occupation of central government building by unarmed protestors? Wow.
Also a humiliation, if there ever was one, for the U.S. federal government.
The following was written about 48 hours after the event. Thoughts on context for this moment in history, how such as dramatic as this comes to happen, and then some notable scenes from the occupation.
(original: 2000 words) (updated, Jan. 9: now 3300 words.)
Political yard signs are not limited to actual yards in front of houses or windows, and the US has a long tradition now of people putting them up in public places, especially in median strips on roads or other comparable places.
One you’d never have guessed you’d see is this one:
This particular median strip got more crowded with political signs as time went by. If you’d shown this to someone in 2019, they’d never guess what the sign was supposed to mean.
“Open Schools Now” is a defacto political slogan, overlapping with national politics but not identical, though the two positions have grown closer over time as people rearrange themselves into familiar political boxes.
Schools in Arlington remain fully closed, as the Panic crowd demanded and, in retrospect, easily got. In August, there was a sign campaign demanding no opening at all until there were “fourteen days with no new cases,” which I’, sorry but is an insane position. It’s a respiratory/flu virus, people. What are you thinking? And elected leaders caved in.
(Schools never should have closed at all, not in March and not to the present. It was never an evidence-based or data-based position. It was purely a panic-based, emotion-based decision. The negative effects of this decision far, far outweigh any potential positives. This is my position, reached through analysis of the data. But if I’ve learned nothing else from other people in my time, it’s that most people don’t think like that — which is why it’s a good think public policy people generally do, to avoid constant disruptive panics.)
The Coronavirus Panic overlapped this year with regular political currents, but at least at first it didn’t fit previous division lines, so you saw people all over the place in their positions. The media drumbeat terrified people, putting the cart miles ahead of the horse because they never bothered to wait for evidence to come in.
Meanwhile, the “Open Schools Now” people are like figures out of the Twilight Zone, the kind of episode where the protagonist is the same and everyone else one day is different (“they were all like that,” Seinfeld said). Very few, early on in this virus panic, would have wanted schools closed for a full one and a half school years, as may now be the case.
So this “Open Schools Now” campaign seems hopeless, with the people in it, mainstream just months ago, are now cornered into looking like malcontents or perennial candidates for office, like the Clement sign behind the Open Schools Now sign. Clement is a perennial candidate and critic of the local one-party state of total Democratic Party machine control. She won’t win because most Arlington voters are transients (don’t know much about the local area, nor care) who vote straight Democrat.
Arlington is the kind of place where schools were shut down and have not reopened as of election week. It’s impossible to trust the media on Corona and all topics related to it, given their responsibility for frankly creating the Panic and leading the digital lynch mobs that demanded shutdowns. I don’t know if Open Schools Now is a position from which a candidate could win, if an election were a pure national referendum on it.
In April I started to sense that the November 2020 general election might be a partial referendum on Shutdowns/Lockdowns, and that prediction has turned out quite right. In simple form:
It’s not that simple, but both candidates have made moves suggesting they are comfortable carrying that banner. The all-important question is which direction that pushes Pennsylvania and the rest of the key states that swung to Trump in 2016. Demanding schools stay shut indefinitely feels to me like it’s more like a Blue Bubble position, but it’s hard to say. It’s really not political, of course, but more personality based.
I must say, in any case, that I pity students and am glad I am not one just now.
The COVID19 virus is all over the news. Though it began in the Chinese interior in Dec. 2019, South Korea is again in the news for an outbreak, as if on cue re-earning its sometime-nickname of the Land of Extremes. S.Korea has racked up more confirmed COVID19 virus infections (called in Korea “Corona19,” 코로나19), by a considerable margin, than anywhere outside the epicenter around Wuhan.
I have a few things I’d like to say related in some way to this latest big virus panic and/or to Korea’s place in it, in descending order of how long ago:
(1) My observations on what’s going on around me now with regard to the virus panic; (2) China’s soft-power problem; COVID19 as a potential serious a blow to China’s image/prestige; (3) S.Korea and the negative influence of the Shinchonji group [신천지] (my experiences with this group, which is definitely a cult by popular understanding of the term, date to 2014; second-hand as early as 2012; the experiences were through no fault of my own, as they use front groups and all manner of deceptions to get in contact with people, effectively like an intelligence agency); (4) My memory of the MERS virus panic of June 2015 that hit South Korea.
I’ll do these in succession in separate posts, starting with the last and most distant, the MERS virus panic of 2015 (2015년6월의 메르스 바이러스-감염병 위기).
I remember “MERS” well. What’s strange to me is how few others seem to, or their memory of it as something minor. I doubt it made the news much at all in the US.
For thirty-six hours, as of this writing, Germany has been in uproar over something in Erfurt, the capital of Thüringen, a state in Germany. It was an election. Ninety assembled delegates, popularly elected late last year, assembled to choose the new head of the state government. Once elected, the head of the sttae government (Minister-President) would appoint cabinet ministers and get on with the business of things.
All the commotion is about the party known as the AfD, which was crucial in electing the winner. It appeared that the AfD would be “in” (though not leading) a state government for the first time ever. The AfD had broken through the cordon sanitaire.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, at least in Germany, and I have been seeing it unfold live, if from a distance. I would compare it metaphorically to a case of significant civil unrest, or a war panic. “Constitutional crisis” gets much closer to non-metaphorical accuracy.
(News, senior Iranian general killed in US airstrike.)
It looks like the inner circle of Washington power-players, who imagine themselves Great Game players in the Middle East, have either failed to make a New Decade’s Resolution to get off the intervention-addiction, or, if they did make such a resolution, have spectacularly failed to keep it for more than three days.
Killing a foreign general in peacetime. Not a good look.
Since my “current-events awareness” and political consciousness began to take shape in the 1990s, these kinds of interventions have been a constant. No matter who is in power, they always seem to happen; no matter what is said on the campaign trail, they always seem to happen.
The Iraq War of the 2000s, which drifted along for years after the March 2003 invasion (at enormous cost and with second-order effects generally recognized to be bad) was the most egregious case, but many others, large and small, fall into the same general category.
I have been against these interventions since 2002 while still a mid-teenager. What benefit they are to us, I do not see.