Watching the age of personality be eclipsed by the plastic politician has been the most distressing phenomenon to observe as I leave after 40 years in the daily news business.
We are in an era where the proliferation of media relations staffing is only exceeded by the decimation of journalism ranks. Ironically, many of those advising politicians on media manipulation are themselves displaced reporters.
More than ever before, communications flacks see their role as cocooning cabinet ministers, premiers and even mayors from actually facing a reporter scrum or returning their phone calls.
It is much safer to issue a bland statement, which prevents journalists from obtaining clarification or explanation from incomplete responses.
Of course, the best reporters and columnists can still meet politicians or staff in a dark bar to find out what is going on. But from a television host’s chair, it’s a daily struggle to get leaders or cabinet ministers, assuming they actually agree to an interview, to even attempt to appear unscripted.
This is not to single out Justin Trudeau’s government as particularly egregious. Message tracking and script reading were similarly intense under Stephen Harper.
And once greater thought control over a caucus is successfully exercised, it is never relinquished by the next leader in line.
So, as I sign off, let me quickly run through the hall of fame and shame of those who excelled at being a personality versus those who meekly performed the role of potted palms in the background.
First off, there are promising premier entries into the field of leaders capable of talking like they have a pulse to call their own – take a bow Alberta’s Jason Kenney, Quebec’s Francois Legault, New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs and B.C.’s John Horgan.
And there were encouraging signs in the last election that voters are fed up with focus-grouped leader lines. The only two who exceeded electoral expectations were NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the Bloc’s Yves-Francois Blanchet, both delivering personality-enhancing performances.
But the finger of shame should wag at the gag on every Trudeau cabinet minister except, on some days, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland.
And then there’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
Before becoming prime minister, Trudeau used to talk like a human. Now his mouth gushes out a jumble of staff-approved nouns, verbs and adjectives which defy assembly into coherent and insightful sentences.
So if I have a farewell wish for my viewers and colleagues, it’s that more politicians reject central thought control to act and talk openly like the voters they’re elected to represent.
And may today’s plastic politicians be quickly recycled by voters of the future into someone more useful.
That’s the last Last Word.
Germans divided over restrictions for the unvaccinated – Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — German politicians were deeply divided Sunday over a warning by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff that restrictions for unvaccinated people may be necessary if COVID-19 infection numbers reach new heights in the coming months.
Chief of staff Helge Braun told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany. But Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters or sports stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”
Braun said getting vaccinated is important to protect against severe disease and because “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedoms than unvaccinated people.” He said such policies would be legal because “the state has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens.”
His comments fueled a debate in German politics about potential vaccination requirements. The issue has proven divisive, even within Merkel’s own Christian Democrats party. Its candidate to replace Merkel as Germany’s leader, Armin Laschet, said he opposes any formal or informal vaccine requirements for the time being.
“I don’t believe in compulsory vaccinations and I don’t believe we should put indirect pressure on people to get vaccinated,” he told the German broadcaster ZDF on Sunday. “In a free country there are rights to freedom, not just for specific groups.”
If Germany’s vaccination rates remain too low this fall, other options could be considered, Laschet said, adding “but not now.”
With the highly transmissible delta variant spreading in Germany, politicians have debated the possibility of compulsory vaccinations for specific professions, including medical workers. No such requirements have been implemented yet.
Germany’s vaccine efforts have slowed in recent weeks and that has led to discussions about how to encourage those who haven’t yet received a vaccine to do so. More than 60% of the German population has received at least one dose while over 49% are fully vaccinated.
During a recent visit to the Robert Koch Institute, the government run disease control agency, Merkel ruled out new vaccine requirements “at the moment,” but added, “I’m not ruling out that this might be talked about differently in a few months either.”
Other elected officials have struck a similar tone. Baden-Württemberg governor Winfried Kretschmann, a member of the Greens, noted Sunday that the delta variant and others that may emerge could make vaccine requirements more attractive down the line.
While there are no current plans to require people to get vaccinated, he told the German news agency dpa that “I can’t rule out compulsory vaccinations for all time.”
Karl Lauterbach, a health expert from the center-left Social Democrats, spoke in favor of possible restrictions. He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that soon one of the only remaining options to fight new variants will be “to restrict access to spaces where many people come together” to those who have either been vaccinated or recovered from the virus.
Others immediately pushed back against Braun’s comments on Sunday. Some expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of such restrictions, while others warned against having rights based on one’s vaccination status.
“Of course, we need incentives to reach the highest possible vaccination rate,” Marco Buschmann, parliamentary group leader for the pro-business Free Democrats, told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group.
Still, he said, if unvaccinated people who have been tested or recovered from the virus pose no greater danger than vaccinated people, to impose such restrictions on the unvaccinated “would be a violation of their basic rights.”
Rolf Mützenich, head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group, said politicians should be focusing more on getting willing citizens vaccinated than penalizing the unvaccinated.
“We’re not going to sustainably change the vaccination behavior of individuals with threats,” he told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:
Caballeros are right to stay out of politics – Santa Fe New Mexican
My compliments and support for the recent decision of the Caballeros de Vargas to abstain from local politics.
I am an Anglo and not a Roman Catholic, but consider Santa Fe my home, my community. It is where I feel a connection with the Earth, with fellow human beings, with life itself. Compassion, respect, coexistence, hospitality to the stranger; these are all values that I see as a part of the history of the Santa Fe community. I see these values being reflected in how the Caballeros honor La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Peace, the Virgin Mary statue so central to the city’s history.
I used to feel that one did not need to be a Hispanic Catholic of Santa Fe heritage to be a contributing member of the community, as long as you recognized and supported these values. Unfortunately, the last several years I have seen communications by, and received from, members of the community that made me feel that not being of “Spanish” heritage in New Mexico, I was not welcomed in the community. I thought there was a rich, historic heritage of different opinions being welcomed here, to be civilly debated, as long as the focus was on what was best for the community, the people, the land. One’s history and experiences give each of us a different perspective. It is that blend of views and ideas that can generate healthy change, while preserving these historic values of the community.
The history of La Conquistadora and of Don Diego de Vargas should not be forgotten. But history is messy and complicated, a reflection of human life. Mistakes, errors in judgment, happen. New knowledge of the past is learned. But, if the focus is on reverence of life and support of the community, no matter if community is defined locally or worldwide, then one’s actions should be respected.
Fiesta de Santa Fe, and the role of Los Caballeros in it, is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse history of Santa Fe. All of the history, good and bad. A time to give thanks for life, for harvest, for family, for my fellow citizens, my fellow human beings. Making it exclusive to only certain people does not reflect the values being celebrated.
La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Peace, may not be part of my personal faith or cultural heritage. But her values have captured my heart. I will always honor her and those who reflect the community values I feel she represents. I am glad the Caballeros will continue to honor and reflect those values and have chosen to not become part of the current visceral and vindictive local politics.
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