Was Merkel really the German election’s ‘biggest loser’?
After the results of the German election were out and it became clear that the Social Democrats had all but imploded, SPD’s leader Martin Schulz told Merkel on live television that she was the election’s “biggest loser.” He wasn’t entirely wrong. The first unabashedly racist, anti-foreigner party sitting in the German parliament since the days of Hitler with more than 13 percent of the vote is not entirely why.
“Yes, she won, but support for her party fell by more than 20 percent compared to 2013, despite low unemployment, a strong economy and a host of other positives that by all rights should have guaranteed the Christian Democrats an easy win,”writes Matthew Karnitschnig in Politico.
The coming years would be anything but pretty for Merkel or indeed for Germany’s consensus-driven political model. “The inclusion of the far right in parliament will make German politics louder and nastier. AfD leader Jörg Meuthen made it clear Sunday that confrontation and ‘provocation’ were central to the party’s strategy. If other European countries where populists have a strong foothold are any indication, that no-holds-barred spirit will infect the political mainstream, creating a decidedly more raucous political climate.”
Et tu, Trump?
After routinely excoriating Hillary Clinton for using her personal email account to carry out government business as secretary of state during the election campaign, Trump seems to have lost interest in ensuring email-discipline in the White House. What else would explain the Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s correspondence with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account – especially when his correspondence is only part of a larger pattern of aides in the Trump administration using personal email accounts for government business?
The private email accounts were, in fact, only set up during the transition last December. “People familiar with the account say it was primarily set up for Kushner’s personal communications, but he has used it to communicate with acquaintances outside the White House about matters relating to Trump and the administration, according to people who have received messages, as well as with his White House colleagues,” this report in Politico says.
Given that Kushner has already been under scrutiny for Russian involvement in the US election, his private email traffic “may be of interest to FBI and congressional investigators”.
No lessons in history, please
Only if Donald Trump wasn’t so preoccupied in excising inconvenient bits of the past, history would prove to be a handy tool for him as he struggles to deal with North Korea and Iran.
“Sound national policy starts from knowing your adversaries as well as your friends – their histories, motivations, interests and objectives, writes Philip Bowring in South China Morning Post. “History explains very readily why almost all Iranians, including the secularist foes of the clerical regime, applaud its nuclear programme, following a century of Western and Russian intervention in its affairs, and the Western-backed Iraqi invasion by America’s former friend Saddam Hussein and possession of nukes by nearby Israel and Pakistan,”
“North Korea remembers its cities being flattened by US air power and, for decades, has been only too well aware of its weakness compared with a prosperous South protected by a US military…here are more than a few people, including in South Korea, who may loathe the Kim family regime but admire Pyongyang’s refusal to give in to US and now Chinese pressure to abandon a missile and nuclear programme that has been remarkably successful.”
Yet, the growing lack of regard for history worldwide and self-obsession as a dominating theme of foreign policy makes these irrelevant to the “spoiled old brat in the White House”.
Switching off TV and internet early at night and sending “children” off to bed could solve the problem of radicalisation and terrorism taking roots in Pakistani universities, or so the chairman of the Higher Education Commission believes. His statement, which comes in the wake of the exposure of a terrorist hive inside Karachi University (KU), is not aberrational. Indeed, the HEC proposes extracurricular activities – cricket and football – as an antidote to terrorism.
What needs to be done though is pretty clear, writes Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn. “First, dismiss the activist preacher-professor. He wields authority over captive audiences and broadcasts his message inside classes and outside. Students from various universities complain that some begin class with long prayer recitations, turn briefly to whatever technical subject they are paid to teach, and then return to proselytising.”
“Second, the boundary between religious devotion and religious radicalism is blurry and badly needs demarcation. While there is deep reluctance to debate religious issues, ignoring them doesn’t make them vanish. Surely fighting with arguments is better than with guns.”
White and powerful in Britain
Britain may have had anti-discrimination laws for decades. But no more than 3 percent of the country’s most powerful and influential people are from black and minority ethnic groups, a new study has found. What’s worse, though not surprising, is that 0.7 percent of these are women from minority groups.
“The new study shone a light on the glass ceilings, subtle discrimination and “affinity bias” that minorities face as a matter of course in their careers. The toll is severe, on individuals, communities, and society as a whole,” this piece in The Guardian says.
“The numbers betray a grotesque disconnect with the composition of the UK population, almost 13% of which has a minority background. In some sectors – the police, military, supreme court and security services as well as top consultancies and law firms – there were no non-white supremos at all.”