Tag Archives: Liberal Democrats

GERMANY UPS FIGHT AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

HALLE, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet passed new measures Wednesday aimed at helping fight far-right extremism and anti-Semitism following an attack on a synagogue earlier this month.

The proposals include tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and boosting financial support for projects fighting anti-Semitism and far-right extremism.

“The horrible attack on the Jewish community in Halle showed again what the unleashing of hatred online can lead to,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a news conference in Berlin when she introduced the bundle of measures alongside Germany’s interior and family ministers.

“We will fight far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism with all the power of the law,” Lambrecht added.

Germany is still reeling from the attempted attack on a synagogue by a 27-year-old German in the eastern city of Halle on Oct. 9, who later killed two passers-by before being arrested.   The man posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular video game streaming site.   (Kirsten Grieshaber, US News & World Report, 10/30)

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The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions

Theaters, museums, and other venues in Germany are facing pressure from the AfD, raising questions about the extent of artistic freedoms.

ELIZA APPERLY, OCT 28, 2019, The Atlantic

BERLIN – Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel.    A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg.            And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.

Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).   Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism.   Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.

Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target – culture.   At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters:   Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy.   In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.

“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me.   “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.”          (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/germany-far-right-culture-war/598978/)

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FAR RIGHT AFD BEATS MERKEL IN GERMAN ELECTION

Voters in the eastern German state of Thuringia boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on Sunday, according to preliminary results, but the Left party will remain the dominant political force in the state.

With all districts reporting, results showed the Left party winning 31% of votes in the state that was once part of the communist former East Germany.   (DW, 10/28)

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GERMAN INTERVENTION IN LIBYA

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is intervening in Libya, calling for an “end to foreign intervention.”   On the occasion of his trip to Turkey and North Africa he arrived last Sunday for a brief visit in the country, to prepare an international conference on Libya, which the German government intends to convene soon.   With this conference the German government seeks to possibly pacify the country and distinguish itself as a “regulatory force” in North Africa. Maas then traveled on to Egypt, which also is involved in the Libyan war.   While the German minister is declaring that the Egyptians should be able “to breathe the air of liberty,” Cairo is continuing its brutal repression.   Since the military coup in July 2013, more than 1,500 people have disappeared from state custody.   While seeking to pacify Libya, Berlin is increasing its “regulatory” activities in an “arch of crisis” extending from North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia.   However, until now, without success.   (German Foreign Policy, 10/30)

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VISEGRAD COUNTRIES GROWING

“Fifteen years after they joined the EU, the four “Visegrad” states of central Europe (the V4) can be prouder of their economic achievements than of their patchy record on political reform.   The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have increased their levels of GDP per head dramatically, and are converging with their mighty neighbor Germany.   The Czechs are the richest, with a GDP per head that is 73% of Germany’s, followed by Slovakia with 63% and Hungary and Poland with around 57% each – and the gap continues to close, as their growth outpaces that of the behemoth.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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UK BECOMING MORE EUROPEAN

“Before the referendum in 2016 European Union flags were as rare as golden eagles in Britain.   Today they are as common as sparrows.   Parliament Square is permanently festooned with them.   Activist Remainers flaunt flag-themed berets and T-shirts.   On October 19th a million-strong army of People’s Vote supporters marched on Westminster beneath a sea of gold and blue standards . . .

“This is part of a bigger paradox:   the more Britain struggles to leave the EU, the more it embraces European style politics.   Since the dawn of the democratic era Britain has practiced two or two and a bit party politics compared with the continent’s multiparty system.   That is changing, accelerated by Brexit.

The Scottish National Party controls Scotland.   The ruling Conservative Party is 45 MPs short of a majority.   The European Research Group of hard-line Brexiteers acts as a party within the Tory party.   The Liberal Democrats could make big gains in the forthcoming general election, especially if Brexit seems reversible.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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CATHOLIC SYNOD IN ROME RECOGNIZES DIVIDED CHURCH

“The synod represents the biggest step yet towards recognizing something many Catholics in the West, especially church leaders, have been reluctant to acknowledge:   Just as economic and Diplomatic power in the secular world is sleeping away from the North Atlantic region, a similar process is taking place in Catholicism.   In the secular world, the shift is to Asia.   Within the Catholic church it is towards not only Asia, but Africa and Latin America, too.   That is forcing the church to consider how far it is willing to adapt to the practices and beliefs of cultures with their own spiritual traditions.   The synod has added to fears of a new schism within the church.”   (The Economist, 10/26)

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TO THE POINT

  • Warren not a socialist:  “Some Republicans and Wall Street critics claim that Ms. Warren is a socialist. She is not.   She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit.   Instead she favors regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.”   (“A plan for American capitalism,” The Economist, 10/26)
  • Russia in Africa “… over the past decade, and especially after America and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has viewed Africa as an increasingly important arena.   Since 2015 a dozen African leaders have visited Russia.   From 2006 to 2018 Russia’s total trade with sub-Saharan Africa increased by 336%.   It is the largest arms exporter to the continent, accounting for 39% of deliveries in 2013-17 (many from Russia to Algeria”. (The Economist, 10/26)
  • Farage’s gamble  — EU ministers are taking a breather from Brexit as the action moves firmly back to London, where MPs are preparing for a general election. In a possible game-changer for Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is considering whether to pull out of hundreds of seats.   This would be a major boost to the UK prime minister, given the risks that the Brexit party could split the vote among leavers. (FT)   As James Blitz writes, the prime minister is taking a massive gamble by engineering the vote before the UK is out of the EU.   Farage’s Brexit party poses one possible risk.   Another is that Labour will hammer home the message that a victorious Tory party would use Brexit as an opportunity to pursue a hard-right social and economic agenda.    (Financial Times 10/31)
  • Refreshing view on Israel:   Egyptian Coptic patriarch Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said in an October 14, 2019 interview on France 24 Arabic TV that he encourages Copts to visit Jerusalem because getting closer to others increases mutual understanding.   He said that Israel is a country like any other country and expressed support for an agreement that would make Jerusalem an international capital, though he said that this is not possible given the current reality.   Pope Tawadros II expressed concern for Christian holy places in Jerusalem and said that many parties are collectively responsible for the complexity of the current realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   He praised efforts to resolve the conflict.   (MEMRI, 10/30)
  • The worst patients in the world:   “Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups.   We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do.   No wonder the US leads the world in health spending.”   (David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, July 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFTER THE VOTE

election-tele_3296186b

The pollsters, the pundits and the commentators all got it wrong!

The British election was not a close call.

All the experts predicted the need for a coalition government, that neither the Conservatives nor Labour would get enough seats in parliament to form a government without the help of at least one other party.   There were warnings of a “hung parliament” and a “constitutional crisis.”   Even the Queen left town, advised that her services would not be needed for a few days, that nobody would be ready to accept her appointment as prime minister.

But the Conservatives easily won.

Consequently, three rival party leaders all resigned within the same hour, an historic first.

While David Cameron is pleased with the result, Nicola Sturgeon is likely more pleased.   Her Scottish National Party won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.   Independence for Scotland is back on the table.   56 out of 59 does not mean that the majority of Scots want independence.   What it means is that the SNP candidate in each constituency got more votes than anybody else.   This will not, however, deter the SNP from taking the opportunity to bolt as soon as it presents itself.

Labour was the big loser, losing big in Scotland, where it previously held most seats.   Ed Miliband, Labour leader, said his party faced “a surge of nationalism.”

One newspaper described it as “an electoral tsunami” (Independent).   Of note, Mhairi Black defeated a Labour heavyweight and became, at age 20, the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667.

In fact, the single most significant development in the election was Scottish nationalism.

English nationalism was also evident.   Although the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) only won one seat in the new parliament, they received 13% of the popular vote.   That means that more than one in eight voters wants the UK to leave the European Union.   That’s not all – the Conservatives are promising a referendum on the issue.   Many of their supporters also want to exit the Union.

Nick Clegg, outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats, summed up this rising tide of nationalism by saying, “Fear and grievance have won.”

The Stock Market soared at the news that the Conservatives are back in power and, this time, without the need of support from the Liberal Democrats.   The Conservative – Lib Dem Coalition of the last five years took a near bankrupt economy, turned it around and made it the fastest growing major western economy.   The surge in support for David Cameron’s Conservative Party likely came from voters who didn’t want to risk a return to the economic disaster of the post-2008 crash.

UK ELECTION – SECOND TV DEBATE

Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincolnshire
     Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincs – Grimsby fishing port at the height of its glory

I first saw BBC World in Uganda back in 1993.   I remember then expressing the hope that we would soon have it in Michigan.   I did not expect it to take 22 years, but we do finally have it, thanks to AT&T.   However, I’m not sure it’s worth over $100 per month.   This includes a zillion other channels I have no desire to watch.   CNN International is also good and comes with the package.

However, thanks to BBC World I’ve been able to keep up on the British election, which takes place on May 7th.

The first live televised debate was between seven leaders of seven political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.   The debate was very interesting.

It was followed by a second debate last week, this time without the prime minister and his coalition ally.

Again, I found it very interesting but, at the same time, quite disturbing.

Each party leader was making promises.   The four left-of-center party leaders were all promising more and more, competing with each other on how they would improve this or that service, spending more millions (or was it billions?) on this, that or the other.   Only the leader of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) seemed to have any sense of the need to balance the nation’s accounts.

The Coalition has been trying to do that since austerity measures were introduced almost five years ago.   Their policies stabilized the country while some continental nations were in a rapid downward spiral.   Now, the other leaders feel it’s time to ditch austerity and throw a big, no-expense-spared party!

Two members of my family in England sent me a rather long article in the London Review of Books about the election in my hometown of Grimsby, on the east coast of England.   Once the world’s premiere fishing port, the town fell on hard times after the country joined the European Common Market (now the EU).   It’s revived somewhat, but is still way behind when it comes to economic development.   It has been a Labour Party stronghold since 1945. There is a connection!   No matter who wins, the next representative for Grimsby will be the first woman, as both leading candidates are women.

The Conservatives never stood a chance of winning the seat for parliament.   David Cameron’s posh accent did him in!   But a new party may actually take the electoral cup from Labour.   That party is UKIP.

Resentment against the EU is so great that working class voters seem just as inclined to vote UKIP as they are to vote Labour.

It’s not just the EU, which is the problem.   Immigration is another concern – and the perception that, in an area of 10% unemployment, jobs are being lost to immigrants, both legal and illegal.   UKIP is promising to pull Britain out of the EU and to do something about immigration.

Unlike the other left-of-center parties, UKIP does not look upon the English tax-payer as a cash cow, or a bottomless pit, whichever metaphor you prefer.   I think you get the picture.

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, makes Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, seem positively restrained, in her enthusiasm for spending other peoples’ money.   In her case, although she would never use the terms, all the money she is demanding for Scotland and Scottish development would come from the English taxpayer.   None of the others participating in the debate commented on this, perhaps because they all (except for UKIP) were looking to get more from the English taxpayer themselves.

The British (read, the English) are upset because they subsidize much of Europe through the EU.   How long is it going to be before there is a tax-payers revolt against all the subsidies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, none of which pay their own way?

Ms. Sturgeon is also enthusiastic in her desire to see Britain scrap its nuclear weapons in order to partially pay for all this largesse.

Of greater concern is her insistence that, if David Cameron’s Conservative coalition is returned to power, and the promised referendum on EU membership is held, Scotland must have the right to remain in the EU, if England votes to depart.   This would automatically give Scotland independence, even though voters rejected independence in a referendum last September. Independence is what she and her party are committed to.

But how would they pay for it?   Scotland depends for roughly 10% of its expenditure on the English taxpayer.   This will only increase if the SNP joins the Labour Party in a left-wing coalition.

If Scotland remains within the EU and England withdraws, Scotland will need all the help it can get . . . from Germany, Europe’s other cash cow!

PS:  I thought you would all appreciate the following letter which appeared in the conservative Daily Telegraph of London. It’s a very astute observation on the British election campaign:

British election question

UK TV ELECTION DEBATE

British election candidates

In case you haven’t noticed, the United Kingdom is in the middle of a general election campaign.   The election itself takes place on May 7th, which does not leave much time for campaigning.

On Thursday, the seven leaders of the seven major parties held a televised debate on national television.   The debate was two hours long.   I watched it on “BBC World News” where it was shown live. There was only one brief commercial break in the middle.

The parties clearly divide into right and left.   The three parties that are supportive of austerity are the ruling Conservatives led by David Cameron, the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, and UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) whose leader is Nigel Farage.   The Liberals are more in the center, but when it comes to spending, they believe in a balanced budget.

The ruling coalition since the last election in 2010 imposed austerity measures on the country, but has found it difficult not to overspend.

The other four parties represented are all to the left of the political spectrum.   All leaders were in favor of more spending on this or that and seemed to have no concept that all government spending is dependent on the success of the private sector, which they are inclined to want to clobber with more and more punitive taxes.   A favorite in the debate was a “mansion tax” on homes worth over two million British pounds ($3 million).   They do not realize that wealthy people have the option of moving to other EU member countries and can take their money with them.   They would also enjoy a better climate!

The four leftist parties are the Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband. To his left are Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) and Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party.   All four kept demanding more money for their pet projects.   Apart from the suggestion of a tax on mansions, the three ladies also insisted on defense cuts, notably that Britain not modernize Trident, its nuclear weapons system.

No commentator pointed out that the ladies’ demands would cost the English taxpayer more money.   Already, the English bankroll the Scots and the Welsh – and, together with Germany, the EU.   As Mr. Farage pointed out, the subsidy to the EU amounts to ten billion pounds per day ($15 bn).

This is one reason why Nigel Farage wants Britain to pull out of the EU.   He constantly focused on this one issue when answering questions.   The EU does not allow Britain to govern itself.   On immigration, for example, a major issue in the UK, London cannot do anything because of treaty obligations with the rest of Europe, which allow for the free movement of people.   The Germans are insistent that this remains the case, even though it costs the UK tax-payer a great deal of money.   Immigrants from the rest of the EU can claim British welfare benefits upon arrival in the country and can use the free health service.   They can even claim family allowances (a weekly child benefit) for children they left behind.

When Mr. Farage pointed out that last year 7,000 people were diagnosed as HIV positive and that 60% of these are foreigners, he added that each one will cost the taxpayer 25,000 pounds a year ($37,500).   Nicola Sturgeon came right back accusing him of being “heartless,” saying that his comment was “shameful.”   For this she received loud applause.   Yet the liberal “Independent” newspaper reveals in a poll that half the British people support him on this issue.

Ms. Sturgeon seems adept at spending other peoples’ money.   She reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum:  “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.”   If any of these three ladies has a major role in the next coalition government, the country could follow Greece toward financial ruin.

Polls after the debate said that Nicola Sturgeon did best.   If her party wins a lot of parliamentary seats in Scotland, they could enter a coalition with Labour and spend to their heart’s content – or, at least, until they run out of other people’s money!

It’s difficult to imagine a right of center coalition that includes the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.   It may happen.   But if David Cameron needs UKIP to get the 318 seats necessary to form a government, he will have to give Nigel Farage what he wants, which is a referendum on EU membership by the end of the year.

Everything is up for grabs – anything could happen at this point in time.   But the most likely outcome will be a return of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which has ruled the country for the last five years.   Noticeable during the debate is that the two leaders of these parties did not seriously attack each other, allowing for a continued marriage of convenience after the election.

With this election, it can truly be said that Britain is at a crossroads.   Everything achieved over the last few years of austerity could easily be lost, throwing the economy into a downward spiral; relations with Europe are also at stake at a time when the continental nations that comprise the EU are drawing closer together, with Germany very much in the driving seat.