The Globalist | Political Courage: Merkel Vs. Cameron

The following originally appeared in The Globalist.

In politics, doing the right thing should be done for its own sake, not for tactical reasons.

At the start of the New Year, the world leader who deserves praise in this regard is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the face of rising anti-Islamic protests in her country – a Dresden hate rally on December 22, 2014 reached a record 17,500 people – she chose to condemn the protests directly in her New Year’s speech.

“There is no place here for stirring up hatred and telling lies about people who have come to us from other countries,” she said.

Merkel added that the protest leaders had “prejudice, coldness or even hatred in their hearts” and observed that their clever rhetoric masks an ugly message that “You don’t belong, because of the color of your skin, or your religion.”

A spokesperson for the Chancellor followed up this pronouncement with the following statement:

“In Germany, there is no place for stirring up hatred against believers, for propaganda against religions of any sort, no place for right-wing extremism, and no place for xenophobia. The entire German government is united in its condemnation of any such thing.”

 
Lest readers believe this was an easy course of action requiring little thought, consider that a new poll by Forsa for Stern magazine. It found that 13% of Germans would attend an anti-Muslim rally in their own community — and 29% believed the rallies were justified.

Cameron’s response

Contrast Ms. Merkel’s determination in the face of a rising tide of xenophobic hate with Prime Minister David Cameron’s positioning. All that he has mustered is a weak rejection, even uncomfortable accommodation, of Britain’s mounting xenophobia and anti-immigrant views in the political sphere and general population.

Mr. Cameron has cowered before the growing power of UKIP and his own party’s more distasteful right wing, as the anti-outside-world politicians in Britain have surged to victories in the EU elections and parliamentary by-elections.

Conclusion

Chancellor Merkel deserves praise for standing fast against political extremism, anti-immigrant activists and anti-Muslim sentiments. Other elected global leaders would do well to learn from her example in the New Year’s speech and actually lead on this issue in 2015.

Pictured: Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, May 2012, watching a Chelsea vs. Munich soccer match during the G8 summit. (White House Photo)

Pictured: Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, May 2012, watching a Chelsea vs. Munich soccer match during the G8 summit. (White House Photo)


Additional note for clarity, for non-Globalist readers: Read more

Greece’s Syriza, Germany, and the Gordian Knot

The talk of Europe in the past week has been the snap elections called for Greece at the end of January, which may bring to power a new leftist party called Syriza, which seeks to make domestic reforms and EU reforms that will help average working people and end widespread corruption. Critics have called it “populist” or “radical,” but everything I’ve seen indicates it’s not particularly radical in reality:

Syriza’s manifesto proposes that repayment of debt could come through economic growth, rather than from budget cuts. It wants a European new deal backed up by an investment bank; an all-out war against the tax avoidance endemic in Greek society; an emergency employment programme; a raised minimum wage; and the restoration of collective bargaining.

 
More:

Syriza promises first to achieve a substantial write-off of Greek debt and, second, to lift austerity by aiming for balanced budgets, instead of the surpluses demanded by the troika. It will reconnect families to the electricity network, provide food relief and shelter the homeless. It will take immediate action to reduce unemployment through public programmes. It is committed to lowering the enormous tax burden and to boosting public investment in an effort to accelerate growth.

There is nothing radical, much less revolutionary, in these policies. They represent modest common sense and would open a fresh path for other European countries. After all, Syriza has repeatedly declared its intention to keep the country within the economic and monetary union, and to avoid unilateral actions. There is little doubt that its leaders are committed Europeanists who truly believe that they could help transform the EU from within.

 
Arsenal For Democracy’s guest post by Etienne Borocco, on the 2014 European Union elections, also drew a strong contrast between Syriza on the populist left and the legitimately frightening populist but ultra-right-wing parties rising across Europe, including in Greece:

Additionally, we should also qualify the right’s surge by noting that the radical left made a sharp increase in Southern Europe and in Ireland. The EUL/NGL gained 10 seats. The Greek party Syriza, whose national leader Alexis Tsipras was the EUL/NGL’s candidate for the European Commission, arrived first in Greece. In Spain and in Portugal, the radical left also earned very good results, via new parties such as Spain’s “Podemos,” which ideologically aligns with parties like Syriza, or via older organizations like the Communist Party of Portugal. The far left collectively won as many seats as the Non-Attached members. Notably, in contrast with the right, leftists like Tsipras are not against euro or the EU as a concept; he only denounced the austerity policies advocated by the EU leaders in recent years.

 
They are pro-Europe and pro-reform, just not pro-austerity. They are also not neo-Nazis like Golden Dawn, the ultra-right-wing party in Greece that has also been boosted significantly after four years of economic grind on the poor and lower middle class.

In a recent post on his blog, economist Uwe Bott argues that the rise of Syriza in Greece provides an incredible opportunity for Greece to escape the tangle of its debts — like Alexander the Great slicing through the Gordian Knot instead of trying to untie it — and for eurozone-leader Germany to help the country do so in a responsible manner … if it chooses to:

Like many fables or legends there is a moral to this story: Was Alexander the Great cheating when he cut the knot with his sword or was his an act of genius? Or to put the analogy in this context: Would a Greek default be cheating or the only plausible solution to an intractable problem?

Of course, the troika would scream: Fraud! After all, most of the irresponsible lending to Greece has long been transferred from the private banking sector to public accounts at the IMF, the EU Commission and the ECB.

Now, many Greeks would call a default ingenious. After all, Greek GDP has plummeted by 25% during the austerity program. Unemployment stands at 25% with youth unemployment double that. Pensions have been cut in half. Poverty is skyrocketing. Suicide rates have doubled and infant mortality is up as the public healthcare system has collapsed.

So, from a Greek perspective what is not to like about a default? Some of the alleged consequences, such as kicking Greece out of the Eurozone, turn out to be paper tigers. There are no means by which Eurozone countries can actually expel a member. In other words, a Greek default within the Eurozone is possible.

However, defaulting on one’s debt is not to be taken lightly. The default would exclude Greece from access to capital markets important to its private sector and banks.

 
He also warns in the full post (which I’ve only clipped bits out of) that there is a real risk that an entirely unrestrained default — which Syriza seems to want to avoid anyway, if the EU will help work out a deal — could cause a contagious shock that topples other economies and markets (particularly, he finds Italy a likely candidate). But that’s why Germany needs to lean in and embrace the new movement in Greece, to ensure it has a say in how any default or partial default is managed, so it doesn’t cause panic across Europe: Read more

November 19, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 107

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Topics: Catalonia referendum, Soccer politics (FIFA, German hooligans, FC Chelsea, and more), and Illinois corruption. People: Bill, Nate, Persephone. Produced: November 17th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– What does the unofficial Catalonia referendum really mean for the region and Spain?
– Soccer Politics:

  • What’s next for FIFA after a bogus inquiry report summary?
  • Why are German soccer hooligans rallying against Muslims?
  • From Chelsea to Man City and beyond: Is big foreign money tainting the game?

– US midterms: Will Illinois Governor-elect Bruce Rauner survive a brewing corruption scandal?

Episode 107 (52 min)
AFD 107

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: Just 3 in 10 back Catalonia independence in ridiculous referendum
AFD: Against Independence for Catalonia

Segment 2

NYT: FIFA Inquiry Clears Qatar and Russia in World Cup Bids
France24: German football hooligans join far-right protests
The Globalist: Chelsea and Beyond: How the Rich Will Destroy Soccer

Segment 3

AFD: Who wants to be … a millionaire Illinois ex-governor?

Subscribe

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Volkswagen US still driving toward unionization

volkswagenBack in February, German automaker Volkswagen’s U.S. division attempted to unionize their own workers in Tennessee, the center of union-free US auto manufacturing. That effort was thwarted by illegal interference by anti-union politicians and threats of cancellation of state subsidies and incentives. But it didn’t stop the company’s pro-union management.

As I explained in February, most major German corporations are big fans of cooperating closely with unions (at least far more than their American or British counterparts). This cooperation increases social-corporate harmony and it encourages win-win negotiations instead of everyone trying to bleed everyone else dry. This tradition of having unions and management work together in formalized joint committees, and (in Germany) even usually having the companies partly owned by the workers themselves to give them an official say in management and a stake in the company’s long-term health, has been a key tool for consensus-building and smoothing potential tensions over.

Despite the defeat in February, a collection of over 700 workers in Chattanooga voluntarily formed their own United Auto Workers local later in the year for the purposes of eventually unionizing the company’s labor force, as desired by management. Initially, it seemed like this might be delayed until some time well into 2015 by the setback in February and the local political opposition.

But Volkswagen is so determined to unionize its US employees over the objections of Tennessee Republicans (and to get around so-called “Right to Work” anti-union laws) that they held negotiations with the United Auto Workers in Germany to come to an arrangement to bring a union on board for its workers. Reportedly, they will be partially recognizing unionization of their Tennessee workers some time in the next few days. The UAW says that the interim deal, in place at least until a final vote to unionize (which will still have to come later), does not cover collective bargaining but does allow for a clear process of worker-management meetings, in the aforementioned German postwar tradition.

From the Wall Street Journal summary, the German approach is precisely what the company hoped to implement at minimum:

The new policy could allow the auto maker to accomplish its goal of establishing a German-style “works council” where workers and managers set up the rules and operations for the plant, but might prevent the UAW from gaining full bargaining control at the plant because of the presence of smaller unions.

The company said it is creating three tiers of representation for workers based on the percentage of hourly workers who sign up. The rule is expected to allow a UAW local that claims more than half the plant’s hourly work force has joined it to gain influence at the plant, but it also allows for other unions to set up shop.

Volkswagen said the new policy will govern its interactions with labor organizations who represent a significant percentage of factory employees. Volkswagen will use an external auditor to verify the percentage “to determine what level of engagement has been reached,” it said.
[…]
VW has a works council at most of its plants and would like to have one in the U.S. These worker-management groups set up schedules, benefits, operations and even take part in the business side of the operation. Under U.S. labor law, workers can’t participate in a works council unless they are represented by an independent union, and not a “company union.”

 
The remaining big question is whether the UAW can overcome the opposition of anti-UAW workers and Tennessee officials who are putting together a rival “union” to dilute the future bargaining power of the UAW within the Tennessee operation of Volkswagen.

The world’s oldest refugee

Credit: The Globalist

Credit: The Globalist

Learn the story of Sabria Khalaf and how you can help:

She is a 107-year-old refugee of the Syrian civil war. She is quite likely the world’s oldest refugee. She now lives precariously in Greece. Sabria would like to be reunited with her family in Germany. This seemingly easy feat, however, is being frustrated by EU immigration policies. Please join us in urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to let Sabria into Germany.

VW: When management is the vanguard of the proletariat

volkswagenBeen a busy month for me so I haven’t had a chance to give the story due diligence, but if you didn’t hear: the German automaker Volkswagen’s U.S. division attempted to unionize their own workers in Tennessee.

This is unusual for a number of reasons, as I’ll get to in a moment, but it’s particularly significant coming in Tennessee, a state that has become home to a lot of foreign car manufacturers’ American branches and is a so-called “Right to Work” state. “Right to Work” laws are designed discourage unionization by changing how worker votes occur and allowing management to intimidate or pressure workers into voting against forming a union, i.e. giving workers the “right” to work outside of union (because every American must have the right to be their own David against the corporate Goliath in contract negotiations… I guess?).

So anyway, if VW employees unionize, it will automatically put pressure on Tennessee’s other foreign-based carmakers to raise wages somewhat to remain competitive and retain their workers, even if they remain non-unionized (past studies have demonstrated this effect pretty clearly), and it will probably encourage unionization drives elsewhere.
Read more

Edison Rising: The Return of Direct Current

For all the complaining about what a burden the German government’s energiewende policy (total denuclearization of the country’s power generation) is, we’re already seeing long-term benefits of forcing the power industry’s hand. Without having been pressed into getting creative, German engineers might have indefinitely put off critical research in power grid transmission upgrades, which are needed all over the world. This research & testing is already showing some of the improvement theories work in practice — and expand total grid capacity dramatically. Everyone stands to gain from this R&D.

 

Related News Clipping (Economist.com):

The decision, taken in 2011, to close down Germany’s nuclear power stations risks leaving parts of the country with insufficient electricity. This will have to be brought in from elsewhere. But to do that seems, on the face of things, to require the building of new transmission lines, which will be unpopular with those they pass by. One alternative is to make better use of existing lines.

Read the rest.