Belonging
Identity, Society, Beliefs, Countries

14 January 2021

After Merkel
Who’ll run Germany after 16 years of Angela Merkel? The question dominates politics in the engine room of the EU. The country will get closer to an answer on Saturday, when her party, the Christian Democrats, votes on a new leader. The CDU, together with its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, is Germany’s dominant political bloc and its leader is the single most likely person to take over as chancellor after federal elections in September. That puts the arch-conservative Friedrich Merz, a habitual critic of Merkel, firmly in the frame. But there are other contenders, and a potential kingmaker in Markus Söder, leader of the CSU. This analysis suggests he’ll play a key role behind the scenes as a party unifier who’s drifted from the right towards the centre where Merkel has always been most comfortable, unless he decides to go for the top job himself. In which case he’ll have to change his mantra from “my place is in Bavaria” to something a shade more inclusive.

13 January 2021

New POTUS, new houses
In 2009 Vice President Joe Biden undertook the new Obama administration’s first trip to Israel on behalf of his boss. While he was there Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, announced the construction of 1,600 new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem. Benjamin Netanyahu, who then as now was prime minister, claimed to be surprised and embarrassed. Either way, it wrecked the trip. Eleven years on something similar is happening. On Monday Israel announced plans to build 800 new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank. The Trump administration has all but dropped the idea of a two-state solution but Biden’s transition team has made clear it wants to revive it. This won’t help with that – although it might help Netanyahu in elections scheduled for March.

12 January 2021

Medals of honor
Bill Belichick is famous for two things: first, being a very successful American football coach and, second, being a moral vacuum who is willing to cheat. It is striking, therefore, that he has decided to decline the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on account of the Capitol riot last week. The scale of the revulsion at what happened last week is remarkable: Hallmark Cards has asked Hawley, the Missouri senator, to return its donations (do they have a card for that?). This is important.

11 January 2021

Maskless tribalism
I don’t know John Martin or his wife, but his Twitter thread about her struggle at work with people who refuse to wear face masks seems to me to have a ring of authenticity. She runs a supermarket. It has about 16,000 customers a week, 1,600 of whom refuse to wear masks despite polite reminders and offers of free masks from staff as they do their shopping. But they don’t just do their shopping. “Some anti-maskers come to the store several times a day just to make trouble,” Martin writes. They call his wife a Nazi and a bitch, “all day long, every day”. He says the government promised Covid marshals to help police and in-store security crack down on this sort of thing. If it did, they never showed.

8 January 2021

Uighur birth rate
Propaganda warning: the state-run China Daily newspaper is promoting a piece of state-backed Chinese research claiming Beijing’s “anti-extremism” policies in Xinjiang have emancipated Uighur women, lowering their birth rate so that they are no longer “baby-making machines”. Adrian Zenz, the world’s most respected researcher on the mass incarceration of the Uighurs, produced a report last year that noted a significant fall in the natural population growth rate among Uighurs in southern Xinjiang the year before, and suggested that this was a result of forced sterilisation. Truth will out, and more often from Zenz than the politburo.