#violence

Merkel presides over worst outcome since 1949

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Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU looks to have sealed the largest support but it is her party’s worst showing since 1949. While much of the press is hailing her 4th term one can’t dismiss the rise of the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) which looks to cement in the third spot with around 14% (c. 6 million votes). In the 2013 election AfD only managed 4.7% (c. 2mn votes) which was below the 5% threshold required to take seats in the Bundestag. Zero seats then, Now looking at 95+.

As CM wrote on Nov 21, 2016,

Think of the coming German elections in 2017 as more like Australia’s recent federal election where Liberal Party PM Malcolm Turnbull scraped home with the protest vote going to smaller parties such as Pauline Hanson’s ultra conservative One Nation Party…Merkel’s power will be greatly cut back as she is forced to pander to the reduced majority and harder line elements the results of recent state elections have borne out clearly.”

While we are already hearing the major parties refusing to form a coalition with it (much like those Dutch parties refusing to team up with Wilders’ Party for Freedom) the message is clear. More voters are sick of the political hand wringing that glosses over issues that concern them. It was the same for Le Pen. Yes, she lost to Macron but she doubled the share of the vote of her Front National party to a record – more than twice as many cared for her platform. Trump’s win. Brexit. The Italian 5 Star Movement. The Italian referendum. The Hungarian referendum. The Dutch election. All showing large shifts toward ‘national’ interests. Why?

It doesn’t matter how far-fetched some might feel the views of people who are voting for ‘nationalist’ platforms may be, the reality is that the counter arguments and actions taken by the current crop of the apologist political class isn’t cutting through. The only way many can express their frustration is at the ballot box. Hence we get Merkel’s worst showing. Yet when political parties say they ‘refuse’ to partner with it, how can they realistically alienate a party that represents 14% of the country? The mainstream media pillorying the supporters of right wing parties are part of the problem. They are made to feel ashamed for holding legitimate  concerns so all that happens is they get pushed underground and resurface at election time. This is why opinion polls have become largely meaningless.

In Merkel’s case what did she expect when she tried to gag the media and police in Cologne on New Year’s Day to cover her gross misguided altruism? To then support the Mayor of Cologne’s suggestion that German women dress more appropriately so they won’t be pestered spoke to many as such a limp wristed response to common decency. Germans are fair minded people but they cannot be expected to sacrifice hard earned freedoms for some who treat their generosity with utter contempt. Hearts and minds can’t be one by political correctness which seeks to segregate swimming pools and encourage citizens to keep an arms distance from certain groups to avoid unsolicited contact. No wonder the hard talking AfD has taken advantage of this weakness.

Before the trolls scream “racist, Nazi or bigot” we must ask ourselves why these large shifts? Put simply, more people are wanting action over problems they are not being addressed by the political class.

In Germany, political violence has been at record highs. The domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz (BfV), reported  in Germany’s 2016 Report on the Protection of the Constitution, the number of left-wing extremists climbed last year, rising to 28,500 — the highest figure since 2012. It said the number of right-wing extremists was 22,471, about one-quarter of whom were neo-Nazis.

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Surely such demonstrations pointed squarely at politicians failing to be open and frank about issues. Talking about truck drivers ramming Christmas markets or shooting up Munich shopping malls as isolated events doesn’t fool anyone. Perhaps the most disgraceful cover up was the camera footage of three Bulgarian migrant thugs who kicked an innocent German female down some subway stairs where she broke limbs. The man who released the video as evidence of the lack of action taken by authorities was arrested for breaching privacy laws. It is like charging a home owner for knocking out a thief trying to break and enter.

Chalk this up as another loss for the political establishment.

 

 

Throw these dill pickles out of Hamburg

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What is it with protestors these days? Hate the outcome of the US presidential election all you wish but ask yourself does trashing innocent businesses in Hamburg which have zero relationship to Trump achieve anything other than show your utter contempt for democracy? Tiger Copenhagen is a peace loving Danish purveyor of colourful homewares. Anyone would struggle to find a Tiger connection with US foreign or domestic policy. I’ve actually met the management (owners) when they set up in Japan and you’d struggle to find nicer people. Still such behaviour shouldn’t surprise. After all, post Trump’s victory on Nov 8, similar buffoons were trashing Starbucks, perhaps the most virtue signaling corporate and supporter of their causes on the planet.

One of the worst things about these protestors is that none of them are prepared to own it. Masked in the hope they don’t get caught carrying out willful destruction of private property and violence on others. Hopefully many that are arrested have the book thrown at them. Sadly in Merkel’s Germany I would wager it will be buried like most other activity of the sort. The stats are telling of the rise in left and right wing violence.

In Berlin, radical left anarchists are burning cars and smashing bank buildings in retaliation for what they claim is police brutality. Far-left activists in Berlin warned that they would exact €1m in revenge for any police raids on their squats and other ‘projects’ in the capital Dozens of cars were burned.

The police have reported a significant increase in far-left violence nationwide in 2015, with politically motivated left-wing crimes jumping 18 percent to 9,600. The refugee influx is a root cause with far-right groups have reacting violently and far-left groups attacking them in response. In January this year 211 far-right extremists were arrested for hosting an anti-refugee rally in Leipzig complaining Chancellor Merkel is ruining their homeland after the cover up after the new year sexual assaults in Cologne.

The Interior Ministry revealed that 39,000 (+19%YoY) politically motivated crimes were committed in 2015, with 23,000 having a far right motive. Crimes against refugees have soared from 199 in 2014 to over 1,000 in 2015.

Expect the 2017 figures to be even worse.

Educating the Educated on Education in America

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I read a load of barbs hurled at new Secretary for Education, Betsy DeVos. Much of it was labeled at her wealthy background and the fact that neither she nor her kids had spent time in the public education system to have a clue about the ‘real world’. Some of it related to her like of charter schools. The funny thing is you don’t need to dig far to work out the problems are decades old. While it is easy to point fingers at DeVos, we only need look at a survey taken by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the US back in January of 1993 to see successive administrations have dropped the ball. Poverty, alcoholism, student apathy and absenteeism were cited as big problems in secondary public schools. Lack of a parent was also high on the agenda.

Broken homes and poverty seem to be a big issue. The report said, “Besides lack of parent involvement, the school problems viewed as serious by at least 10 percent of public school teachers included student apathy, poverty, student absenteeism, student disrespect for teachers, parental alcoholism and/or drug abuse, and student tardiness. Behaviors and attitudes of students were more likely to be seen as problematic by teachers at the secondary level than by teachers at the elementary level. Parent alcoholism, on the other hand, was described as “serious” as often by elementary teachers as by secondary teachers and poverty was described as “serious” more often by elementary teachers. “

img_0262Scrolling forward to 2014, approximately 20 percent of school-age children were in families living in poverty. The percentage of school-age children living in poverty ranged across the United States from 12 percent in Maryland to 29 percent in Mississippi. The map below shows the aggressive skew between the north and south with regards to relative poverty according to NCES

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When looking at ethnicity, the skew was also telling. The chart below highlights the change in poverty levels among various races/ethnicities between 2009 and 2014. GFC made a dent in almost every category. In 2014, approximately 15.3 million, or 21 percent, of all children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty; this population includes the 10.7 million school-age 5- to 17-year-olds  and 4.6 million children under age 5 living in poverty.

Going another level we see that broken households seem to be relatively correlated. NCES highlights the extent of single parent households. You’ll notice that the totals exceed 100% in certain categories but this is down to double counting.

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Switching gears to free lunches at school for poverty stricken students. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) under the National School Lunch Program provides a proxy measure for the concentration of low-income students within a school. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those from families with incomes that are between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. In this indicator, public schools (including both traditional and charter) are divided into categories by FRPL eligibility. High-poverty schools are defined as public schools where more than 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL, and mid-high poverty schools are those schools where 50.1 to 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL. Low-poverty schools are defined as public schools where 25.0 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL, and mid-low poverty schools are those schools where 25.1 to 50.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL. In school year 2012–13, some 21 percent of public school students attended low-poverty schools, and 24 percent of public school students attended high-poverty schools.

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The US Dept of Education has celebrated higher graduation rates as an achievement but according to the American Psychological Association, “poor (bottom 20 percent of all family incomes) students were five times more likely to drop out of high school than high-income (top 20 percent of all family incomes) students…Family poverty is associated with a number of adverse conditions — high mobility and homelessness; hunger and food insecurity; parents who are in jail or absent; domestic violence; drug abuse and other problems — known as “toxic stressors” because they are severe, sustained and not buffered by supportive relationships…Community poverty also matters. Some neighborhoods, particularly those with high concentrations of African-Americans, are communities of concentrated disadvantage with extremely high levels of joblessness, family instability, poor health, substance abuse, poverty, welfare dependency and crime”

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, collects test results from 65 countries for its rankings, which come out every three years. The latest results, from 2012, showed:

“In mathematics, 29 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin, up from 23 three years ago,” reports Education Week. “In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009.”

In reading, 19 other locales scored higher than U.S. students — a jump from nine in 2009, when the last assessment was performed.”

So before people rip into DeVos they might do well to analyze the long term economic related problems that feed into education. Poverty has never been as high in America with almost 50 million people on food stamps. In 2000 that number was around 17mn. It is not a question of calling one race dumber than another. Deteriorating economics, the breakdown of families and stable support networks are preventing better outcomes.

The charter school criticisms of DeVos are also out of place. Indeed former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who served under Obama faced the following criticism which I don’t see raised by DeVos haters,

“The agency’s inspector general issued a scathing report in 2012 that found deficiencies in how the department handled federal grants to charter schools between 2008 and 2011″ – in other words, during Duncan’s watch.

A recent report from the Center for Popular Democracy and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) uncovered over $200 million in “alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement” committed by charter schools around the country.because  much of the fraud “will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.”

With such a dreadful trajectory in scholastic achievement in part due to decades of poorly planned education policy not to mention growing poverty and economic hardship is it any wonder. Before questioning DeVos and her intentions, perhaps when looking at these so called deeply educated byproducts of the public sector that know better than her, they might look at what hasn’t been achieved in so long. It most certainly won’t be to chuck more money at the problem. One has to wonder that the plight of schools in impoverished areas is to secure high quality teachers willing to forgo their safety and try to reverse long standing trends that were highlighted by the NCES surveys in 1993.

Throwing stones at DeVos because of her wealth is hardly the way forward. Economic revival will be a vital tenet of that recovery but at the same time, the highly indebted world pushing on a string with multiple asset bubbles hardly sets the scene for a quick fix. Is it any wonder Trump was voted in – decades of negligence by former administrations who will now reap the risks of ill-thought out policy which protected the establishment at the expense of the plebs.