Political Ash Wednesday in Germany

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It’s a typical day in Berlin. Specifically, in the Reichstag Building at Brandenburg Gate. Politicians from both sides of the spectrum- the ruling coalition on one hand and the opposition on the other- convene to discuss (and dispute) laws and regulations designed to keep people safe and regulate businesses to make Germany a better and more attractive place for residents and visitors. There are some critiques and sometimes political insults- especially against the right-winged Alternative for Germany (AfD). But nonetheless, business is professional and the laws are passed or rejected without much fanfare.

That is unless it’s Ash Wednesday and you find yourself in Bavaria.

Every year, each political party to their quarters in Bavaria. There, the boxing gloves go on, the beer is flowing from the barrels, the crowds go wild and each of the prominent politicians have at it on the mikes- free-wheeling insults thrown at other political parties and certain people, complaining about the problems that Germany is facing and trying to rile up a jam-packed audience who in the end jeers, boos and hollars at them, while holding up the beer steins, the beer filled to the brim and spilling over.

Every year since 1946, Germany has held its annual Political Ash Wednesday rallies, where parties gather to Bavaria to unload their frustrations that had been brewing for the past 364 days. Yet the origin of this event goes a lot further back- specifically, the 16th century.  In 1580, farmers convened on this day to the market square Rossmarkt in Vilshofen/Danube to discuss and complain about the current events and other items affecting their business. The politics of Bavaria and later the German empire were added to the mix in the 19th century. Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (NSDAP) used this day to convey his message of a pure Germany, which garnered thousands of supporters and paved the way to his claiming power in 1933. He kept the tradition until World War II broke out.

After the war, the tradition was revived in 1946 and in the same city as in the past. For the first six years, the Bavarian Party (BP) was the only party that kept to its original tradition, yet in 1952, the Christian Socialists (CSU) joined the fray as an attempt to steal away supporters from the BP. The Social Democrats joined the rally in 1965 with their own agenda, but being held at Wolfersretterkeller in Vilshofen. As of today, eleven parties have held this traditional rally in Bavaria but in different cities:

Free Democrats (FDP): Joseph-von-Fraunhofer-Halle in Straubing

Green Party: Landshut

Left-wing party „Die Linke”: Passau

Ökologische Partei (ÖDP): Passau

Republican: Geissenhausen

Pirate Party: Straubing

AfD: Osterhofen

The CSU has held their rally at Dreiländerhalle in Passau since 2004 as it can hold up to 6000 guests. Passau has become the main attraction for the rallies for half the parties have met there to express their colorful views to their delegates and supporters.

However, the Political Ash Wednesday events can also be found on the national level. For the past two decades, one can find such events in Apolda (Thuringia), Marne (Schleswig-Holstein), Volksmarsen (Hesse), Fellbach (Baden-Württemberg), Recke (NRW), Demmin (MV), Biberach an der Riss (BW) and Wallerfangen (Saarland). Biberach is the meeting point for the Greens and Wallerfangen for the Linke. The Christian Democrats (CDU) have held such events in more than one of the aforementioned cities.

If there is a comparison for Political Ash Wednesday, one could do so with the Presidential Campaign in the United States in general. We mustn’t add Donald Trump in the mix for he is the “krassest” of examples for political insults and making fun of people in the most degrading fashion. Subtracting him, the Presidential Campaign does not include the beer but it does include complaining about the situation affecting the country and playing down the other candidates’ promises of making it better for everyone. It does include strong messages that arouses the masses and encourages them to support their candidates. For the political rally in Germany on this special day, it solely has to do with addressing the problems and the “problem children,” which strengthens the German (and to a certain degree, European) stereotype of complaining, daily, profusely and professionally. It makes a complaining choir sound like a discord, especially if one has too much to drink.

If one needs an idea how a Political Ash Wednesday works, have a look at a couple examples for you to listen to. Examine their views, their facial reactions and gestures and the crowds that roar over the events.

Then look at a typical US Presidential Campaign Rally:

And then look at Donald Trump:

If there is one thing that they have in common, it’s in connection with the  GIF-pic at the beginning of the article. It had been originally been planned to beused to talk about Hamburg’s governmental elections and the successful attempts to solidify the existence of the SPD and Greens and the (near) ouster of the FDP and AfD in response to the scandal in Thuringia. Then after watching the speeches on this Ash Wednesday, it came to this commonality that is typical of politics in general: Politicians may be the biggest role model for the public and they debate on laws that are supposed to help people. They are the ones that hold the torch. Yet on a day, like Ash Wednesday, they go unplugged, strip down, and show their teeth, bashing anyone trying to dethrone them.

If Ash Wednesday is the day for using the witty tongue and creative insults, they come but once a year in politics.  This means we don’t need a day for bitching and complaining, unless you are the typical German politician who holds it in until this special day, then lets loose over a stein of beer. Since we have this, Bavaria will forever be in the minds of many who use this day to unwind and unload.

And with that, raise your beer steins and “Prost!”

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The Bavarian Party, which re-established the Political Ash Wednesday Rallies, still exists as a party. Yet unlike its heyday in the 1940s, when it garnered 21% of the votes and rivaled the Christian Socialists (CSU), it has averaged only 2% of the votes since the 1970s. Today only three districts are controlled by the BP. Its main platform is an independent Bavaria as a country and not part of Germany. This has been rejected by the CSU and other parties.

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End of the Line: Angela Merkel

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Twelve years ago, German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, faced with growing pressure from the opposition and within his own perty, especially his party the Social Democrats lost one state after another in the state elections, initiated a vote of confidence to determine whether he has the support to continuing governing the country with the Greens or if he should hold new elections. After three years of power during his second five-year term, he was considered an obstructionist, and many voters were dissatisfied with his governing of Germany. He failed and was forced to hold elections which he eventually lost to the current governing leader, Angela Merkel and her party, the CDU.

Fast forwarding to the present, it appears that Lady Chancellor’s days are about to end, and very quickly. After her party lost over 150,000 votes (or 8.6 percent) in the September elections- many going to the Free Liberals (FDP) and the right-winged Alternative for Germany (AfD), she faced the second strike on November 19th, when talks to form the Jamaica coalition- featuring the FDP and the Greens- failed  after Christian Lindner, head of the FDP, walked out of the talks in Berlin and reinterated this comment:

“It’s better to not govern than to govern wrongly.”

With this, the Federal Republic of Germany is in the worst crisis since 1982, when the vote of no confidence was initiated against Helmut Schmidt, which formed the coalition of CDU and FDP and vaulted Helmut Kohl into the governing seat as chancellor, and thus ruled for an unprecedented 16 years, thus breaking Konrad Adenauer’s record for the longest regime in modern German history.

Given the current situation with Merkel, the family of the late chancellor Kohl can now rest easily. His record will remain untouched.

Merkel is running parallel to British Prime Minister Teresa May. The lady with the iron fist is getting rusty. Merkel is 63 years old and despite her successes during her years as chancellor, she is facing increasing opposition from not only within members of the Bundesparliament and Bundestag, but also among the voters. Like May, Merkel ran the platform in the federal elections as if she was unphased by the attacks made by the candidates, most notably from Martin Schulz from the SPD and Frauke Petry of the AfD. However the results of the elections revealed that Merkel has lost touch on many of the issues affecting Germany, and to a larger extent, Europe and the rest of the world. This includes issues involving refugees, the environment, lack of funding for infrastructure, education and other domestic issues, and most recently lack of unity among Germany’s neighbors, even though her relationship with the US is on the rocks because of actions by the President (Trump), not Merkel herself.

With the Jamaica coalition finally dead, and despite pleas by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to concentrate more on building a government and take responsibility for the voters, the writing is now on the walls of Brandenburg Gate: We must redo the elections again.  This may be a dangerous  choice, as the AfD will surely gain more votes and even have a chance to win the elections. This is why Alexander Gauland and Alice Weigel have celebrated the failure of the Jamaica and even have called for Merkel to step down. However, with the polls showing almost two thirds of the population favoring new elections, this may be inevitable.  Adding insult to injury is the SPD’s constant refusal to create a Grand Coalition with the CDU, claiming they feel like a back-up plan to Merkel should she and her party be caught in a “Schlammasse.”

Both Martin Schulz and Andrea Nahles have stated that new elections are acceptable especially for voters.   The same echo applies from the Left, and even the Greens find the new elections as the best alternative.

While Merkel has the option of ruling with a minority- together with the Greens- the chances of her winning that, let alone ruling with a minority successfully are very slim, bordering on the nil scale, especially as she would have a larger opposition as she would have had had the Jamaica been formed. And with growing dissatisfaction as to how to handle the delicate issues, it makes a person wonder if age is already catching up to her and her rule of power combined with her lack of flexibility on these issues makes her an obstructionist and a hindrance to the success of the CDU and its relationship with the sister party, the CSU. It is a well-known fact that the average age of the politicians in the two parties is between 56 and 58 years, with some even in their late 60s. Yet, as one can see with Saxony’s prime minister Stanislav Tillich’s planned resignation in December and the hand-over to Michael Kretschmer, a 42-year old, there are enough younger politicians ready to take over the reigns of the party and make better, more efficient decisions than the older generations.

So let’s look at the scenario very carefully:

Merkel wins the chancellorship through direct elections presented by President Steinmeier but would rule with a minority government.  Her only chance to get a majority is with a coalition with the SPD (and possibly Greens), which Schulz and Nahles both refuse.

She calls for new elections, which takes place in Spring 2018, but not after having a very intensive and sometimes violent campaign, especially the latter from members of the AfD. The votes come in and how would this fare out?

The AfD has a real chance to win the elections but if and only if with an absolute majority (at least 45% of the votes) for it would fail to govern without a partner otherwise. None of the other parties will join.

The CDU wins but with an absolute majority as well, as it cannot partner with other parties except maybe the Greens.

The SPD may have a real shot of winning and forming a Red-Red-Green coalition with the Left and Greens. This could be Martin Schulz’s lucky day especially with a younger group of politicians from each party.

The results could be the same on the second go-round and then the parties would need to rethink their mandates and policies, conceding many to form a universal coalition (everybody but the AfD).

 

But in order to have any chance of a stable government to rule Germany for the next five years, one thing is certain: It must be done by the younger generations as they are more universalists and aware of the issues than the older ones. These are the ones who were taught to listen- and they have listened to the needs of the people.  There is no need to shake up the establishment in Berlin (and the EU in Brussels). There just needs to be a new leader to take Germany to the next level.

Angela Merkel has done her part. It is now time for her to step aside and let others take over; people who are younger and brighter and have better ways of repelling the xenophobes and greeds of the world.  Only then will not only the CDU and CSU but also the other parties have a chance to become successful in the long term.

So for now Ms. Merkel, it has been a pleasure. Happy Retirement and Thank You for your service for Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. 🙂

Facts about  the minority and reelection process can be found here.  Information on the failure of the Jamaica coalition and the consequences can be found via ARD here

 

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Germany Goes Far Right in Three States

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Right-wing populist party Alternativ für Deutschland enters state parliament in Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate with double-digit results in state elections, Grand Coalition fails in RP and SA, Greens win in BW but needs help, Chancellor Merkel in serious trouble

BERLIN/STUTTGART/MAGDEBURG/MAINZ- The winds of change are being felt across Germany, the day after the state elections in the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. Yesterday’s state elections featured a “Kantersieg” on the part of the Right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), as the Frauke Petry-led party, critical of European policies as well as the open-door policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding refugees, stormed into the state parliamentary scene with 24% in SA, 15% in BW and 12% in RP.

In SA, the AfD is now the second strongest party in parliament, which is forcing minister Reiner Hasseloff to scramble to find a new coalition, for his partner party the SPD finished with 10% of the votes (finishing fourth behind the Left and AfD- its worst results in state party history), which is not enough to continue with the Grand Coalition. Another party looking for a new partner is the SPD in RP, where state minister Malu Dreyer is looking for a new coalition to replace the one with the Green party, as it barely made the 5% hurdle with enormous losses in the elections. Dreyer declared that all parties will be in talks except the AfD.

Winfried Kretschmann and his Green party can continue governing in Stuttgart, but despite maintaining a 31% vote in state elections, the AfD sliced into the voting scene, thus making the absolute governing of Baden-Wurrtemberg impossible. Talks are underway to provide support from the CDU, SPD and even the FDP to form either a traffic coalition or similar constellations. The results of the elections you will find here.

The statues and the National Theater with flowers on memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.
The statues and the National Theater with flowers on memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.

 

 

End of the Line for Angela Merkel?

Already, a coup d’ etat is brewing among the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialists as calls for Chancellor Merkel to change course regarding the refugee policies are growing louder. Leading the pack is Horst Seehofer, the state minister of Bavaria, who blamed Merkel and her policies of allowing refugees to live in Germany, even for a short period of time, for the disaster in the three states. He stated in Bavarian channel BR “We should tell the public that we understand the results and will draw the consequences.”

Also in Visier was SPD director Siegmund Gabriel, who had to answer some difficult questions of how his party finished with the worst results in history. The SPD is partner of the CDU in Germany.

Despite statements by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen claiming that the refugee issue is a European problem and that Merkel’s policies should remain on course, after increased attacks on planned housing throughout Germany, with a focus on parts of east half, combined with protests between supporters of the AfD and opponents and even internal strife within the CDU, it is a matter of time before the temperature hits the boiling point and Berlin suffers from the longest summer in modern history. And while we have no politically-motivated violence, as being practiced by Donald Trump in the US at the moment, making the US elections become the next 1968, if measures are not taken to either justify or modify the refugee policies as well as contain the increase in right-wing extremism, the German public may end up in a similar fix as in the US- and unless Merkel is forced to call for early elections, the next national elections are in two years!

 

frage für das forum

In light of the recent disaster in Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland Palatinate and Baden Wurttemberg, what will happen next and what should Chancellor Merkel do? Vote here and feel free to comment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAST FACTS: In the last survey, where the question of whether the slogan “Wir sind das Volk” should be eliminated by law, two thirds of the voters favored keeping the slogan, while 13% would like to see a law protecting the slogan from abuse while discussing this in the classroom. Only 20% voted for the law. More on the vote and its origin here.

 

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Flensburg Files News Flyer 29 November, 2011

It’s Christmas time and with that come the Christmas Markets, the Glühwein, the Presents, and lots of events that have been going on the last few days, which warrants the Flensburg Files News Flyer- designed to provide the readers with a chance to find out more on what is going on in Germany that is not normally seen in the media mainstream. Themes like this one may be of some interest to you:

 

Yes to Stuttgart 21

After five years of protests, legal action and campaigns which involved virtually everyone on all levels of government, the citizens of Stuttgart made their point clear at the polls on Sunday: they would like to finally go forward with Stuttgart 21 once and for all.  According to the final polls, over 48.2% of the people voted for the project, while 41.8% were against the project. That means the German Railways can proceed with the construction project, consisting of 20km of underground rail line with an underground central railway station located underneath the present-day railway station located above ground. When completed in 2021, the old railroad station, which currently sees 240,000 passengers going through every day, will be converted into residential areas, and thus will help ease the housing crisis the city has been seeing in the last decade. The project started in 2002, but was met with delays due to protests because of increasing costs of the project combined with concerns that the environmental surroundings combined with much of the city’s historic buildings would be destroyed in the process. The project has involved not only the local and state governments but even the federal government in Berlin, whose majority of the politicians favor the underground station. The prime minister of Baden-Wurttemberg Winfried Kretschmann was even against the project but favored a public referendum. While he has accepted the decision, it does not come with no strings attached- the costs for the project must be capped at 4.5 bn Euros ($5.1 bn).

Links: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/stuttgarteinundzwanzig100.html;

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15561178,00.html;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgart_21;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgart_Hauptbahnhof

 

http://www.bahnhof.de/site/bahnhoefe/de/sued/stuttgart__hbf/daten__und__fakten/daten__und__fakten__.html

Guttenberg pardoned for plagiarism; eyes comeback in 2013

In a decision which has raised eyebrows of many who question its legitimacy and morality, the prosecution has decided not to press charges against the former defense minister, Karl Theodore zu Guttenberg. While the University of Bayreuth stripped him of his doctorate title in March of this year because of the 23 passages he did not cite in his dissertation, the prosecution considered these counts a misdemeanor. That combined with his donation of 20,000 Euros (more than $26,000) to a charitable organization led to the decision of not starting the legal proceedings against him. Guttenberg is currently residing in the USA with his family, but is eyeing a political comeback in 2013, the same year as the federal elections in Germany. Whether it will help Angela Merkel in her bid to be reelected as German chancellor remains to be seen. But the public seems divided on his decision to return to politics; especially as many of his fellow colleagues from his own party, the Christian Socialist Union have been pursued for similar charges. More on this story will follow.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl-Theodor_zu_Guttenberg;

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15550956,00.html

 

Dynamo Dresden Mistreated by the German Soccer Federation for Hooligan Incident

Soccer coaches, sports experts and even directors of regional soccer leagues have been heatedly criticizing the DFB, the soccer federation in charge of the top three leagues in German soccer, for harshly punishing the soccer team that is currently playing in the second highest league (Zweitliga). The  federation recently sanctioned the team located in eastern Saxony by banning them from next year’s DFB soccer playoffs for allowing hooligans to be out of control during the playoff game against Borussia Dortmund, the game which the team lost. In addition, the team was also fined in the tens of thousands of Euros.  Many experts consider the punishment too harsh, yet problems involving hooligans and their actions during the soccer game; especially in the eastern part of Germany has resulted in harsher measures in an attempt to crack down and teach the teams a lesson on sportsmanship among players and fans. While fines and barring fans from attending games have been effective, this sanction, harsh or not, may be one of many measures that could be the norm in the future should the problem with hooligans persist, together with subtracting points off the standings board in soccer and possibly forcing the team to be relegated a league down, the latter of which has not happened just yet.

Link: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15506337,00.html

 

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15492412,00.html

http://www.dfb.de/index.php?id=503058&action=showSchema&lang=D&liga=dfbpokm&saison=11&saisonl=2011&spieltag=2&spielid=1011&cHash=cf8f91551a43c946258aad946166df0f

http://www.mdr.de/sport/fussball_bl/dynamo-reaktion100.html

 

Jena proving its reputation of being a cosmopolitan city

Located east of Erfurt and Weimar in eastern Thuringia, Jena is not only known for its optical industry (for it is home to Jenoptik and Carl Zeiss) but to the eyes of many foreigners (Americans included) the city of 120,000 inhabitants (20,000 being students) is known as the black hole- once you visit the city tucked away in the Saale River Valley, you do not want to leave. However according to the German public TV station ZDF in a recent documentary, the city is home to right-wing extremists; especially four terrorists who are in custody for 10 counts of murder of several foreigners and a police officer. In an interview with an author from Munich, who wrote a book on this topic, it was concluded that the university city is part of the fear zone, which has plagued the eastern half of the country, and a spawning point for potential neo-Nazis. This reportage has angered the city so much that a petition is being carried out demanding that ZDF retract its comments about Jena and apologize to the city or it is done for them by the German government, which owns the channel together with ARD. Furthermore, a concert to help the city fight right-wing extremism is taking place this Friday with many celebrities taking part, including Peter Maffay and Udo Lindenberg, where tens of thousands are expected to attend. The Flensburg Files will cover the topic of right-wing extremism in 2012 to determine which part of Germany is worse regarding neo-Nazis: the western or eastern parts of the country. While the eastern part of the country has seen its share of attacks committed by neo-Nazis, reports of the rise of neo-Nazis and attacks and parties have been reported in Bavaria and northern parts of the country in the past 2 years. Furthermore from the author’s experience living in Jena, the city has been more open to foreigners than in other cities its size in the eastern part of Germany and has zero tolerance to right-wing extremism. It even chased the neo-Nazis out of the city many times for trying to host the Festival of the People (Dt.: Fest der Völker), at least three times until the decision was made to host the event elsewhere in 2007.  And contrary to the pictures shown by the media, there are some bright spots to Jena that others do not see, some of which will be presented in photos when the Flensburg Files does a tour of the Christmas markets this year.

Links to the story: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15563635,00.html;

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6659757,00.html;

http://www.mdr.de/brisant/zwickauer-trio204_zc-d3f5b083_zs-199ad683.html;

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/medien/zdf-macht-osten-zur-no-go-area/5888310.html

 

http://www.jenapolis.de/2011/11/wir-erwarten-eine-offentliche-entschuldigung-des-zdf-mindestens-bei-allen-burgern-jenas/

 

Sebastian Vettel wins Formula 1

For the second year in a row, we have a German champion in Formula One car racing. Sebastian Vettel took the crown despite his second place finish in the last race of the season in Brazil. Born in Heppenheim (near Frankfurt/Main), Vettel started his career early in 2007, having won his first championship last year, the first German to do that since Michael Schumacher won his last championship in 2001. This year, Vettel smashed many records, among them, having started at pole position 15 times, one greater than Nigel Mansell in 1992, and winning eleven out of 15 in 16 races this season. He also recorded an unprecidented 122 points, putting the competition in the dust.  Congratulations to Vettel and may you start another long streak of championships like your former counterpart did.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Vettel

 

Neuner considers early retirement

It is very rare to see a sportsman retire in the mid to late 20s to even early 30s unless you are Randy Moss, the wide receiver who played for five American football teams, including the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots. Perhaps Magdalena Neuner can learn from his example of when to say when, as the biathlete from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (located in the Alps south of Munich) is considering retirement after the 2011-12 season. The reason for this decision is her will to pursue other interests. While the decision is not yet final, the 24-year old, like Randy Moss, has won several championships on the national and international levels, including 24 World-Cup gold medals, finishing in the top three 45 times and won two Gold medals in last year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Yet health issues combined with interest in doing other things in life has gotten her to consider her future beyond this season. Should Neuner decide to call it quits after this season, then it would definitely be on a high note as one of the most successful biathletes in the history of winter sports. Best of luck to you no matter what your decision will be.

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalena_Neuner#Olympic_Games

http://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/sport/Magdalena-Neuner-startet-in-den-Weltcup-und-denkt-ans-Aufhoeren-id17729071.html

 

 

Note from the Author: The Christmas Markets have started already throughout all of Germany, and this means a tour of some of the finest towns with the best markets with the goal of attracting many tourist-wannabes to the region the next time they consider a flight to Germany. The Flensburg Files has a couple in mind that are worth visiting and will post Jason’s Pics during the month of September. Where exactly? It’s being kept a secret for now, but you’ll see once they are out in the public open. Stay tuned….

Truth or Dare? the Guttenberg Story

Here’s a question worth pondering: Which of the professions in the world allows a person to lie the most and get away with it- that is as long as he is not caught doing it fearing that if so, he would face naming and shaming from the outside, ruining his career permanently? Before you read further, guess at the top three professions, have a nice look at the photo below, and then read my comments after that…..

OK, there is an explanation to me choosing this photo which I will get to in just a bit.

But let’s have a look at our answers, shall we? It is very obvious that weathermen and salesmen would be the most likely targets for being the biggest liars around. After all, weathermen predict the forecasts falsely about 75% of the time- hence the usage of modern day technology, which even then is not 100% accurate. I don’t want to get into the subject of salespeople, as there are many Willie Lowmans out in the world that deserve a door being slammed in the face for presenting products they claim are 100% flawless, when they are anything but that. I personally even slammed the door in the face of a vacuum salesman one time- after one second of looking at him and his product and telling him “NOT INTERESTED!”- but not before he yelled in desparation “….BUT YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN ME A CHANCE TO INTRODUCE MYSELF!!!”

The third profession, which I put it way at the top of my most despised profession list are the politicians. Why? Because everytime we elect someone for the post for the benefit of positive change, that person turns out to be one of those people- liars who screw us out of money and honesty, who do not have integrity and their own code of ethics, and who just talk the talk instead of walking the walk.  Honesty is a commodity that is underrated these days, yet we need it in order to have order in society. But who are the most honest people in today’s society? Definitely not the politicians!

In the United States, it is common to have scandals that can potentially destroy a career of a politician and even his own domestic life. Look at Watergate and Richard Nixon’s downfall. Look at Bill and Monica and how President Clinton was impeached- then pardoned. Look at George W. Bush and John Kerry and their behavior during the Vietnam War- one averts the draft, the other was mocked for improper conduct where he didn’t deserve the medals of honor. Then we have the infamous sex ring scandal at the Minneapolis International Airport and Senator Larry Craig’s famous statement “I am not gay and never have been!” Only to retract it a week later. And finally the Argentinian mistress scandal costed Mark Sanford his political career, let alone his own marriage.  But what about allegations involving plagarizing a doctorate thesis?

It is a foregone conclusion that plagarism is indeed a crime punishable by being stripped of his title to even prison time. This is something that Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is facing at the moment as he is the target of a plagarism scandal in Germany! That’s right, Germany, the place where high quality, hard work, and honesty are the norm and frequently asked by those who look up to the country as a role model. That is unless you are a politician and from Bavaria on top of it!  Guttenberg, who has been defense minister for Germany since the “Dream Coalition” (consisting of the Christian Democrats, Bavarian Christian Socialists as well as the Free Democrats) took power in 2009, has taken his political career, which started in Bavaria and had blossomed to date, to the tip of the iceberg. This is thanks in part to questions from the opposition involving the involvement of German troops in Afghanistan (where 23 of the 48 soldiers, who were killed since 2002, have occurred since 2009), as well as  the scandal involving a mutiny on a ship in November and other forms of misconduct involving the German army on its home turf. His downfall may occur should the state prosecutors determine that the allegations involving him plagarizing his thesis, which he wrote at the University of Bayreuth, located in Upper Franconia in northern Bavaria, an hour away by train north of Nuremberg.  The university is currently reviewing his thesis and will decide what course of action to take in the coming days.

While Guttenberg has decided to temporarily relinquish his doctorate title until the investigation is finished, he and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has his backing all the way, may find that they and even the Dream Coalition will have more to lose than meets the eye. While the majority of the German population, including even the students of the University of Bayreuth, support him, it might change should it reveal that he indeed violated the codes of conduct involving writing a thesis, including using the sources properly.. In the eyes of the opposition (consisting of the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left), that would be unethical and no person without a set of morals, let alone a doctorate title should be running the post as defense minister. Guttenberg is running a parallel course to his elder Bavarian counterpart, Edmund Stoiber, who was prime minister of Bavaria and head of the Bavarian Christian Socialists until 2007, when he was forced to relinquish both his posts. Reason: Many scandals involving his opposition to Angela Merkel’s candidacy as chancellor of Germany in 2002 and 2005 respectively (because she was from the eastern part of Germany- Saxony,  to be exact), the policies of former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder between 1998 and 2005 when he lost the elections, his comments claiming that Germany should be like Bavaria, and lastly sexual harassment involving a former party member Gabriele Pauli. The last point, the harassment scandal involving Pauli, who was a representative of Furth (located near Nuremberg) at that time, resulted in the ultimatum for Stoiber: either step down or face a putsch. Fortunately, he took the first approach and left both his posts in September 2007. He is no longer active in politics.

Should the allegations involving his plagarism be substantiated, Guttenberg will set off a domino effect that would be potentially damaging to Bavaria as a whole and fatal to his political career, let alone to his Dream Coalition, and to a certain extent, Chancellor Merkel, who has been riding high on support since coming to power in 2005. Damaging to Bavaria because many states look to Bavaria as a role model because of its strictness in its institutions and policies. Some of the policies that have been introduced in other states use a similar approach that is used in Bavaria, despite the opposition. However, Bavaria has already been plagued by scandals in recent years, which has led to many to question its credibility regarding ethics, as it seems to run a double-life: say one thing but do the opposite. And this definitely includes the sex scandals involving the Catholic Church. It will be damaging to the Dream Coalition and to Chancellor Merkel as the support for the Opposition will skyrocket to a point where a change in power could occur in 2013, and many of the politicians’ careers may be over should the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats lose the majority of the parliamentary seats of the Bundestag. Part of the blame for the downfall will lie solely on Guttenberg, whose career may be in shambles. Already, many media sources and politicians have written him off as a candidate for chancellorship, should Merkel decide to call it quits. It will be most likely that he will step down as defense minister if it is revealed that he misused the sources and lied about his credibility of his thesis altogether.

The coming days will reveal whether Guttenberg will have a chance to ride out this storm of controversy or sink like the Titanic. In either case, he is walking in the shadows of danger where looking just straight ahead is no longer an option, as one can see in the photo posted here. One has to look in all directions to ensure that there is no danger lurking about. Only then will the person will reach the light and will see his own shadow from above instead of being in the shadow of uncertainty, which can be proven fatal if one makes a wrong move.

THE FLENSBURG FILES WILL KEEP YOU POSTED ON THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS ON THE GUTTENBERG PLAGARISM SCANDAL. STAY TUNED!

Useful links:

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14850899,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl-Theodor_zu_Guttenberg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Stoiber