Morning Briefing

Martin Schulz Ties Kim Jong Un

Social Democrats are now calling him “Mr. 100 Percent.” Martin Schulz, the party’s candidate for chancellor this September, received 605 of 605 votes from delegates at a nominating convention over the weekend. There’d never been 100-percent approval of any candidate in the 153 years of Germany’s SPD – until Magic Martin. Even in the politically one-dimensional East Germany, the Communist party propaganda never got more than 99.8 percent or 99.9 percent of the vote. The SPD is now hitching its wagons to a political unknown who has no answers to the most pressing challenges of our day – the digitalization of work and the globalization of data and capital. But we can remember the words of philosopher Immanuel Kant: “I can, because I want, what I must do.”

In comparison, the strangely distant Angela Merkel is coming off these days like Alice in Wonderland. All that remained after her trip last week to Washington was her noticeable lack of communication with Donald Trump, which actually spoke volumes. The neo-mercantilism that has taken hold in the United States made itself felt over the weekend in Baden-Baden, where Mr. Trump’s emissary, Steven Mnuchin, successfully kept language out of a G20 working document endorsing the benefits of global free trade. Seldom has silence been so deafening.

Mr. Trump’s wild accusation that Barack Obama had his presidential campaign bugged on behalf of Hillary Clinton is likely to fall flat like a soufflé in an oven today. Even some Republicans like Devin Nunes can’t find evidence for the serious charge. The U.S. Justice Department has also come up empty in finding anything there. It’s unlikely FBI head James Comey and NSA director Mike Rogers will have much to add in the way of facts when they testify today before the House Intelligence Committee. For state workers like them below the president’s pay grade, “post-factual” persuasion is not an option.

You can’t choose members of your family, VW major shareholder Wolfgang Porsche recently pondered in public. That may also be true for choosing successors too. The shareholders who control Volkwagen are still in shock after learning last week that long-time VW architect Ferdinand Piëch may sell out and leave his legacy behind. Piëch’s 14.7 percent stake in the Salzburg, Austria-based Porsche SE holding company, which controls the majority in VW, is likely to be sold at a slight discount to its €1.2 billion value to the cousins in the Porsche and Piëch clans, Handelsblatt has learned. But such a transaction is easier to arrange than getting Germany’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys to work together to steer Europe’s biggest automaker out of its biggest existential crisis.

He used to be a low-key star of German finance – until it became clear that with Hypo Real Estate, he was actually one of the nation’s high-stakes gamblers. To save Hypo Real Estate – one of Germany’s biggest victims of the global financial crisis – the government pumped in billions. But by then, fallen star Georg Funke had relocated to Mallorca. Today, eight years after the government bailed out his mess, Funke must finally appear in Munich District Court. All that remains from the prosecutor’s initial complaint are two points: Funke ostensibly falsely informed investors of Hypo’s imminent demise. At least it’s the thought that counts.

In our ongoing zero interest-rate era, insurers such as Allianz are putting their money into relatively low-risk projects like natural gas pipelines, wind parks and autobahn restaurant concessions. But even infrastructure investments need favorable financial conditions, writes Allianz CEO Oliver Bäte in an op-ed. He recommends G20 nations develop investment platforms to encourage such sensible projects. In a world of saber-rattling, Bäte’s words are a welcome appeal to reason.

In a world that can’t agree on much, a sad event this weekend united us: The death at 90 of Chuck Berry, one of the undisputed fathers of rock and roll music. If you doubt his greatness, consider his copycats: None other than The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. Bob Dylan called him “the Shakespeare of Rock ‘n Roll.” Bill Clinton chose him to play at his second inauguration. Berry’s work is immortal – literally. His song, “Johnny B. Goode,” is taped to the Voyager 1 spacecraft that is hurtling through space 12.8 billion miles from earth as you read this. Proof of intelligent life indeed.


Image of the Day

Steinmeier takes over as president dpa
Frank-Walter Steinmeier assumed office as German president yesterday. After a symbolic transfer of power, he and his wife Elke Büdenbender stayed for press photos at their new Berlin residence, Bellevue Palace, while his predecessor, Joachim Gauck, left the stage with his partner Daniela Schadt. Source: DPA
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