The Daily Visionary: Monday, November 5

Photo Credit: Michael Bloomberg

Photo Credit: Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg runs $5 million ads supporting Democrats, considers presidential run


The 76-year-old billionaire former mayor of New York City, who is also considering a 2020 presidential campaign has spent $5 million, through his political action committee Independence USA PAC, on a national advertising effort stating his support for the Democratic party and encouraging voters to vote Democrat on Tuesday’s midterm elections. Bloomberg has given more than $110 million to the Democrats this election cycle.


Bloomberg has positioned himself as a centrist in his strategy to run for Democratic leader and face President Trump in the 2020 election. In the ad, Bloomberg criticizes the “shouting and hysterics” in Washington and the “pointed fingers” and “fearmongering” by Trump on immigration. Last month, the former mayor said in an interview that a Bloomberg presidential campaign would not run within the Democratic Party as it exists but modeled after Trump’s approach to reshape the Republican party from the inside.


Hypocrisy and a domestic tour amid Khashoggi murder crisis


82-year-old Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who acceded the throne in 2015, will embark on his first domestic tour this week as the monarchy faces its worst political crisis in a generation over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Local news claims the king will launch health, education and infrastructure projects without further detail.


Saudi Arabia currently faces international outcry over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist living in Virginia with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood though no apparent links to extremism. His criticisms of the Saudi government were limited to the kinds of reforms the Kingdom will eventually have to make. According to Anthony H. Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, far too many journalists, Western politicians, and analysts failed to publicly note that Turkey's real motive for providing an immense amount of data into the investigation of Khashoggi’s death was to attack Saudi Arabia's position and seek to undermine its influence relative to Turkey, as well as improve its own position in the United States. Moreover, Turkey has managed to play a good part of the Western media, and there has been remarkably little coverage of the fact that Turkey was providing a level of surveillance and intelligence data on Saudi activity that could only come if Turkey was maintaining the kind of intelligence effort one only applies to a hostile power or was hoping to use some form of Khashoggi incident for its own benefit.


Pakistani woman wins death sentence appeal


Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in an argument with her Muslim neighbours. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy but has won her appeal and been acquitted. Her case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the blasphemy laws. Critics say Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws have often been used to get revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.


Last night, as rumours of the pending ruling emerged, Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan asked its members to gather and launch protests, which erupted in all major cities. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, urged the nation not to let a fraction of people incite them to take the law into their own hands over the decision of the Supreme Court to release a Christian woman who had been facing the death penalty for blasphemy.


Prime Minister Khan, whose party Tehreek-e-Insaaf came to power in July, addressed the nation to call for calm in the wake of the decision to free Asia Bibi: “Pakistan is the first state that is founded on the principle of Islam after the Medina state [founded 1,400 years ago in Arabia]. It means that no law in Pakistan can be against the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Now the decision that the justices have given is according to the constitution and the constitution is under the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet. Saying that these justices are worthy to be put to death and then even going further, that the Chief of the Army Staff is not Muslim and generals should revolt against him, is unimaginable.


The provincial governments in Sindh and Punjab have declared states of emergency and banned any gathering of more than four people. The government has also called in the Army Rangers in Punjab to help keep law and order, as Punjab is where the majority of Christians live.


Germany’s CDU questions their political identity ahead of the leadership race


Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's announcement last week that she will step down as Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leader in December, party officials argued over the weekend over whether they should return to a more conservative agenda once she steps down when the leadership race begins. Merkel’s resignation comes after a federal election earlier this year, where the CDU lost a great deal of ground and were forced to form a coalition government with the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD), and more recent regional elections where the CDU and SPD both lost elections to the left-wing Greens and right-wing Alternative for Deutschland (AfD). Her resignation marks the end of two decades through which she shifted Germany’s most powerful party gradually from the right to the centre.


There are currently three known contenders to replace Merkel as party leader: Health Minister Jens Spahn, CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and Friedrich Merz. Spahn has been one of Merkel’s strongest critics since her 2015 decision to welcome in more than a million migrants mainly from the Middle East, saying the CDU had watered down its profile by becoming too centrist in the past years. He is against a coalition with the SPD, stating fundamental differences in worldview, as well as against the AfD, calling them anti-American and idolizers of Russian autocrats. Kramp-Karrenbauer would likely maintain the existing centrist court, and Merz supports a shift towards the low-tax, business-friendly right-wing conservatism that Merkel has pushed into the background. Current internal polling suggests a strong lead for Merz.


U.S. envoy to North Korea cites cooperation in nuclear disarmament


Last week, the United States chief envoy for North Korea said he was “certain” that the cooperation of Washington and Seoul could help to secure full nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula. A specific timeline and a concrete meeting with his North Korean counterpart have yet to be set.


The relationship between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un has recently shown a mutual attempt to shift Jong-un’s public image from one of a war-mongering dictator to someone who is a “young and candid strategist.” American policymakers have long been skeptical that the DPRK can be trusted to keep promises. Kim Jong-un publicly lashed out against sanctions that continue to be enforced against the DPRK by the United States, claiming that the sanctions place the DPRK in a very difficult situation as it attempts to transform itself into a “tourist destination”.