Tuesday. 3/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Swearing allegiance

When we hear politicians using what is euphemistically known as unparliamentary language, it is usually an accident: an exclamation broadcast by a microphone they hadn’t noticed, for instance.

For one contestant for the US presidency, however, cursing has become a tactic. Former Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke has been swearing out loud in full knowledge that cameras – and, therefore, voters and his mother – are watching.

His first notable outburst was early in August. Exasperated by inane questions about the relationship between President Trump’s rhetoric and a mass shooting in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, Texas, O’Rourke sighed, “I mean, members of the press – what the fuck?”

This earned considerable traction, especially online, and any such spike will appeal to a candidate who is – as O’Rourke is – polling in low single digits. So it might not have been coincidental that when O’Rourke responded to another massacre in Texas last week with an expletive. He later repeated the sentiment on Twitter and T-shirts bearing the judiciously bowdlerized message “This is f*cked up” became available from O’Rourke’s website.

But tone will matter in 2020: Democrats would be ill advised to descend to the coarseness of their opponent. That said, there is little disputing O’Rourke’s subsequent reflection, “Profanity is not the f-bomb. What is profane is a 17-month-old baby being shot in the face.”

Diplomacy / Japan

Big shot

As Japan’s diplomatic relationship with South Korea continues to unravel, Shinzo Abe is looking to forge better bonds elsewhere. The Japanese PM is angling for a sit-down with Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, beginning tomorrow, where he reportedly hopes to discuss the disputed islands off Japan’s coast that are under Russia’s rule. But as Sir David Warren, the UK’s former ambassador to Japan, told The Briefing, Abe’s diplomatic push onto the world stage has been in the works for some time. “[Abe has] mapped out a much more assertive role for Japan internationally in terms of its ability to join international peacekeeping activities and become more militarily assertive than in the past.”

Migrants / Greece

Crowd control

Greece is struggling to deal with the rising numbers of refugees arriving on its shores amid renewed fighting in Syria and a crackdown on illegal migrants in Turkey. Government officials met over the weekend and, in the coming days, will be rolling out extra patrols of its sea border in the Aegean and shifting some people from its dangerously overcrowded island camps. From yesterday, about 1,500 refugees were being moved to the mainland from Samos and Lesbos; the Lesbos facility was designed to hold 3,000 but had been hosting four times that number. It’s a start but, as national daily Ekathimerini identified in its weekend editorial, Greece cannot deal with this challenge on its own.

Wine / France

Sour grapes

It’s been a tough year for France’s vineyards. A frosty winter killed off young grape clusters and those that survived withered on the vine during summer’s heatwave. The agriculture ministry has estimated a 12 per cent drop in annual wine output and, as harvesting kicks off in Bordeaux this week, wineries will be waiting anxiously to see exactly how far-reaching the problem is. France is the world’s biggest exporter of wine (it accounts for €9.3bn worth of exports each year) but the sector has been faced with a number of recent difficulties, including Donald Trump’s threat last month to impose tariffs on French wine in response to the country’s tax on big digital companies.

Quality of life / South Korea

Park life

Seoul residents might wonder why their hometown does not make our list of liveable cities – one major shortcoming is a lack of green space. Cars and cement continue to dominate the South Korean capital. However, there are some potential green shoots. Chief among them is Yongsan army garrison in downtown Seoul, which has been occupied by the US military since 1945. Washington initially agreed to move out in 2004 and now the South Korean government intends to speed up the protracted relocation process. President Moon Jae-in is reportedly keen to conclude the handover before his term ends in 2022. Plans are in place to turn the plum site into a huge public park, although Moon may have another fight on his hands. Plenty would rather see affordable housing built there instead.

M24 / The Urbanist: Tall Stories

Victoria Park, Hong Kong

Victoria Park, a tranquil green space in Hong Kong, has long been a place for recreation. But since June it has taken on a different role: the park’s large open area was ground zero for anti-government protests.

Monocle Films / Budapest

Budapest: Design for life

Things are looking sharp on the fashion scene in Hungary’s capital, with a new collection of boutiques, budding young designers and ground-breaking brands.

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