Monday. 25/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Trying times

It’s a strange notion: a “trial” held in a political courtroom. If Donald Trump is impeached by the US House of Representatives – which seems increasingly likely given that it is controlled by Democrats – the trial that determines his fate will be held in the Republican-controlled Senate. As if to emphasise the sham nature of it all, a group of Republican senators (the would-be jurors) huddled openly with the White House – the defendant – last week to discuss their strategy.

Such an event is currently the only option the US has for trying presidents. While no one is above the law in theory, the reality is that the US Justice Department states that a president cannot be tried in a criminal court while in office. Hence Robert Mueller's decision not to issue a recommendation – one way or the other – on whether Trump obstructed justice during an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Charges must come from lawmakers – a jury of his political peers, voted in by the electorate – rather than a courtroom.

Contrast that with Israel where, against the backdrop of a similarly polarised electorate, the attorney general decided to file corruption charges against Benjamin Netanyahu last week; the prime minister predictably called the decision an “attempted coup”. Unlike Trump, his fate lies in the hands of the courts (unless Netanyahu’s allies in parliament succeed in passing laws that would make him immune to prosecution). So which system is better? Who should be charged with removing a leader from office: the courts, lawmakers or the electorate? All we can hope is that both camps remember that impartiality and a fair hearing – hallmarks of any judicial system – should lie at the centre of the process. Our democracies depend on it.

Culture / South Korea

Shooting stars

BTS might be one of the most successful pop supergroups in music history but that means nothing in the face of civic duty. The South Korean government has announced that in spite of the group’s considerable achievements, including having released the most-viewed music video over a 24-hour period on YouTube and boasting album sales in excess of 11 million, the group’s members are not exempt from military service – a mandatory requirement for able-bodied males under the age of 28. They may be forgiven for thinking “Save Me”, as one of their song titles goes, but they shouldn’t worry. It didn’t harm Elvis, whose drafting coincided with the peak of his success; he stayed relevant with drip-fed releases of his back catalogue. As long as BTS have something in the archives, they should be fine.

Rental / Canada

Staying power

Commercial operators of services such as Airbnb and VRBO are packing their bags in Toronto after a planning-appeal tribunal upheld city hall’s decision to place restrictions on short-term rentals. Home-sharing services will now only be permitted in a homeowner’s principal residence and for a maximum of 180 days per year. The move means individuals and companies who own and manage numerous properties will have to cease operations on the sites. The regulations are tipped to ease the housing shortage in Canada’s biggest city; some 6,500 properties could be returned to the long-term rental market as a result. By restricting rather than banning such services (which has been mooted in other cities), Toronto ensures that there are options for both locals seeking a home and visitors looking for a homestay experience.

Fashion / Japan

Hitting the heights

The world of hiking has been embraced by the fashion industry lately, with luxury brands conjuring trail-ready boots, backpacks and parkas. But when it comes to style and performance, few can rival Snow Peak. The historic firm is known in its home nation of Japan for peerless camping equipment but in 2014 Lisa Yamai, the founder’s granddaughter, launched a clothing line that’s coveted by fashionistas and hardcore campers alike. Now the company – which has a firm footing in the US and Asia – has come to the UK with an impressive three-storey flagship in central London. In Monocle’s December/January issue we meet Yamai, Snow Peak's executive vice-president, to hear of big plans for the family business.

Culture / The US

Illustrating the point

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the US, Ohio State University is holding an exhibition called Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Arts, focusing largely on the work of painter-turned-cartoonist Nina Allender. From 1913 to the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Allender’s sketches helped change public perception of feminists to snappy-dressed smart individuals able to charm the constitution into change. As satirical cartoonists still run the risk of being jailed in many parts of the world, the exhibition is a reminder of the role they play in developing society. And with the likes of foul-mouthed Phoebe Waller-Bridge taking the US by storm, it’s clear that we’ve come a long way since 1913.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Tear Down This Wall: The resistance

The third episode of our series about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Whether lead by peaceful playwrights, powerful trade unions or mutinous soldiers, how did people behind the Iron Curtain fight against the system?

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: December/ January issue, 2020

Japan is undeniably special – which is why our latest issue is a Japan special. Expect cuddly mascots, high-flying aviation projects, countryside craft and lashings of udon noodles. Wait, you want a Christmas gift guide and our inaugural Soft Power Awards too? Let’s do this.

Available now at The Monocle Shop

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