Morning Briefing A Taste of Watergate

The outlook for VW's former chairman darkens with the latest documents from the Justice Department. Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk analyses modernity and all its malaise, and offers humor as an antidote.

In the VW poker game, U.S. authorities have slammed their cards on the table. An 86-page document by the Justice Department lays out internal emails and witness statements showing a network of Volkswagen employees who developed and installed the cheat software, then lied to hide it. Apparently 40 employees alone were tasked with deleting emails and data. The network reached all the way up to the VW board. Or as one internal email puts it, “As head of development, Dr. (Heinz-Jakob) Neusser is clearly directly involved.“

For Martin Winterkorn, the former VW chief executive, the outlook is growing darker day by day. After all, he and his development chief worked closely together. The best advice out there for Neusser and Winterkorn is not to travel to the United States right now. A night in a VW Touran is bound to be comfier than the likes of an Alcatraz cell.

Good news came from Trump’s cabinet. Rex Tillerson, the incoming secretary of state, isn’t going to deny Europeans America’s nuclear shield, calling the commitment to NATO “inviolable.” Hopefully Ivanka Trump sees it that way too.

More on Trump: “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” ABC News journalist Cecilia Vega posed this very precise question during the turbulent press conference. At first, Trump berated her and didn't answer before he later said bluntly, "no." Given it’s now accepted that Russia was involved in the election campaign, damaging Hillary Clinton, the liberal U.S. media from ABC to CNN to the New York Times will have to answer that question themselves, with all the money and resources that will take. In Washington’s government quarters, there’s a sense that Watergate is back. If Trump and his campaign cannot answer this question properly, his presidency can never become great.

Along with these uncertain times come new feelings, also about language, and philosopher Peter Sloterdijk suggests we switch from suffering to the luxury of using words to get a handle on our difficulties. He’s put together a dictionary of modernity. Here are some of his gems from our weekend read:

On society: “It is in the nature of things that "society" - as an aggregate of life forms and ritual games - must at the same time be a system of distances.“

Who are we? Sloterdijk says: “We are all, as soon as we set one foot outside, citizens of three worlds - the tribe, the nation and the global community.”

His take on populism: “Apparently, not everyone is ready to accept the new current political paradigm, since they perceive it as a program for the open robbery of their identities.”

And on the role of the media: “The school of the nation isn't the army - it's journalism. The art product that is the "nation" doesn't require a daily dose of war, but it does require constant sensation.”

So how can we citizens stay upbeat? “Irony provides an effective antidote to a feeling of powerlessness,” he says.

Partying helps too and Handelsblatt handed out a clutch of prizes to the best and brightest of Germany’s family owned companies. Judith Rakers, the bright and bewitching TV moderator, hosted the evening, with 200 guests celebrating at the Charles Hotel in Munich. Why are we so keen on family-owned companies? We’re one too!


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A train stops in ʻWebminsterʼ after online retailer Amazon rebranded the central London tube station of Westminster in a marketing stunt.