Archive for International

Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so are good men known by their enemies. – Chinese proverb

By all accounts I’ve seen, Britain’s new Labour Party leader is further to the left than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. What they may have more in common than politics are the kinds of attacks they suffer at the hands of their adversaries. Sanders this week faces attacks that try to tie him to Corbin:

WASHINGTON — A super PAC backing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is going negative, circulating an email that yokes her chief rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to some of the more controversial remarks made by Jeremy Corbyn, the United Kingdom’s new Labour Party leader, including his praise for the late Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who provided discounted fuel to Vermont in a deal supported by Sanders.

Clinton’s camp has long said it has no plans to attack Sanders. But the super PAC, called Correct the Record, departed from its defense of Clinton’s record as a former secretary of state in an email Monday that compares Sanders with Corbyn. Correct the Record, led by Clinton ally David Brock, also has sent trackers after Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The Guardian reports:

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We could have had class

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Pope Francis calls on the churches he leads to take in undocumented refugees as the crisis in Europe worsens:

“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbors to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope,” Francis said.

It’s not enough to say: “Have courage, hang in there,” he added.

“For thousands,” writes Mike Barnicle, “life boils down to a simple decision: risk death where they were born or risk death trying to escape.” Yet the spectacle on the borders and shores of eastern Europe barely registers here.

America is entranced by the man leading the polls for the Grand Old Party’s nomination for president of the United States and who promises to expel millions from this country. That will be a spectacle. He wants to deport them — men, women, and children — to the country a Latina checkout clerk from there recently warned me not to visit “until it’s safe.” Thousands of fans support Donald Trump for his deportation rhetoric alone. They find him “classy.”

Barnicle continues:

In the United States, the calamity consuming Europe is so far just another clip on TV, one more sad story streaming across a screen of a smart phone or a tablet. We have our own problems and our own politicians either trying to light fires or put out one blaze after another over the issue of our own recent immigrants, many here illegally for years without papers.

America sits on its hands. Did we ever lead when it did not involve blowing up things and killing people? One can dimly remember such a spirit, as Barnicle does:

America provided things that form the foundation of who we used to be: the prospect and potential of hope, mercy and freedom for strangers who came carrying not much more than a determination to survive in a big country with a bigger heart. The question is: Who are we now?

Classy? We could have had class.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Where is the U.S. response?

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By Friday night, about 1,000 Syrian refugees and migrants, many of them small children, had left Budapest’s Keleti train station to walk over 100 miles to the Austrian border. Hungarian locals both encouraged the marchers with food, water and tears, while at least one other shouted in Hungarian from a passing car, “Go home already.” Hungarian authorities last night provided a fleet of buses to carry 4,000 to Austria, and perhaps to Germany. Austria joined Germany in agreeing to take them, at least for now.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán earlier in the week called that irresponsible, a failure to defend Europe’s Christian culture:

“We shouldn’t forget that the people who are coming here grew up in a different religion and represent a completely different culture. Most are not Christian, but Muslim,” he said. “Or is it not worrying that Europe’s Christian culture is already barely able to maintain its own set of Christian values?”

Orbán blamed the crisis on what he said were the EU’s “failed immigration policies” as well as those in Europe who have said they would welcome the refugees.

“It is irresponsible for any European politician to give migrants hope of a better life and encourage to leave everything behind and risk their lives en route to Europe,” he said.

That refrain should sound vaguely familiar.

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Refugee crisis deepens

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Terrible images from Europe this morning as the refugee crisis deepens:

The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.

The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.

They come to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia. The flood of refugee/immigrants has governments scrambling to cope and resentments building. On the rural border between Hungary and Serbia, refugees are numerous where outsiders were once considered exotic:

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Looking before leaping

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Many refugees. Fewer solutions. Even fewer explanations.

Grim news from Austria:

A truck full of refugees discovered abandoned on an Austrian motorway on Thursday contained more than 70 bodies, the interior ministry said on Friday, announcing an updated death toll.

Austrian police had originally put the toll at up to 50 and are due to announce the exact number within hours. The vehicle had come to Austria from Hungary.

Dozens more perished in a sinking off the coast of Libya:

A boat reportedly packed with people from Africa and South Asia bound for Italy has sunk off the Libyan coast, raising fears that dozens have died.

A security official in Zuwarah, a town in the North African nation’s west from where the overcrowded boat had set off, said on Thursday there were about 400 people on board.

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But Mr. President, you must be-leeve

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While we’re believing that Donald Trump is going to deport millions of undocumented immigrants without a plan to pay for it, and while we’re believing he’ll build a 2,000 mile-long southern border fence and get Mexico to pay for it (because Donald knows how to negotiate), why not engage in a military buildup without a plan to pay for it? (And without raising taxes. That’s a given.)

According to Politico, “a growing roster of Republican hopefuls” believe the U.S. needs dozens of new warships if it expects to keep throwing around its global weight. Not that the news outlet could find any to quote for the article. Honestly, this almost reads as if it should be labeled “sponsored content” from the Navy League of the United States for the group’s lobbying campaign, “America’s Strength: Investing in the Navy-Marine Corps Team”:

It’s a love affair steeped in the ideology that more warships bristling with aircraft and missiles translates into more security — and that control of the high seas will not only guarantee international trade but also check the worst ambitions of other powers like Russia and China. And it’s also fueled by a powerful shipbuilding lobby in Washington that is also calling anew for billions more in federal spending to beef up the sea service.

Christie was the first to raise the issue earlier this election season, saying the Navy “should be an armada without equal,” and pledging, if elected president, to reach the goal of 350 ships. Walker also noted earlier this year that “we’re at, what, 275, 280 vessels right now? We’re headed down toward 250. That’s less than half of where we were under Reagan.”

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A suspiciously “European” solution

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American presidential candidates debate deporting millions of immigrant families to Mexico as Europe faces the worst refugee crisis since WWII. On the Macedonian border with Greece, CNN reported last night:

Refugees who are soaking wet and hungry in makeshift camps, with only a few nongovernmental organizations present to help, told the CNN team of sheer misery.

A Syrian man said he never imagined Europe would be like this.

“Look at her,” he said, motioning to his 3-year-old daughter in his arms. “In Syria she was a princess, now she is like a rag. They are treating us like animals.”

He said that if someone could get him back to Syria, he would go. “Better to die from bombs in my homeland than die out here,” he said.

The Independent reports this morning:

For a second day, they came. And, for a second day, they faced a wall of riot shields, razor wire and batons. But on Saturday something was different. As the Macedonian police waved a handful of exhausted refugees through from Greece, something snapped and hundreds rushed the lines, causing chaos and police retaliation in the form of volleys of stun grenades and beatings. Many were injured.

And yet they still came and, eventually, with the tide of humanity too much to hold, the Macedonians opened the border with Greece. The police, who only hours before had swiped and batted at the crowds, simply stepped aside as thousands – men, women and children, many from Syria – streamed through, crying tears of joy as they began their next step to sanctuary and escape from the horrors of war in their own countries.

The Guardian, also this morning:

Hundreds of migrants have crossed unhindered from Greece into Macedonia after overwhelmed security forces appeared to abandon a bid to stem their flow through the Balkans to western Europe following days of chaos and confrontation.

Riot police remained, but did little to slow the passage of a steady flow of migrants on Sunday, many of them refugees from the Syrian war and other conflicts in the Middle East, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Macedonia had declared a state of emergency on Thursday and sealed its southern frontier to migrants arriving at a rate of 2,000 per day en route to Serbia then Hungary and the EU’s borderless Schengen zone. This led to desperate scenes at the border, as adults and children slept under open skies with little access to food or water.

Elsewhere on the Mediterranean, Italian and other naval vessels rescued another 2,000 refugees yesterday, responding to distress calls from more than 20 vessels in danger of sinking.

Donald Trump and others on the right are too busy insisting we have walls to build across our southern border to take notice. But maybe someone should point out that this is a suspiciously “European” solution coming out of the mouths of American politicians:

Throughout Europe, leaders are succumbing to the keep-them-out syndrome. Hungary is building a fence (along its border with Serbia). Spain has done the same (in Ceuta and Melilla). Bulgaria followed suit (on the border with Turkey). More fencing is springing up in Calais.

In Macedonia, which is not in the EU, they are deploying armoured vehicles against migrants. Will this work? Unlikely. When you flee atrocities and war, the desperation to reach a haven will always be stronger than security fences and dogs.

The causes of migration in Europe and the Middle East are more instability than economics, argues Patrick Kingsley in the Guardian. Human smugglers often portrayed as the source of the problem are simply reacting to the opportunities presented by demand for their services, as any conservative economist could tell you. But as I recall, one of the last mass migrations in my lifetime occurred after the U.S. military debacle in Vietnam. Not enough attention has been paid to the fact that the current crisis presents itself in close proximity to American adventures in Iraq and Syria. Strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett has suggested that one of America’s greatest exports is security. Isn’t instability more like it?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : International, National
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Which way to the revolt?

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Robert Reich sees Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ rising popularity as evidence of a growing revolt against America’s ruling class. Go figure. When venture capitalist Tom Perkins last year compared Occupiers and progressives to Kristallnacht, then held up his watch on TV and bragged, “I could buy a 6-pack of Rolexes for this,” he was less than six degrees of Marie Antoinette. And just as clueless.

Reich writes:

We’ve witnessed self-dealing on a monumental scale – starting with the junk-bond takeovers of the 1980s, followed by the Savings and Loan crisis, the corporate scandals of the early 2000s (Enron, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Tyco, Worldcom), and culminating in the near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 and the taxpayer-financed bailout.

Along the way, millions of Americans lost their jobs their savings, and their homes.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to big money in politics wider than ever. Taxes have been cut on top incomes, tax loopholes widened, government debt has grown, public services have been cut. And not a single Wall Street executive has gone to jail.

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All your democracy are belong to us

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This is breaking about 4 a.m. EDT.

Greece reaches a deal with creditors after all-night summit:

Euro zone leaders clinched a deal with Greece on Monday to negotiate a third bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone after a whole night of haggling at an emergency summit.

“Euro summit has unanimously reached agreement. All ready to go for ESM programme for Greece with serious reforms and financial support,” European Council President Donald Tusk announced on Twitter, referring to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.

However the tough conditions imposed by international lenders led by Germany could bring down Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government and cause an outcry in Greece. Even before the final terms were known, his labour minister went on state television to denounce the terms.

The deal would create a fund for repaying Greek debt from privatizing unspecified state assets.

Details now trickling out (via the Guardian, 5:34 a.m. EDT):

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Revenge of the Midas cult

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King Midas with his daughter, from A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorne (text author). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The troika didn’t take well to Greek voters telling them where they could stick their austerity. Rebels from the country that invented democracy last week seemed poised to jump into their X-wing fighters and … okay this is really going off the rails. Or maybe not.

Creditors counterattacked and tightened their grip. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now seems ready to accept more austerity with no write-down of his country’s debt, something voters soundly rejected just last Sunday:

“Each one of us shall be confronted with his stature and his history. Between a bad choice and a catastrophic one, we are forced to opt for the first one,” Tsipras said in a speech before his party’s lawmakers, according to local media. “It is as if one asks you for your money or your life.”

It’s just slightly less than Bond-villianish. The Washington Post reports that the deal includes “phasing out a subsidy for poor pensioners and privatizing sprawling state industries.” The voters have spoken and were ignored.

At the Guardian, George Monbiot examines how the financial powers have built a colonial empire that essentially renders democracy moot. (Throughout, I’m citing the referenced version of this piece from Monbiot’s blog.):

Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes. It’s controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and the other means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

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