Opinion | Boris Johnson, How Does It Feel? – By Susan McKay – The New York Times

By 

Ms. McKay is a writer in Ireland.

CreditCreditPhil Noble/Reuters

“DUBLIN — When Boris Johnson visited Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin last month as part of a last-minute scramble to reach some sort Brexit deal, the two leaders began their day with a media briefing on the steps of one of Dublin’s grandest buildings. In the Edwardian Baroque style, it was built by the British authorities while the Irish were intensifying their struggle for independence. “Fortuitously,” the Heritage Ireland website snarkily notes, “the complex was completed in 1922 and was available immediately to be occupied by the new Irish Free State government.” Rarely has the word “fortuitously” elided so much.

Mr. Johnson, shirt askew, hair a mess, shambled like a drugged bear to the podium and gripped it. Mr. Varadkar looked on, gym fit and poised in a sharp suit. The contrast was more than superficial. Britain has long since lost its empire — and this prime minister looks set to break up the United Kingdom itself. He had come to Dublin for talks about the vexed issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the United Kingdom. Mr. Johnson needed either to bully Ireland into abandoning the so-called backstop, which protects the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union’s single market, or to make Ireland look so intransigent that it could be blamed for pushing Britain into a no-deal Brexit.

Mr. Varadkar delivered a telling speech. He compared the tasks facing Mr. Johnson, who must negotiate the future of a Britain outside of the European Union, with the labors of Hercules. Ireland wished to be Britain’s “friend and ally, your Athena,” Mr. Varadkar said.

It was an elegantly delivered kick in the arse. Hercules’s labors were penitential — prone to fits of madness and having killed his family, he was about to continue on a murderous rampage when Athena, goddess of wisdom, saved him from his own folly by knocking him unconscious.”

Opinion | Ukraine’s Leader Has Jumped Into Trump’s Trap – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“For some Europeans, the most embarrassing revelation of the now very public phone conversation between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president on July 25 was not the attempt by Mr. Trump to interfere in the judiciary system of a foreign country for his own political benefit. Nothing the American president does could surprise any longer.

What they found particularly disappointing, instead, was the servility with which his young counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, sought to ingratiate himself with Mr. Trump, pretending that he had won the Ukrainian presidency by imitating him, claiming to have appointed a new prosecutor general who would be “100 percent my person,” and happily joining in the Euro-bashing that has become one of Mr. Trump’s trademarks.

Masks were falling off. So this popular maverick comedian turned real-life politician after playing one in a TV series, this promising reformer that President Emmanuel Macron of France had hosted at the Élysée even before he was elected, was in fact another spineless, unprepared leader jumping into President Trump’s every trap.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Macron have been wise enough not to comment on this pathetic turn of events. Privately, French diplomats insist that Paris still actively supports Mr. Zelensky — even more so in light of the American meltdown. What is at stake in Ukraine for the European Union is far too important, and the risk of seeing Mr. Trump’s dirty work derail laborious efforts to reform that post-Soviet country far too real.”

David Lindsay: Here is the perfect antidote to Rachel Maddow, who spent way to much time the other night on the Inspector General’s calling 8 house committees for an emergency meeting, to get rubbish about conspiracy theories put together by non other than Rudy Guiliani.

Here are the top two comments I endorsed:

P. Bourke

Excellent article. It helped me realize that in reading the transcript of Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky, it’s worth noting what was not in the transcript, and not just the criminality so clearly in evidence. There was not even the briefest discussion of Ukraine’s economic or military situation or any other item of substance, and this at a very fraught time in the history of the Ukraine, as well as in the US-Russian relationship. Such dereliction of duty by an American president should itself be cause for impeachment.

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Bruce Rozenblit commented 2 hours ago

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MO

This essay underscores the absolute essential nature of globalism and diplomacy. It reveals what happens if amateurs are placed in charge of highly specialized and professional administrative positions. When the Trumpist path is taken, everything falls apart. We are falling apart. The United Kingdom is falling apart. And now, Ukraine in falling apart. All of this ensuing chaos is to the benefit of Putin. Putin is waging a war of chaos and disfunction against the West. The more disorganized the West becomes (Brexit), the more turmoil inside our governments (Trump’s war on our institutions and public meritocracy), the more friction between allies (Trump’s ever expanding trade wars with our closest allies), the lesser the threat the West presents to him and the stronger Russia becomes. Trump, with his attempt to extort political assistance from Ukraine, plays right into Putin’s hand. Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is Putin’s puppet. The EU has been trying to pull Ukraine into the West’s sphere of influence and rule of law through increased trade. Trump is doing the complete opposite. He is using tariffs as weapon to isolate and turn all against all. This new trade war with the EU, which has just started, has the potential to be devastating, both economically and strategically. It will cost consumers plenty, reduce trade and slow down the global economy, which is already slowing down from tariffs on China. Putin couldn’t be happier.

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Babette’s Feast — The General’s Toast — Mercy and truth have met together – YouTube

Last night we watched the movie Babette”s Feast, based on a short story by Isak Dinesen. Extraordinary Movie. Very spiritual, but not necessarily a realistic story. A beautiful thought piece. Now I really want to know which part Elly Lindsay had in the theatrical version recently played in Dallas, The soldier, who becomes the heart broken suitor, becomes a successful general, and gives this toast at the end of the feast, while the woman who refused him 40 or so years earlier looks on:

“Mercy and truth have met together.

Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness…
believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes.
We do know fear.
But no.
Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when your eyes are opened.
And we come to realize…
that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence…
and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And, lo!
Everything we have chosen…
has been granted to us.
And everything…
we rejected…
has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
For mercy and truth are met together.
And righteousness and bliss…
shall kiss one another.”

++++++++++
Babette’s Feast (1987)
“Babettes gæstebud” (original title)
Director: Gabriel Axel
General Lorens Löwenhielm: Jarl Kulle
++++++++++
“Perhaps it is a desecration to take this scene out of context, but it is so wonderful in context that it shall be risked. The General has just enjoyed the rarest of meals in the most unlikely of places. He makes an after dinner speech that is more of a sermon and prayer.” – Youtube blogger named Straussian.

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Editorial | In Italy, a Sharp Turn Back to the Center – The New York Times

“Given that Italy has had more than five dozen governments in 73 years, the emergence of another unlikely and unstable coalition might look, in the phrase often attributed to Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again. Yet in the current wave of populism in Europe and around the world, the success of the Italian Parliament in pushing back against a right-wing firebrand bears a closer look.

The stage for the turnover was set in August, when Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right, anti-immigrant League party that for over a year had been in a ruling coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, decided to cash in on his popularity and ask the Italian electorate to hand him “full powers” in new elections.

Instead, the prime minister — a law professor named Giuseppe Conte, who had been pulled from obscurity last year to serve as a figurehead leader of that coalition government — delivered a potent speech in the Italian Senate upbraiding his former patron, Mr. Salvini, for “political opportunism” in “following his own interests and those of his party.”

Mr. Conte then cobbled together an improbable coalition of two parties more usually at each other’s throats, the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party. On Monday, the government — now known popularly as Conte II, with Mr. Salvini in snarling opposition — easily won a vote of confidence and handed Mr. Conte back the ceremonial bell of the prime minister that he had held in the previous coalition government.”

Opinion | Boris Johnson Is How Britain Ends – By James Butler – The New York Times

By James Butler

Mr. Butler is a British journalist.

“LONDON — Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.

That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well-practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.

And his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.

The state of the United Kingdom, a constitutional compact founded in 1922 and stretching back, in one form or another, for centuries, is severely strained. Though Brexit is primarily driven by English passions, two of the four territories in the Union — Northern Ireland and Scotland — voted to remain. Both present immediate problems for Mr. Johnson — and for the future of Britain.

In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country’s vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, insists Scotland will hold one if Brexit takes place. One of the most adroit politicians in Britain, Ms. Sturgeon knows that despite widespread misgivings about Brexit, the majority needed for independence does not currently exist. But recent polling suggests a Johnson government might tilt the scales in her favor. An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson’s rule.”

Opinion | Greece Is the Good News Story in Europe – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Greek resilience through crisis demonstrates that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen

Opinion Columnist

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a rally in Athens on Thursday.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

“ATHENS — If you’re looking for an optimistic story in Europe, try Greece. Yes, you read that right. Having lost a quarter of its economy in a devastating recession, Greece has turned the corner, its democracy intact, its extremist temptations defeated and its anti-Americanism defunct.

The landslide election on Sunday of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the dynamic leader of the center-right New Democracy party, marked the end of a chapter. Greece rejected Alexis Tsipras, the leftist leader who took the country to the brink of ruin in 2015 before discovering a pragmatic streak. It also voted the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn out of Parliament. At the height of the crisis, Golden Dawn had become the country’s third-largest party.

First into populism, Greece is now first out. For a country in free fall, the anchors of the European Union and NATO are not so negligible after all. Europe is not simply a story of growing nationalism and xenophobia. It’s a continent in violent flux, torn between liberal democratic and nativist currents.

Despite unemployment that reached almost 30 percent, a chaotic near-exit from the euro, huge bailouts to save it from bankruptcy, mandated austerity programs and a wave of desperate refugees from Syria, Greece stabilized itself. It’s a reminder that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.”

Opinion | The World Grows More Dangerous by the Day – By François Delattre – The New York Times

By François Delattre

Mr. Delattre is France’s ambassador to the United Nations.

François Delattre speaking at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Syria at the U.N. headquarters in New York, last year.CreditEduardo Munoz/Reuters

“My experience at the United Nations Security Council over the last five years has led me to see a harsh truth: The world is growing more dangerous and less predictable by the day. While the tectonic plates of power are shifting under our feet, driven in no small part by the combined effects of a technology revolution and the rise of China, we are also witnessing the return of heightened competition among the major powers.

We are now in a new world disorder. The three main safety mechanisms are no longer functioning: no more American power willing to be the last-resort enforcer of international order; no solid system of international governance; and, most troubling, no real concert of nations able to re-establish common ground.

As I prepare to return to Paris after almost 20 years as a diplomat in North America, nearly half of them serving consecutively as France’s ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations, I feel the need to share these personal conclusions. The situation today is objectively dangerous. Each serious international crisis has the potential to spin out of control. That is what we saw happen in Syria and what we need to prevent with Iran and North Korea, and in the South China Sea.

In the absence of a functioning multilateral system, the world tends to devolve into spheres of influence; that leads of confrontation, as European history has shown too many times. The risk is even greater when geopolitical divides are superimposed on the technological battle between American- and Chinese-led digital worlds.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Fracois Delattre.

How long until Trump leaves

Time until trump leaves office. 590. days. : 02. hours. : 59. minutes. : 54. seconds. 

How long has Trumpbeen President? 870. days.

Opinion |  – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen

Opinion Columnist

President Trump and other world leaders looking on as Queen Elizabeth II arrived for a D-Day commemorative event in Portsmouth, England, on Wednesday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“PARIS — How small he is! Small in spirit, in valor, in dignity, in statecraft, this American president who knows nothing of history and cares still less and now bestrides Europe with his family in tow like some tin-pot dictator with a terrified entourage.

To have Donald Trump — the bone-spur evader of the Vietnam draft, the coddler of autocrats, the would-be destroyer of the European Union, the pay-up-now denigrator of NATO, the apologist for the white supremacists of Charlottesville — commemorate the boys from Kansas City and St. Paul who gave their lives for freedom is to understand the word impostor. You can’t make a sculpture from rotten wood.

It’s worth saying again. If Europe is whole and free and at peace, it’s because of NATO and the European Union; it’s because the United States became a European power after World War II; it’s because America’s word was a solemn pledge; it’s because that word cemented alliances that were not zero-sum games but the foundation for stability and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of this, Trump understands nothing. Therefore he cannot comprehend the sacrifice at Omaha Beach 75 years ago. He cannot see that the postwar trans-Atlantic achievement — undergirded by the institutions and alliances he tramples upon with such crass truculence — was in fact the vindication of those young men who gave everything.”

Opinion | Macron Puts Germany on Trial – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

Sylvie Kauffmann

By Sylvie Kauffmann

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France last month in Berlin, where he criticized German policies in unusually blunt terms.CreditAbdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

“PARIS — Two days after he took office as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron flew to Berlin. It was May 16, 2017, and France and Germany needed a reset. Joined at the hip, the two nations cannot make Europe work if they don’t work together. Mr. Macron had been elected to transform France, and he was convinced that real change in his country would happen only through better European integration.

Hope was in the air as the young, ambitious but untested French president met Angela Merkel, the stern three-term German chancellor. Ms. Merkel quoted the German poet Hermann Hesse: “A magic dwells in each beginning.” Ever the realist, however, she cautiously added, “Charm lasts only if there are results.”

Two years on, the results are nowhere to be seen and the charm has given way to exasperation. When Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron met on the sidelines of a Berlin summit on the western Balkans, on April 29, their talk was kept to a strict minimum — 15 minutes. Asked at a news conference about the French-German relationship four days earlier, Mr. Macron answered in unusually blunt terms. He openly admitted for the first time that France disagreed with Germany on Brexit strategy, energy policy, climate change, trade negotiations with the United States — and the list could have been longer. Though he chose to stop there, he vowed to voice his differences firmly for the sake, he said, of “fruitful confrontations.”

Mr. Macron went on to suggest that “the German growth model has perhaps run its course.” In his view, Germany, having made belt-tightening reforms that were right for its own economy, had fully benefited from the imbalances created within the eurozone; especially hard hit were the Southern economies like Spain, Greece and Italy, for which austerity was bitter and destabilizing. These imbalances have worsened, Mr. Macron pointed out, and they now “run counter to the social project” he supports.”

Opinion | If Politicians Can’t Face Climate Change, Extinction Rebellion Will – The New York Times

A new movement is demanding solutions. They may just be in time to save the planet.

By David Graeber

Mr. Graeber is an anthropologist and activist.

 Extinction Rebellion members during climate protests in London last week.CreditFrank Augstein/Associated Press

“On April 15, thousands of activists from a movement called Extinction Rebellion started occupying several sites in central London, shutting down major roads and demanding the country’s politicians take immediate, drastic action in the face of climate change.

For more than a week, the streets were awash with an infectious sort of hope. Beyond the potent symbol of popular power represented by their presence in the heart of the city, activists and passers-by had the chance to experiment with collective politics. Yes, there were camera-worthy stunts and impossible-to-ignore disruptions of business as usual. But people also assembled, broke into discussion groups and returned with proposals. If the government wasn’t talking about the climate, Extinction Rebellion would lead by example.

The action was the crest of a wave that arguably began with the high school walkouts over the climate that had been sweeping Europe since late last year, and it was remarkable for including thousands of citizens — many from small towns with no experience of radical politics — who were willing, sometimes even eager, to risk arrest.

Their demands were, and are, simple. First, that the government declare a state of emergency and “tell the truth” about the global situation — that thousands of species are in danger of extinction, that there is a very real possibility that human life itself may eventually follow. Second, that Britain set a goal to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2025, and third, that the specifics of this emergency program be worked out not from above, but through the creation of citizens’ assemblies.”