By Maeve Higgins | Joe Biden, the Irishman – The New York Times

Ms. Higgins is a contributing opinion writer who regularly writes about immigration and life in New York City.

Credit…Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In November, a BBC reporter shouted a question at President-elect Joe Biden. He responded, “The BBC? I’m Irish” before flashing a huge smile and disappearing through a doorway. The clip went viral and Ireland went wild.

President Biden’s Irishness is important to him: He likes to quote Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats, and borrowed James Joyce’s words as he bid farewell to Delaware the night before his inauguration. An Irish violinist played Irish hymns at the mass before the event. Back in the old country, people are keen to claim him, too. His ancestral family are mini-celebrities there — his third cousin, a plumber named Joe Blewitt, emblazoned his work van with the words “Joe Biden for the White House, Joe Blewitt for your house.” Frankly, the whole thing is adorable. What I want to know is, how deep does it go?” . . .

It’s gratifying to see, certainly. But what my Irishness leads me to is the old Ireland, the truly dark and terrifying place that Mr. Biden’s forefathers fled from. Who is their equivalent now? And can the president see them for what they are and act accordingly?

The parallels between Ireland in the 1800s, when Mr. Biden’s forefathers left, and, say, Syria or South Sudan today are horribly apt. The Syrian people, brave and revolutionary, simply needed a fair system of government and, later, a safe place to recover and restart their lives. But Americans have looked away. The South Sudanese, reeling from brutal colonization, continue to struggle through ethnic division and civil war. Surely too in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, there are poets and musicians who dream of the rhyme of hope and history, if only we stopped to listen.

The early signs are promising. During his campaign, Mr. Biden promised to lift the cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 125,000. But so much more is needed from America — just as it was in the 19th century, when roughly one in two people born in Ireland emigrated. Patrick Blewitt, Mr. Biden’s great-great grandfather, left a famine-stricken land in 1850, becoming one of the 1.8 million Irish people to arrive in America between 1845 and 1855. His parents and siblings soon followed. Another million Irish people did not make it, staying behind to die of starvation or sickness.” . . .

Lovely piece by Maeve Higgins.  She would have us taken as many refugees as is possible without delineation. I can’t agree with her.  Biden is doing enough, to allow in 125,000 a year. Part of taking care of the planet, is reducing population growth. We need to stop illegal immigration, allow for guest workers after amending the constitutional amendment that makes their children all citizens, and work towards a generous Marshall like plan to help our neighbors to the south curb their population growth, and rebuild their economies, and in some places, their governments. Legalizing all addictive drugs, would help reduce the negative effects of the $50 Billion a year illegal drug trade, that destabilizes governments, while empowering drug gangs.

Regarding Syria and the middle east, we can return to strengthening our allies, if there are any left, after Trump betrayed them, and let the Turks, the Russians, and the  Bashar al-Assad regime slaughter them. 

By Toby Levy | The Holocaust Stole My Youth. Covid-19 Is Stealing My Last Years – The New York Times

Ms. Levy is a retired accountant and a volunteer docent for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

“These days, I’m a little bored.

The boardwalk is my lifesaver. I’m two blocks from the boardwalk. I can walk to Coney Island if I want to. I go alone. I have some friends here. We used to play canasta once a week. But when Covid arrived, my daughter insisted, “You can’t sit in one room!” So I talk on the phone. I read. The grandkids call in by Zoom. I also do a little bit of Zoom lecturing for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

I keep very busy, and it helps me a lot. I am trying not to give up. But what is getting me down is that I am losing a year. And this bothers me terribly. I’m 87 years old, and I lost almost a full year.

I’m doing everything I can to stay connected, to make an impact. So even now, amid Covid, I tell my story to schools and to audiences the museum organizes for me, by Zoom.

Here’s what I say: I was born in 1933 in a small town called Chodorow, now Khodoriv, about 30 minutes by car from Lvov, now Lviv, in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. We lived in the center of town in my grandfather’s house. The Russians occupied the town from 1939 to 1941, then the Germans from 1941 to 1944. My father was well liked in town by Jews and non-Jews. One day in early 1942, one of the guys came to him and said, “Moshe, it’s going to be a big killing. Better find a hiding place.” So my father built a place to hide in the cellar. My grandfather didn’t want to go. He was shot in the kitchen; we heard it.”

Brexit’s Silver Lining for Europe – The New York Times

“PARIS — It is done at last. On Jan. 1, with the Brexit transition period over, Britain will no longer be part of the European Union’s single market and customs union. The departure will be ordered, thanks to a last-minute deal running to more than 1,200 pages, but still painful to both sides. A great loss will be consummated.

Loss for the European Union of one of its biggest member states, a major economy, a robust military and the tradition, albeit faltering, of British liberalism at a time when Hungary and Poland have veered toward nationalism.

Loss for Britain of diplomatic heft in a world of renewed great power rivalry; of some future economic growth; of clarity over European access for its big financial services industry; and of countless opportunities to study, live, work and dream across the continent.

The national cry of “take back control” that fired the Brexit vote in an outburst of anti-immigrant fervor and random grievances withered into four and a half years of painful negotiation pitting a minnow against a mammoth. Posturing encountered reality. The British economy is less than one-fifth the size of the bloc’s. President Trump is leaving office, and with him goes any hope of a rapid offsetting British-American trade agreement.

“Brexit is an act of mutual weakening,” Michel Barnier, the chief European Union negotiator, told the French daily Le Figaro.

But the weakening is uneven. Britain is closer to fracture. The possibility has increased that Scotland and Northern Ireland will opt to leave the United Kingdom and, by different means, rejoin the European Union. The bloc, by contrast, has in some ways been galvanized by the trauma of Brexit. It has overcome longstanding obstacles, lifted its ambitions and reignited the Franco-German motor of closer union.

“Brexit i not good news for anyone, but it has unquestionably contributed to a reconsolidation of Europe, which demonstrated its unity throughout the negotiations,” François Delattre, the secretary-general of the French foreign ministry, said.

The European Union — prodded by Brexit, facing the coronavirus pandemic, and confronting the hostility of Mr. Trump — has done things previously unimaginable. It has taken steps in a quasi-federal direction that Britain always opposed.

Germany abandoned a tenacious policy of austerity. The federalization of European debt, long taboo for the Germans, became possible. The European Union can now borrow as a government does — a step toward sovereign stature and a means to finance the $918 billion pandemic recovery fund that a British presence would probably have blocked.

“Brexit made Angela Merkel willing to abandon positions that had been sacred,” said Karl Kaiser, a former head of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “There has long been a debate about widening or deepening the European Union. Well, it has deepened.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT

Thank you Roger Cohen, your reporting is like Visa and Mastercard, priceless. I am thinking of a second story to organize. Was Brexit possibly the brainchild or Vladimir Putin of Russia, or did the Russians really help push the Brexit vote into victory? It appears that the only real winner of Brexit, is Russia. I read that the largest google search the UK after the historic and tragic vote was, “What is Brexit?” Is it true that the cheapest and least professional newspapers, especially Rupert Murdoch’s, pushed the Brexit division along, in a publishing war, for who could sell the most scandal mongering tabloids, and did the main stream papers make the mistake of competing with some of their own junk. What a colossal mess. It has been a fabulous four years for Putin. Maybe Time Magazine missed a beat this week, when they named Biden and Harris as Person of the Year, when the big winner of 2020 was Vladimir Putin.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.

A German Terrorist Suspect With a Refugee Disguise: The Tale of Franco A. – The New York Times

“OFFENBACH, Germany — At the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, a bearded man in sweatpants walked into a police station. His pockets were empty except for an old cellphone and a few foreign coins.

In broken English, he presented himself as a Syrian refugee. He said he had crossed half the continent by foot and lost his papers along the way. The officers photographed and fingerprinted him. Over the next year, he would get shelter and an asylum hearing, and would qualify for monthly benefits.

His name, he offered, was David Benjamin.

In reality, he was a lieutenant in the German Army. He had darkened his face and hands with his mother’s makeup and applied shoe shine to his beard. Instead of walking across Europe, he had walked 10 minutes from his childhood home in the western city of Offenbach.”

Scotland Is 1st Nation to Make Period Products Free – The New York Times

“LONDON — Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products freely available to all who need them, after final approval was given to a landmark piece of legislation in Parliament on Tuesday.

The measures are intended to end “period poverty” — or the circumstances, and in some cases, prohibitive expense that have left many without access to sanitary products when they need them.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, posted on Twitter shortly after the vote on Tuesday evening that she was “proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation” which she called an “important policy for women and girls.”

A draft bill received initial approval in Parliament in February, and the measure was officially passed on Tuesday, with lawmakers voting unanimously in its favor.”

Opinion | 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Getty Images

“HAMBURG, Germany — It may well be that Germans have a special inclination to panic at specters from the past, and I admit that this alarmism annoys me at times. Yet watching President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign since Election Day, I can’t help but see a parallel to one of the most dreadful episodes from Germany’s history.

One hundred years ago, amid the implosions of Imperial Germany, powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to arguably the most potent and disastrous political lie of the 20th century — the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation. That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter. Among a sizable number of Germans, it stirred resentment, humiliation and anger. And the one figure who knew best how to exploit their frustration was Adolf Hitler.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not about comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler, which would be absurd. But the Dolchstosslegende provides a warning. It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Trump’s irrational claim that the election was “rigged” as a laughable last convulsion of his reign or a cynical bid to heighten the market value for the TV personality he might once again intend to become, especially as he appears to be giving up on his effort to overturn the election result.”

David Lindsay:
What do Jochen Bittner and my sister Elly Lindsay have in common. It is at least an interest in history. I graduated from high school in three years complicated by anti Vietnam war activities and drugs. My parents supported me in a gap year, where I lived in Cambridge MA with my sister Elly. I worked as a volunteer stage carpenter and electrician at the Harvard Loeb Drama Center, while Elly finished her senior year at Radcliff College at Harvard. Elly was the president of the Harvard Dramat at the Loeb Theater, and acting in shows, while studying history and literature. She was particularly proud of one of her major papers for the history department, where she examined how Germany fell into fascism, and she wrote in her conclusions, that Americans would not have been immune to the forces at work in Germany. We could in similar circumstances, be just as horrible as the Germans were in World War II.
Bret Stephens wrote about Dolchstosslegende in a piece I posted last week. This piece adds a great deal to the discussion, or better put, to the warning. Trump insisting that the election was stolen, is dangerous. Republicans of any patriotic worth, should quickly disavow it.

The poisonous myth: Democratic Germany’s ‘stab in the back’ legend – Alan Kramer – Irish Times

1919: Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans. Photograph:  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1919: Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

““German economic life is to be annihilated . . . It amounts to the denial of the people’s right to existence.” (German foreign minister Count Brockdorff-Rantzau’s response to the draft peace treaty, May 1919.)

Germany lost the war. It is easy to lose sight of this basic fact. The peace treaties imposed by the victorious nations on Germany and its allies resulted from their defeat and capitulation.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed by Germany on June 28th, 1919 (the others being the treaties of St. Germain with Austria, Trianon with Hungary, Neuilly with Bulgaria, and Sèvres with Turkey), did not result from negotiations between equals, as some German politicians naively hoped.

In fact it flowed directly from the armistice of November 1918, a term that implied a temporary pause in fighting. Over the summer of 1918 Allied offensives were driving the German troops back through France and Belgium towards the German border; increasing numbers of German soldiers, with their combat officers, were surrendering en masse – a sure symptom of the army’s loss of cohesion. To German commanders it was becoming clear that defeat loomed large and imminent.

Strict censorship and the army’s daily false news bulletins meant that news of the armistice came as a shock

Armies, as organisations of violence based on values of bravery and endurance, find it hard to admit defeat. The more thoughtful German officers could read the signs by summer 1918, but the de facto commander-in-chief, General Eric Ludendorff, kept lying to the civilian government about non-existent victories, masses of reserves, and the great losses of the enemy.

Only on September 29th did Ludendorff finally admit to the army leadership that the war was lost. He demanded the formation of a new democratically-based government that must call for an “armistice”. If not the army would completely collapse.”

Source: The poisonous myth: Democratic Germany’s ‘stab in the back’ legend

Opinion | Can Biden Fix What Trump Broke? – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Credit…Ian Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock

“PARIS — If Joe Biden moves to the White House in January, he will find across the Atlantic a very different landscape from the one he left as vice president. In turn ignored, lectured or brutalized by President Trump, who has enjoyed playing on their divisions, Europeans are now learning to navigate alone in a world ever more dangerous for them, while managing an awkward relationship with America.

At stake for many of them in this presidential election is quite simple: If Mr. Trump wins a second term, they fear, he will be tempted to double down on his unilateralist agenda. NATO, already described as “brain-dead” by President Emmanuel Macron of France, could just as well die for good. Alternatively, it is hoped, a Biden administration would re-engage America in the multilateral system it created 75 years ago. And Europe, with its newfound assertiveness, could be a more valuable player.

For Europe, the election comes at a time of particular danger. The European Union’s neighborhood is “engulfed in flames,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told The Financial Times last week.

From the Eastern Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea, from a Britain consumed by Brexit to a defiant Russia, not to mention the Balkans, Libya or the sub-Saharan countries of West Africa, the union is surrounded by crises. What is new for its leaders is the need to confront them not as “the West,” but on their own, with a mostly passive United States administration looking elsewhere.”

Opinion | American Catastrophe Through German Eyes – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Noah Berger/Associated Press

“PARIS — No people has found the American lurch toward authoritarianism under President Trump more alarming than the Germans. For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model. Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the “American catastrophe.”

recent cover of the weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrays Trump in the Oval Office holding a lighted match, with a country ablaze visible through his window. The headline: “Der Feuerteufel,” or, literally, “the Fire Devil.”

Credit…Der Spiegel

Germans have a particular relationship to fire. The Reichstag fire of 1933 enabled Hitler and the Nazis to scrap the fragile Weimar democracy that had brought them to power. Hitler’s murderous fantasies could now become reality. War, Auschwitz and the German catastrophe followed.

I have known many thoughtful German diplomats over the years, including Michael Steiner, who labored to stop the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to the United States. It always seemed to me that their particular passion for freedom, democracy and openness stemmed from the knowledge of how easily these are lost.

Michael Steinberg, a professor of history at Brown University and the former president of the American Academy in Berlin, wrote to me this week:

“The American catastrophe seems to get worse every day, but the events in Portland have particularly alarmed me as a kind of strategic experiment for fascism. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place, including rogue military factions, the destabilization of cities, etc.”

Steinberg continued, “The basic comparison involves racism as a political strategy: a racist imaginary of a pure homeland, with cities demonized as places of decadence.”

Trump provokes outrage in a cascade designed to blunt alarm. He deadens reactions through volume and repetition. But something about the recent use of unmarked cars and camouflage-clad federal agents without clear identifying insignia detaining protesters shattered any inclination to shrug.

From the deployment of those federal units in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, where protesters have been demanding racial justice and police accountability, it’s not a huge leap to the use of paramilitaries (like the German Freikorps in the 1920s) to buttress a “Law and Order” campaign. The Freikorps battled communists. Today, Trump claims to battle “anarchists,” “terrorists” and violent leftists. It’s the leitmotif of his quest for a second term.    . . . “

Opinion | Why Can’t Trump’s America Be Like Italy? – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Another wonderful week. I cope with the joys and sorrows of this Covid/Recession/BlackLivesMatter era by reading and writing about it, focused on the New York Times. Often what speaks to my heart, has helped unmuddle my brain.

Just going back to last Friday, Paul Krugman wrote, Why Can’t Trumps America Be Like Italy.

It is so rude it is delicious. It ends,

“. . . In particular, tens of millions of workers are about to lose crucial unemployment benefits, and Republicans haven’t even settled on a bad response. On Wednesday Senate Republicans floated the idea of reducing supplemental benefits from $600 a week to just $100, which would spell disaster for many families.

For someone like Trump, all this must be humiliating — or would be if anyone dared tell him about it. After three and a half years of Making America Great Again, we’ve become a pathetic figure on the world stage, a cautionary tale about pride going before a fall.

These days Americans can only envy Italy’s success in weathering the coronavirus, its rapid return to a kind of normalcy that is a distant dream in a nation that used to congratulate itself for its can-do culture. Italy is often referred to as “the sick man of Europe”; what does that make us?”