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Category Archives: Europe

For those who want to stop no deal, Jeremy Corbyn is the only hope

Departing Tory leaders have developed an odd and presumptuous habit of demanding that the leader of the opposition resign too. “As a party leader who has accepted when her time was up,” Theresa May told Jeremy Corbyn in her final prime minister’s questions, preparing to leave her party to Boris Johnson and the country without a prayer, “perhaps the time has come for him to do the same.”

In 2016, David Cameron – who had called a referendum lost it, only to then break his promise and abandon the country in a moment of self-inflicted crisis – suggested Corbyn’s resignation would be a patriotic act. “It might be in my party’s interest for him to sit there. It’s not in the national interest. I would say, for heaven’s sake, man, go.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/04/jeremy-corbyn-mps-labour-leader-legitimacy

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Posted by on October 4, 2019 in Europe

 

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The Guardian view on Boris Johnson: guilty but he won’t go

The cabinet manual’s rule that the Queen “should not be drawn into party politics” has been broken by Boris Johnson. It was his decision, as prime minister, to advise the monarch to issue an order in council to prorogue parliament for five weeks. That order was declared “unlawful, void and of no effect” by all 11 justices of the highest court in the land in the most significant constitutional judgment in modern times. The government’s decision to disregard convention was taken to evade scrutiny by MPs at a moment of constitutional and political crisis. The Commons will now reconvene. A prime minister found to have acted unlawfully in this manner should not stay in office.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/24/the-guardian-view-on-boris-johnson-guilty-but-he-wont-go

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2019 in Europe

 

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Will Russia Be Driven From the West?

Two years ago, I asked, “Will Russia Leave the West?” The world’s largest territorial country—sprawling from its major European city St. Petersburg to its vast Far Eastern territories and long border with China—Russia cannot, of course, depart the West geographically. But it can do so politically, economically, and strategically. Indeed, where Russia belongs, where it should seek its identity, security, and future—in the East or in the West—has divided the nation’s policy-makers and intellectual elites for centuries.

https://www.thenation.com/article/will-russia-be-driven-from-the-west/

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in Europe

 

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On a Russian outpost in the Pacific, fear and fantasies of a Japanese future

Sergey Starzhinsky figures that his first taste of nearby Japan was a fruit-flavored lollipop that washed up on the beach in the 1970s.

These days, when sailors take his son-in-law’s sea urchins across the strait to Hokkaido, Starzhinsky has them pick up a large order of sushi before they head back.

An Asian Iron Curtain lingers on the edge of the Pacific, eight time zones and 4,500 miles from Moscow. In Russia’s ever-broadening quest for influence under President Vladi­mir Putin, this Cold War-era outpost is emerging as a pivotal piece on the Kremlin’s global chessboard.

Japan has long claimed that Russia illegally occupies Kunashir and a handful of other nearby islands on the southern end of the Kuril archipelago, which threads the sea between mainland Russia and northern Japan. Seen from Kunashir, the snow-sheathed mountains of northern Japan tower on the horizon, but there’s no regular passenger service to connect the two worlds.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/05/10/russian-outpost-pacific-fear-fantasies-japanese-future/?noredirect=on

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Asia, Europe, Uncategorized

 

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Russian Youth Stand Up to the State

On a recent, pleasantly warm Tuesday evening in Moscow, a group of people was standing in front of the Basmanny District Court, and the young faces were smiling happily. The day had turned out to be a good one after all, at least for the friends of Yegor Zhukov.

Just a short time before, the political science student had been sitting inside a cage in the courtroom. He was just coming off a month of pretrial detention and was facing the possibility of an eight-year prison sentence due to alleged participation in “mass unrest.” The term “mass unrest” is a formula used by the Russian judiciary to describe the Moscow protests held to demand free and fair elections on September 8 for the Moscow city parliament. Zhukov had taken part in those protests.

On that Tuesday evening, though, the judge issued a surprise ruling releasing Zhukov from pretrial detention in favor of house arrest, while investigators announced that he was only being charged with “extremism,” a violation that carried a maximum sentence of just five years instead of eight. It was a perfect illustration of where Russia finds itself in late summer 2019: It has become a place where opposition activists breathe a sigh of relief when one absurd accusation is replaced by another.

https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/fearless-generation-in-russia-stands-up-to-the-kremlin-a-1285954.html

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in Europe

 

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Conservative Revolt Against Boris Johnson Exposes Republicans’ Complicity in the Cult of Trump

“Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, brothers in chaos,” read a headline in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.

Chaos, indeed. The two right-wing soul mates seem to be competing with one another to see who can do more damage to the political, economic, and social fabric of their respective countries. The American president and British prime minister have chaos in common, which, as I pointed out a year ago, is not a bug of their rule; it is a feature.

And so it continues. “On Tuesday, Parliament voted, 328 to 301, to seize control so it could debate a bill that would attempt to prevent the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union without a plan in place on October 31,” Vox explained. “The vote was greeted with cheers, and cries of ‘not a good start, Boris!’”

In the space of a few hours, the new British prime minister lost his first-ever vote in the House of Commons and his parliamentary majority too.

Like Trump, Johnson likes to make grandiose and populist pledges — but then fails to deliver on them. His demagoguery is perhaps matched only by his incompetence. Is it any wonder then that the comparisons between the U.K. premier and the U.S. president have come thick and fast — including, on occasion, from the two leaders themselves?

https://theintercept.com/2019/09/04/boris-johnson-brexit-trump/

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe

 

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For the first time in my life, I’m frightened to be Jewish

I am 58 years old, and for the first time in my life, I am frightened to be Jewish.

We live in a time when racism is being normalized, when Nazis parade in the streets in Europe and America; Jew baiters like Hungary’s Orban are treated as respectable players on the international scene, “white nationalist” propagandist Steve Bannon can openly coordinate scare-mongering tactics with Boris Johnson in London at the same time as in Pittsburg, murderers deluded by white nationalist propaganda are literally mowing Jews down with automatic weapons. How is it, then, that our political class has come to a consensus that the greatest threat to Britain’s Jewish community is a lifelong anti-racist accused of not being assiduous enough in disciplining party members who make offensive comments on the internet?

For almost all my Jewish friends, this is what is currently creating the greatest and most immediate sense of trepidation, even more than the actual Nazis: the apparently endless campaign by politicians like Margaret Hodge, Wes Streeting, and Tom Watson to weaponize antisemitism accusations against the current leadership of the Labour party. It is a campaign – which however it started, has been sustained primarily by people who are not themselves Jewish – so cynical and irresponsible that I genuinely believe it to be a form of antisemitism in itself. And it is a clear and present danger to Jewish people.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/first-time-my-life-im-frightened-be-jewish/

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe, Uncategorized

 

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Britain’s Enemy of the People?

The idea that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a man of the people, a tribune of the common man fighting the established elites, might seem anomalous, even outright bizarre. After all, Johnson is a perfect example of the English elite: educated at Eton and Oxford, and possessed of all the exaggerated mannerisms, in speech and demeanor, of the British upper class. As a journalist and Member of Parliament, he has been mischievous and frequently dishonest, but always a committed voice of the Conservative establishment.And yet, here he is, pretending to represent “the voice of the people” against the voices in Parliament, which, from left to right, oppose his hardline approach to Britain’s divorce from the European Union. It has been a feature of the Brexit campaign to paint all who oppose an abrupt and complete withdrawal from the EU as enemies of the people. Since the people spoke in the 2016 referendum, any attempt to soften Brexit’s negative consequences by compromising with the EU, or postponing the break, is portrayed as an assault on the people’s will.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/boris-johnson-enemy-of-the-people-by-ian-buruma-2019-09

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe

 

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Boris Johnson’s coup is eerily reminiscent of Erdogan’s behaviour in Turkey

Britain is experiencing a slow-moving coup d’etat in which a right-wing government progressively closes down or marginalises effective opposition to its rule. It concentrates power in its own hands by stifling parliament, denouncing its opponents as traitors to the nation, displacing critics in its own ranks, and purging non-partisan civil servants.

Some describe this as “a very British coup”, which gives the operation a warmer and fuzzier feeling than it deserves. It is, in fact, distinctly “un-British” in the sense that the coup makers ignore or manipulate the traditional unwritten rules of British politics over the past 400 years whereby no single faction or institution monopolises authority.

What we are seeing has nothing to do with the British past but a very modern coup in which a demagogic nationalist populist authoritarian leader vaults into power through quasi-democratic means and makes sure that he cannot be removed.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/boris-johnson-prorogation-parliament-erdogan-democracy-turkey-a9086011.html

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe, Middle East

 

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Welcome to the United Kingdom of Absurdistan

There are two things we know about revolutions. One is that they get more radical as they go along. The revolutionaries start out demanding specific reforms and end up imagining that they are inaugurating a whole new world. The other is that revolutions expose the great cracks in the ancien regime that should have been obvious all along. In retrospect, after the upheaval, it is clear that the old system was doomed by its own failure to manage necessary change.

Brexit is a very strange kind of revolution – the heroic overthrow of imaginary oppression, in which tragedy and farce are not sequential but simultaneous and deeply interwoven. But it is a revolution nonetheless, and it is conforming to these patterns. A goal that was unutterable in 2016 – the Year Zero of No Deal – is now mainstream policy. And the ancien regime of the Westminster system is having all its delusions mercilessly exposed by, of all places, Italy.

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-welcome-to-the-united-kingdom-of-absurdistan-1.4005396

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe

 

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