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Trump’s megalomania and Boris Johnson’s incompetence have increased the coronavirus death toll

The US and UK are the nation states that have performed worst in the world in coping with the coronavirus pandemic. Americans and Britons make up more than a third of the 300,000 people worldwide who have died from Covid-19. They have paid the ultimate price for their governments’ slow and incompetent response to the spread of the disease.

Both countries have obvious points in common that explain their excess fatalities: Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are nativist demagogues skilled in winning elections, but not in coping with real crises as opposed to the ones they invent or exaggerate. Their critics had long predicted disaster if either man became national leader and this has finally happened.

I had thought that Trump and later Johnson were safer than they looked so long as they avoided real crises. I was thinking primarily of wars, probably in the Middle East, in the case of Trump. But for all his verbal belligerence towards Iran, he has stopped just short of a full-scale military conflict over the last three years.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-boris-johnson-coronavirus-death-toll-a9517321.html

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2020 in Europe, North America

 

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Young Britons have been hit hard. We owe them a future they can believe in

It’s time the young got a break. Already, those who left education to enter the workforce after the financial crisis of 2008 have had their lives scarred. If you get unlucky and enter work in bad economic times, it will shadow your entire life.

Thus the 2008-11 “crisis cohort”, as the Resolution Foundation calls them, have suffered measurably lower wages, fewer career opportunities and more insecure work than their predecessors. And now Covid-19 is creating a “super-crisis cohort” about to experience the same effect, only worse. Unless government, business and society collectively act, what lies ahead will be unfairness heaped upon unfairness.

Last week, it became obvious just how profound the impact is going to be. What caught the headlines was the Office for Budget Responsibility’s scenario of a possible fall in GDP of 35% over the next three months with a rise in unemployment of two million. But it optimistically assumed that an exit strategy would allow a rapid economic recovery. Without vaccines and extensive capacity to mass test and contact-trace, there is no prospect of an early and swift bounce-back – just a gradual, trial-and-error, partial easing of the lockdown. And, sorry to mention it, but the self-defeating Brexit at a time of collapsing world trade is going to make matters worse.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/19/young-britons-have-been-hit-hard-we-owe-them-a-future-they-can-believe-in

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2020 in Europe

 

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Coronavirus has exposed the myth of British exceptionalism

There is now the terrible possibility that Britain may match or even overtake Italy and Spain as the country in Europe that suffers most from the coronavirus pandemic. This tragedy has a political, as well as a biological, epidemiology. Those seeking to trace its path may look back on a telling moment – paradoxically the one at which the government finally changed course and fell into line with most of the rest of Europe. On 20 March, Boris Johnson announced the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Even as he did so, however, he made it clear that this decision was an assault on the national character.

“We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go the pub,” he said. “And I can understand how people feel about that.” Lest his anguish be in any doubt, he underscored the point: “To repeat, I know how difficult this is, how it seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people.” The message was – what exactly? You must not go to the pub but your right to do so is “inalienable” (which is to say absolute and irrevocable). You must stay at home but, if you so do, you will be a disgrace to your freedom-loving ancestors.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/11/coronavirus-exposed-myth-british-exceptionalism

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2020 in Europe

 

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The chaotic government response to coronavirus is closer to the failures of 1914 than 1940

Government leaders everywhere are calling for their people to wage war against the coronavirus outbreak, recalling past victories in an effort to boost public morale. In Britain, politicians cite the Second World War as a suitable example of determined and successful resistance to a terrifying enemy.

Yet the faltering response of the British authorities to the Covid-19 pandemic so far is much closer to the failures of 1914 than anything that happened in 1940. The parallels are striking between the crisis today and the one that exploded on the world just over a hundred years ago. Then as now there was poor leadership – inadequately prepared and hampered by an initially mistaken strategy – sending frontline forces over the top to suffer massive losses. The difference is that then the casualties were in the British army and today they are in the NHS.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-uk-deaths-nhs-war-matt-hancock-boris-johnson-a9446481.html

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2020 in Europe

 

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Society can come together to deal with coronavirus but we need help

“I have delivered food parcels to four families this morning,” says Paula Spencer, who runs the community centre in Thanington, a deprived district on the outskirts of Canterbury. Two of the families had called for help because they had symptoms of the coronavirus, and two simply needed food to eat.

There are no signs of panic buying in Thanington, which has a population of about 2,700 and a Morrisons supermarket not far away. However, Nick Eden Green, a Lib Dem councillor for this part of Canterbury, says that the restraint is not due to people being unworried by shortages but because many “do not have the money for a bulk buy and, even if they did, they do not own cars in which to take away mass purchases”.

I spoke to Spencer by phone on Thursday afternoon and she was already sounding fairly desperate. She said that the problem is that food banks in Canterbury, on which many in Thanington have come to rely, are dependent on volunteers who tend to be older people or pensioners – because of their high vulnerability to the coronavirus, and in compliance with government advice, many of them have gone home.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-boris-johnson-nhs-food-banks-jobs-austerity-a9414606.html

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2020 in Europe, Uncategorized

 

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Let’s stop pretending people with serious psychosis can fully independent, and give them the support they need

On 30 March last year, a man suffering from severe mental illness walked out of his flat in north London and stabbed a woman in the back with a knife, inflicting injuries that left her paralysed for life. She was a complete stranger to him, as were the four other people whom he met by chance in the street over the next three days and stabbed in the back.

Jason Kakaire, 30, had a long history of psychotic illness. He had once been in sheltered accommodation, but that had closed because of a lack of money. At the time of the attacks, he was living in a seventh-floor flat in a run-down tower block in Edmonton, where he was visited once a month by a mental health team that gave him his medication.

He later told psychiatrists that he suffered from hallucinations and heard voices in his head that told him to kill himself. In the days before he began stabbing strangers, these voices became more threatening, telling him that they were going to kill him. He said that he felt that “he needed to go out and kill people to prevent himself from being killed”.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jason-kakaire-psychosis-stabbing-mental-health-hearing-voices-a9383726.html

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2020 in Europe, Uncategorized

 

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Brexit’s Stealthy Rationality

At pivotal historical moments, rational political ruptures often are brought about for all the wrong reasons. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit may prove to be a case in point.

When US President Richard Nixon ditched the Bretton Woods system in August 1971, his reasons were shortsighted. Overwhelmed by domestic pressures to impose ineffective price controls and placate his blue-collar supporters, Nixon took his eye off the larger picture. Still, he was following a sound instinct: historical forces had ruled against the sustainability of that remarkable post-war global monetary system. Once America went from being a net global creditor to being a debtor economy in sustained deficit to the rest of the capitalist world, Bretton Woods was condemned to extinction, because the Federal Reserve could no longer guarantee a fixed exchange rate with the Deutsche Mark, yen, franc, and so on.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/brexit-inevitable-like-1971-nixon-shock-by-yanis-varoufakis-2020-02

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in Europe

 

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I shot a deer – and I still believe it was the ethical thing to do

It was a protest against me. But I sympathised with the demonstrators, who gathered outside the theatre where I was speaking last week to call me a killer. I didn’t dispute their claim. I am a killer.

While making Apocalypse Cow, a film for Channel 4 about how we should feed ourselves without destroying the world, I shot a deer. If it helps (though it didn’t help the deer), I hated every minute of it, from picking up the rifle and learning to use it, to finding and stalking the innocent animal, then shooting it through the chest from 180 metres, watching it rear into the air, stumble, spasm and die. It was a gruesome, horrible experience.

I was seeking to demonstrate the realities of ecological restoration. If, I reasoned, we believe something is right, we should be prepared to do it ourselves. But do we really have the right to take another life?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/19/wildlife-killing-deer-diversity-resources-environment

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in Europe

 

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Independence Day will expose Brexit as a ruse to free an imaginary nation

We know what the week running up to the glorious day of Brexit is supposed to be like. A few nights before the original chosen date of 29 March 2019, Boris Johnson was “in conversation” with his old boss at the Telegraph, Charles Moore, at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. Johnson was out of office then, and free to indulge himself without constraint.

He told the audience that this “was meant to be the week when church bells were rung, coins struck, stamps issued and bonfires lit to send beacons of freedom from hilltop to hilltop. This was the Friday when Charles Moore’s retainers were meant to be weaving through the moonlit lanes of Sussex, half blind with scrumpy, singing Brexit shanties at the tops of their voices and beating the hedgerows with staves.” Moore replied that Johnson was right, “but in fact I had already stood these good people down, since I could see what was coming”.

This was incestuous Old Etonian/Old Telegraphian joshing, though if anyone on the Remain side of the argument had characterised Leave supporters, even in jest, as drunken yokels, there would have been no end to the outrage. But it is telling nonetheless. It points to one of the great underlying difficulties of Brexit’s Independence Day. It poses as a moment of national liberation, a people freeing itself from the oppression of an alien empire. But what “people” are being liberated?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/26/independence-day-will-expose-brexit-as-ruse-to-free-an-imaginary-nation

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2020 in Europe

 

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We live in a disintegrating world – and that only makes it a more dangerous place

My favourite slogan about Brexit over the past three years is written in large white letters on a red gable wall in the Tigers Bay district of Belfast. It was painted before the referendum of 2016 and, below a union flag, reads: “Vote Leave EU. Rev 18:4.”

The biblical reference is to a verse in the Book of Revelations that reads: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

These seemed to me, when I first saw a picture of the mural, to be compelling reasons for leaving the EU and about as truthful as many other reasons advanced by those in favour of doing so. The verse cited is, in fact, more pertinent to the issue of resisting a large and oppressive international organisation than the muralist may have realised. Revelations is filled with mysterious references to monsters, such as the “beast from the land” and the “beast from the sea” who has “seven heads and 10 horns”. But experts consider these weird creatures to be coded hostile references to the Roman Empire and to Roman Emperors who were persecuting the early Christians, of whom the author of Revelations was one, in Asia Minor at the end of the first century AD.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-leave-eu-trump-scotland-ireland-a9312016.html

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2020 in Europe

 

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