Back in 2013—an age ago, the calm before the storm— José Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, gave a speech launching a new project. This was before the refugee crisis, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before the British voted to leave the European Union, before the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, London, and Barcelona.
Few countries have ever been so closely associated with a single politician as Burma, whose public “face,” for many decades, was the brave and brilliant dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. I remember her appearance — via a prerecorded videocassette, smuggled out of the country — at the international women’s conference in Beijing in 1995. Aung San Suu Kyi had just been released from house arrest, but her speech was not about Burma, also known as Myanmar. Instead she used language designed to appeal to a surreally diverse audience, ranging from Indian activists and German feminists to Saudi women in abayas. Continue reading “Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from the pedestal is an old story”
Yes, it looks like a foregone conclusion. Chancellor Angela Merkel, the center-right candidate (with an emphasis on center) is comfortably ahead in the polls with 8 days to go in one of the most boring German elections anybody can remember. And no wonder: Merkel leads a country that hasn’t been this relatively rich or relatively powerful in many decades. Unemployment is low. The budget is in surplus. Germany is the undisputed leader of the euro zone, the club of countries that use the European currency. Continue reading “Merkel can’t ignore the far-right echo chamber”
It is a rare opportunity. Seldom does the voting public have the chance to watch their elected politicians confront very specific false promises in real time. Usually campaign promises are either too vague to be contrasted with reality (“Make America Great Again”) or too long term. By the time that “guaranteed growth” either arrives or doesn’t, the person who said it would happen is long out of office.
We now know the motives. In backing Donald Trump, Russia’s oligarchical class sought not only to disrupt U.S. politics but also to reverse sanctions, both those applied in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and those connected to the Magnitsky Act, which targeted officials involved in human rights violations. In seeking Russian support, Trump sought not only to become president but also to make money: Even as he launched his presidential campaign, he hoped to receive a major influx of money from a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.
I am thousands of miles away, but I still turned to Chron.com , a website of the Houston Chronicle, to figure out what was going on in Texas this week. A widely shared video showing water pouring into the studio of KHOU, a Houston television station, was the first clue I had to the severity of the flooding. Even from afar, it was clear that local journalists were leading the effort to inform people on the ground, explaining how to get rescued, where to go and what to do. What if they hadn’t been there?
I was in Warsaw on Nov. 17, 1989, the day that the city decided to take down its statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky. Given that Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat and dedicated Bolshevik, was best known as the founder of the organization that became the Soviet KGB, and given that hundreds of thousands of Poles were murdered or deported by the Soviet KGB, this was a popular decision. Crowds converged on the scene and cheered loudly as a crane removed the figure from its base.
They did as much damage as they could do with knives and rented vans. They killed at least 15 people. They injured dozens of others — many of them tourists who were visiting one of the liveliest and crowded streets in Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. But they failed to do anything more than that.
The truly shocking thing, looking back at what has been written and said since the events in Charlottesville, is that anybody is shocked. Donald Trump’s first appearance on the front page of the New York Times was in 1973, when President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department sued his family’s real estate company for discriminating against black would-be tenants. In the 4½ decades since, he has used racial smears and stereotypes — Mexican rapists, sly Jews, lazy blacks — over and over again, in public, including during last year’s election campaign.
Imagine a 3-year-old sitting in a parked car. Think of all the things she can do! Flip the switches. Turn on the lights. Turn on the windshield wipers. Turn on the radio. Everything, in fact — except make the car take her somewhere. For that she needs gas in the tank, legs long enough to reach the accelerator and above all to know how to drive.