Monday, September 28, 2015

Good-bye Pope Francis: Don’t Forget to Write!

Fox News followed the Pope all the way to the Philadelphia airport, where Joe Biden and a couple of hundred other people had come to say good-bye, so the Pope had another chance to tell us the things that we don’t hear from our secular leaders.  It was dark by the time he left for Rome, his white robe spotlighted in the door of the plane.
It will take us some time to recover from these tumultuous days, in which it seemed the Pope’s gentle figure was everywhere.  But what we will miss most of all is his tone of voice, whether in his native Spanish or his halting, sometimes bizarrely pronounced English, so different from hammered political messages.

As Bernie Sanders publishes a foreign policy platform that dares not confront any of its sacred bulls, and President Obama prepares to meet with President Putin for the first time in several years, with Europe knowing it has only passed the first hurdle in finding homes for 120,000 refugees, we can only hope he doesn’t forget us - and that our leaders always remember his message.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Francismania: It’s Not About Religion

Of course, everything is bigger, bolder and louder in New York than in other American cities, but even discounting that caveat, it’s clear that the public’s reaction to the presence of Pope Francis has little to do with religion and much to do with the sense of danger that emanates from every radio, television and news-paper, danger which is only heightened by the current presidential debates that reveal a shocking lack of knowledge about the world the United States feels entitled to lead.
Fear pervades the modern world: fear of war, climate change, terrorism - and even death by natural causes. Neither the glitz and glimmer of entertainment and advertising nor the wonders of medical science can assuage those fears, which are constantly reinforced by the media. It is said of Pope Francis that his stunning appeal lies in the genuine quality of his warmth, his spontaneity and disdain of formality, as evidenced by the embrace with Cardinal Dolan in St. Patrick’s Cathedral - that of two old friends.
The Pope’s charisma is experienced as a life-saver, a desperate haven from the terrors of the modern world, the suggestion that perhaps we are not doomed, that we can step back from the brink. From the abyss we face on all sides: whether it is the threat of a nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine; the ravage of Syria, or the flood of refugees - hundreds of thousands - into Europe.  Suddenly, that little peninsula whose inhabitants never cease to haggle amongst themselves about perceived slights and injustices, is no longer a place to which tourists flock, but is struggling to welcome the wretched of the earth, heretofore seen only on the nightly news.
The word that most easily comes to mind with respect to the American public’s attitude toward Francis is ‘irrational’: as if the Pope’s deliberately modest car -  a Fiat 500 - were a white horse, arriving just in the nick of time come save us from a dire fate.
Francismania is not about religion, but it is about the same desperate, irrational hope that religion raises.  It is no doubt too much to hope that a sentiment felt round the world would inspire leaders to come together for the common good.  The only other possibility is that individuals may be inspired to come together, acting in their place.  

Frances or Donald? (September 23, 2015)

I’ve been an agnostic since the age of ten, eventually persuaded by modern physics to declare myself an atheist; but the election of Pope Francis commanded my attention - as did that of John XXIII in the seventies. (In fact, I see Francis as taking John’s papacy much further, after interim Popes failed to do so.)
Today I found myself watching the Pope’s first American mass in Washington, noting how tired he seemed after a long day of set pieces interspersed with rides in the Popemobile through adoring crowds. I’m really not one for religious ceremonies of any stripe, but for some reason, this spectacle had me riveted. After about an hour I began to realize why: the dignity and solemnity of the ritual implicitly showed up the vulgarity and ugliness that emanates from the Republican front runner, Donald Trump who has been so much on our screens of late.

The United States is at a crossroads: to the right is the Donald, who disparages and threatens, showing off his ignorance, to the left is Francis, who exudes warmth and optimism, and asks is to save each other and the planet.

The Little Continent that Couldn’t - Part II

For Americans used to referring to other countries as simply ‘over there’, the genesis of the European Union is hazy at best. Most probably think it came into being with the flash of a magic wand, like the UN or the Atlantic Alliance.  
But that’s far from the truth: impressed by the repeated carnage of World War I and II (the former led to the slogan “Never again!”), in 1951, France and Germany put an end to nearly a century of strife by uniting around coal and steel, whose production was centered in the oft-disputed Ruhr Valley. They were joined by Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in the European Coal and Steel Community. After a successful six year run, this first integrated organization led to the formation of the European Economic Community, in 1957. Denmark, Ireland, Norway and, after some back and forth the United Kingdom were added in the 1960s.
Between the late sixties and the nineties, the leaders of Western Europe dithered over how far the take their union, mainly whether an economic treaty should be accompanied by some form of political union. Many prominent political figures campaigned for a federal Europe, but they remained a minority.  At last, the Treaty of Maastricht was signed in 1992, giving the European Parliament more power, and paving the way for the adoption of a single currency, the Euro, in 2000. 
The most impactful event in the Union’s history was undoubtedly the admission of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. East Germany was absorbed into the German Republic in October, 1990, just one year later, but it was not until 2004 that the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia were allowed to join. Of these, to date, only Slovakia is also a member of the Euro zone.
The primary aim of the European project being to avoid war among its members, it has, from the beginning, been secular, its Charter of Fundamental Rights including every conceivable human right, as exemplified in the following articles:
<blockquote> Article 18
Right to asylum
The right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community.
Article 19
Protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition
1. Collective expulsions are prohibited.
2. No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 41
Right to good administration
1. Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union.
2. ō¸°‚This right includes:
The right of every person to be heard, before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken; to have access to his or her file, while respecting the legitimate interests of confidentiality and of professional and business secrecy; the obligation of the administration to give reasons for its decisions.
3.  Every person has the right to have the community make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties, in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States.
4. Every person may write to the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Treaties and must have an answer in the same language.</blockquote>
Some of these articles may seem a bit quaint to Americans, but they were inspired by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. Both the French President, Francois Hollande, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel have leaned heavily on this foundational document to justify their decision to welcome thousands of refugees flooding into Europe from war-torn Africa and the Middle East.  With an unemployment rate of less than 5% (signaling full employment), Germany is known to need workers, while France faces over 10% without jobs. Yet both countries feel compelled to welcome similarly large numbers of migrants in the name of the European Union’s basic commitment to solidarity.
It is this commitment that has been revealed as wanting in the countries of Eastern Europe: following upon four decades of socialist rule as part of the Soviet bloc, its ‘democratic’ governments have tended to be more often right-wing than those of Western Europe.  The NYTimes published an excellent analysis of the situation
Most worrying, some of the countries of the ex-Yugoslavia are squabbling among themselves and with Hungary, with whom they share borders, over who is being most inconvenienced by the throng of immigrants pressing onward toward Germany from Greece, reviving ancient enmities.
As someone who lived mainly in Europe starting in the nineteen fifties, I witnessed the arduous work that has gone into the construction of the European Union, year after year, decade after decade, by a political class, whether from the right or the left, that was basically committed to the idea of a peaceful continent. 
The inability of Europe’s leaders of both east and west to agree on policies vis a vis Muslim immigrants is partly due to the fact that Europe’s humanitarian values are opposed an increasingly violent right wing. France’s National Front was founded in 1972 by a former intelligence officer in the war against Algerian independence, whose allies, according to Wikipedia, were “former nostalgics of Vichy France, neo-Nazi pagans, Traditionalist Catholics, and others,”  Although his daughter, Marine Le Pen has been largely successful in steering the populist party away from open fascism, thereby recruiting many disaffected Communists, it has right wing allies in every other European country and in the European parliament. 
The growing presence of Muslim immigrants in Europe since the fifties has helped relatively small neo-fascist parties grow. Now, as thousands of Muslims surge into Europe, these parties can only be emboldened by the presence in  Ukraine, on Europe’s eastern border, of well-trained fascist militias that helped overthrow that country’s democratically elected government last year and if anything have grown more powerful since then. This  reality implies that the danger facing Europe is not limited to the presence of Muslim immigrants.

Europe’s Tragicomic Destiny: The Little Continent that Couldn’t

Not even the most imaginative Hollywood writers could have come up with such an unlikely scenario: the world’s second largest economy, a political entity grouping nearly thirty countries, and hosting forty military bases replete with the most modern weapons, is rendered helpless by leaderless, weaponless civilians arriving in dinghies, and proceeding to overrun it on foot with the help of apps and maps. 
How did this happen?  After World War II, instead of helping the multifarious nations jammed together on the small Eurasian peninsula to overcome their historical enmities, the US kept them in a constant state of alert vis a vis a more powerful neighbor, whose worldview clashes with its own. Washington’s systematic message to Europe has been: “We rescued you twice in one century from your own follies, now do as we tell you, so no country can threaten the most powerful nation on earth that protects you.”
Having allowed itself to be convinced that sooner or later Soviet tanks would roll across their Central plain, the Western Europeans allowed every conceivable type of materiel, together with the personnel to operate it and the superstructures to command them, to violate their sovereignty. After the unexpected fall of the Soviet Union, the nations of Eastern Europe all the more enthusiastically joined the master plan to defeat a Russian invasion that they had lived unwillingly within the giant’s orbit. 
After World War II, Europe had served first as an active client for US civilian goods, then as a passive client for war goods. But once the Communist behemoth was brought down, Wall St and the boardrooms of industry having realized that war guarantee ever-increasing profits, the US had to find another enemy: it first designated Russia, then Muslim jihadists. 
Although subordinated to the United States, post-war Western Europe gradually put together an economic and social system that allowed entrepreneurs a relatively free hand while protecting workers. When they could no longer keep the populations of their colonial empires at bay, they emancipated them, realizing they could be useful as low paid labor. The populations of France and Germany soon counted up to ten percent of Muslims, while other Western countries count between 2% and 5%.
Eventually Europeans embraced free movement across their national borders, codified in the Schengen Agreement: only its borders with the outside world were closed. However, the countries of the West having failed to realize that those of the East had only been paying lip service to socialism’s ethos of solidarity, those open borders now make the task of dealing with a massive influx of refugees almost impossible. Having not only been isolated from the West but having played no role in either profiting from or attacking the Muslim world, as relatively homogeneous white, Christian countries, Europe’s eastern countries claim they should not be expected to welcome its populations as refugees. No longer members of a group of ‘fraternal nations’, they enthusiastically participate in the common ‘European House’ as Gorbachev called it, with Polish plumbers job hunting in Great Britain, and Bulgarian prostitutes gracing the Riviera.  But they have abandoned all pretense of solidarity, returning to the mentality that prevailed during their feudal past, when they cooperated with Nazi Germany.
 Hungary has emerged as the prime example of resurgence. It pepper sprays immigrants breaching its fence with Serbia before arresting them, provoking a violent reaction and forcing Serbia to build its own fences, while Germany, determined to fulfill its humanitarian mandate, temporarily closes its border with Austria in order to catch up with processing. 
The headquarters of the European Union in Brussels has been criticized for decades for wanting to regulate everything, but perhaps more ominously, its power has left individual head of state powerless. The EU’s young, energetic High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, sternly demanded each country take a fair share of refugees, but has obtained only monetary relief for Italy and Greece, where those crossing from Turkey and North Africa debark. The French interior Minister tries to reassure parliament that he is doing everything he can to alleviate the situation, although he has prevented thousands camped in Calais from reaching Great Britain, and refused to allow refugees through France’s Mediterranean border with Italy.
Neither France’s vaunted ‘rayonnement’, nor Germany’s passion for order are any longer operative: thousands of able-bodied young men, together with a few women and children, are traipsing through what for decades had been carefully tended roads, fields and woods, leaving pup tents and trash behind, determined to secure the perks of development denied them when they were the handmaidens of Europe’s pleasures. 
This unexpected, yet predictable situation is the direct result of Europe's supine acquiescence to worldwide American aggression, which, in a supreme irony, has resulted its constituent countries once again turning against each other, revealing in almost farcical manner the impossibility of the European dream, in particular the success of the East/West reunification.
Not to mention that inevitably among genuine refugees from the horrors of war, and those who are merely pursuing easy money and fast cars, are foot-soldiers ready to pave the way for ISIS to brutally conquer Europe for 7th century Islam, rather than allowing it to gradually move toward a 21st century iteration that would echo Marx and Pope Francis.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Is the Idea of Europe Doomed?

On September 11, 1989, the Hungarian socialist government, still under Soviet control,  opened its border with Austria, allowing thousands of Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans to cross the famous Iron Curtain into the West. That unprecedented action was later officially recognized by Germany as creating the conditions that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, two months later, on November 9th, 1989.
In September, 2015, Hungary’s right-wing government held thousands of mostly Muslim refugees prisoner in a train station for days, refusing to allow them to travel on to the countries of Western Europe where they wanted to settle. After Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared on television that this was not a European problem, but a German problem, since most refugees want to settle in Germany, the refugees, mainly hardy young men,  but also women carrying children, took to the main highway to Austria on foot, as ordinary citizens turned out to offer food and drink along the way. Facing a wave of opprobrium across the world, Orban finally ordered up busses to carry them to the Austrian frontier where they were taken in charge by the Austrian government.. 
To those of us who were adults when the Berlin Wall that separated the two halves of Europe came down, this spectacle could not be more poignant.  During the Cold War, Austria was a neutral country located geographically between the countries of the NATO Alliance and those of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, and it was this border with Hungary that Eastern Europeans sought desperately to cross.  This very same border that Hungary’s last socialist government opened in September, 1989.
It didn’t do Orban’s reputation any good to meet with the other members of the Visegrad Group, which had been founded in 1991, by Poland, Hungary, Czechslovakia and Slovakia, to “further their European integration as well as advancing military, economic and energy cooperation with one another,” and which has taken a firm stand against refugee quotas ordered by Brussels. (The four countries joined the European Union together in May of 2004, Czechoslovakia having split into the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993, and until recently, Poland has been the most vociferous in refusing to go along with certain European Union policies, most recently egging the community on in its clumsy attempt to woo Ukraine, which is on Poland’s border.) 
Europe hasn’t seen refugees taking trains by assault since the end of World War II, when concentration camps were liberated, and the cessation of hostilities under four-nation control (US, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union) allowed prisoners of war and displaced persons to return home. Today’s refugees are armed with cell phones with GPS and maps that allow them to choose the best routes to their destinations, whether through woods or along railroad tracks, and they have adopted the demonstration tactics of the Occupy era for the tv cameras.
For decades after World War II, the Eastern European countries under Soviet control wanted desperately to be considered just as civilized and sophisticated as the rest of Europe, feeling they were being unfairly prevented from joining ‘the West’,. They have now been part of Europe for twenty-five years, but the current crisis shows that while going full-throttle for modernity, they have not internalized the European Union’s humanitarian ethos.
The rules set up by the European Union for immigrants specify that they must request asylum in the first country in which they arrive.  Because neither Italy nor Greece can cope with the numbers, and following Hungary’s refusal to take on the task, knowing few would choose to settle there, the rules have been relaxed to allow refugees from Hungary to be processed either in Austria or in Germany. Tone-deaf to the impression they were making, the leaders of Slovakia and the Czech Republic went on television last week to declare that theirs were real countries, meaning countries with homogeneous populations, as opposed to those of Western Europe that have been receiving Muslim immigrants for decades. Unspoken was the fact that they are white, Christian countries: their people were frightened by the dark-skinned refugees. They boasted, as if it were a badge of honor, that they didn’t have a single mosque! 
When Hungary was criticized for erecting a fence on its border with Serbia to prevent incoming refugees, right-wing Prime Minister Orban shot back that France was doing the same thing at Calais, creating an existential rift in Europe’s first-ever period as a whole, peaceful continent. But Orban also declared out loud what I have been writing for several years: Muslim immigration will spell the end of (white, Christian) Europe. The Hungarian Prime Minister rejected ‘liberal’ democracy for what he called nonesensically ‘authoritarian democracy’. 
Orban’s declarations abet the transformation of Europe’s far-right parties from isolated extremist organizations to a continent-wide fascist movement, as suggested in today’s New York Times article by a former US ambassador to Hungary
Eastern Europe’s four hundred year domination by the Ottoman Empire is seen as the main reason for its former backwardness with respect to the West, and can partly explain its current failure to welcome Muslim refugees. But as Hungarian police use tear gas against those still trying to enter from non-EU Serbia, it is clear that a quarter of a century after reunification, and eighty years after the rise of Hitler, Europe, whose more than thirty nationalities are crowded into an area one-third the size of the United States, is still not a unified entity. 
The supreme irony is that although the US came to Europe’s rescue twice in the twentieth century, the crisis that once again pits Europeans against each other is the direct result of American policies in the Muslim world. During the Cold War, Western Europe was powerless to prevent NATO, which is dominated by the U.S., from maintaining military bases on its soil, under the pretext of a supposedly ever-imminent Soviet threat. But even after the reunification of Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Europe’s leaders - including those of its new, Eastern half, who tend to be passionately pro-American - mindlessly participated in NATO’s initiatives against the Arab world, failing to anticipate that populations fleeing that violence would gravitate to nearby Europe and its generous welfare system. (On the other hand, given Washington’s recent concerted assault on the European welfare state, perhaps the Middle East campaigns that forced thousands to burden Europe, are just one more tool in its arsenal.)
 In the unlikely event that the Visegrad countries were to lead the rest of the Eastern European countries toward a break with the West, they would inevitably be joined by Greece, that has been treated shamefully by the financial instances of the European Union, and then perhaps by the other economically challenged countries of Europe’s souther rim. But these countries would not be at a loss: they would be welcomed into the economic and security structure put in place across the Eurasian continent by Russia and China. (Skeptical readers should note that Great Britain, which refused to join the Euro, recently renewed its campaign to leave the Union itself when it realized the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement held a lot more promise.) 
The Islamization of Europe is inevitable. The only way it can survive as a united entity is by severing the ties that bind it to a United States intent on using the ANTO aAlliance to impose violent regime change across the Middle East. Europe’s historical right-wing anti-Semitism having been joined by Islamophobia, the alternative is a fascist takeover supported by the well-trained Neo-nazis whom the US allows to call the shots in Ukraine.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hegyeshalom 1989-2015

September 3, 2015
A few days ago I wrote about my personal experience with two European borders; the one between Hungary and Austria and the more familiar one between Italy and France, both of which are currently the scene of desperate attempts by African and Middle Eastern refugees to settle in Europe.
What I failed to say in that post was that on September 11, 1989, the Hungarian government, still under Soviet oversight,  opened its border with Austria, allowing hundreds of thousands of Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans to cross the famous Iron Curtain into the West.  In May, after Mikhail Gorbachev let it be known that he would not oppose such action, the Hungarian government began removing the fence along its border with Austria. This followed Gorbachev’s trip to East Germany, where the long-standing Honecker was beginning to lose control, giving him what I termed when I saw it on a news report, ‘a socialist kiss of death’. The Soviet Union would no longer support the leader of the most dictatorial Communist regime.
The opening of the Hungarian border in September, 1989, is recognized by Germany as a major political decision, that led-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th.
To understand why Hungary’s initiative marked the end of Soviet control over Eastern Europe, border you have to know that citizens of the East bloc countries could legally travel through that bloc with their ID’s. And every summer, thousands of them would go on vacation to the ‘Hungarian sea’, Lake Balaton. Over the course of that summer, news having travelled by word of mouth, of the opening of the Iron Curtain, thousands packed their vacation bags and crossed the border into Austria, and from there to other countries in the West.
Fast-forward to 2015, the leaders of the European Union failed to respond in a timely manner to the influx of African and Middle Eastern refugees, although they could see it growing from month to month for the last year or two, assuming that somehow, the Schengen Agreement that allowed Europeans to travel freely form one country to another without a passport would suffice.  Now they have realized that what has been a bonus for the European population, is a headache for European governments, as literally thousands of refugees cross the Mediterranean every day, either from North Africa or Turkey, landing in Europe after paying smugglers who often fail to ensure their safe arrival.
Geography has dictated that it is the countries of southern Europe - still the poorest after fifteen years of a common currency, the Euro - who receive most of the arrivals.  First it was Italy, now, increasingly, it is the Greek islands, some of which are only a few miles from the Turkish coast. These tourist destinations have few means to cope with thousands of refugees.  From Greece, recently, refugees have been moving on foot north through Macedonia, which is not a member of the European Union, and from there to Serbia, also not an EU member, and on to Hungary, which is.
EU rules state that refugees must allow themselves to be processed in the first European country in which they land, before they can proceed to other countries, where they may wish to settle. Hungary’s behavior, which has shocked the other European governments, is that since none of the refugees want to settle there - try learning to speak Hungarian! - most wanting to go to Germany or Great Britain, it is being unduly burdened by their arrival. A few weeks ago, the populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided to build a barb-wire fence along his border with Serbia.  That having stopped no one, he next prevented refugees who had bought train tickets to Germany from boarding trains in Budapest.  For several days they have been camping inside and outside the East Station, and today, according to RT, some were allowed to board a train which they thought would take them to Vienna.   Suddenly, however, they were off-loaded at a refugee camp, where women and children lay on the tracks screaming ‘No camp!’  (At least there were no SS officers with dogs!)
While this was going on, European Prime Ministers met to discuss the refugee problem. Prime Minister Orban claimed that since most refugees want to go to Germany, it is a German problem. Last year at this time, the German government officially thanked the Hungarian government for opening its border with the west twenty-five years ago.  Today the German Martin Schulz, who is President of the European Parliament did not even try to disguise his disgust at Hungary’s behavior. Although no explanation has been given, the Hungarian policy appears intended to dissuade refugees from using Hungary as a crossing point between relatively prosperous non European and their European Union neighbors.
A Slovak minister this morning clarified the stance of the small, relatively homogeneous countries of Eastern Europe: their populations are ‘afraid’ of these dark-skinned people……No wonder: they have no history of either colonialism or military adventures abroad, and notwithstanding their decades’ long history with Soviet oversight, Russians are white Christians, too, after all, and now they are expected to mingle with people of a different color and religion.

In the twenty-five years since the end of the Iron Curtain, apparently, the East Europeans have been living in yet another bubble, this one of their own making.

China Celebrates V-J Day - Without US

September 2, 2015

Today RT announced that China will tomorrow celebrate the end of World War Two with, of course, a huge parade.  The report showed President Putin arriving in Beijing, mentioning as in an aside that the US would only send an Embassy officer, and that South Korea had resisted US pressure to be there - pressure that apparently was successful among most of US’s European allies, with the exception of the Czech Republic.
One cannot help but be reminded of the great 1950’s debate over who ‘lost’ China, which led to the rise of McCarthyism…..More recently, the US chose not to attend Russia’s celebration of 70th Anniversary of the end of the war in Europe that saw Chinese troops marching in Moscow, again in the absence of the European leaders.
What should we make of this?  The Western press emphasizes the absence of China’s former Western allies, rather than the presence of the heads of state that represent a good chunk of the world’s inhabitants. Also, several former Prime Ministers will attend, among them Tony Blair, which is a way for US “allies” to hedge their bets.

This is as much about the rules of diplomacy as politics: the other day someone commented that Obama shouldn’t be putting on a state dinner for China’s President Xi, and thank goodness the US still obeys diplomatic rules.  But decisions taken by political figures regarding China’s celebration are as much about politics as about diplomacy.

Europe’s Old and New Frontiers

August 31, 2015

The first, with its challenging pronunciation, is the border between Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria, where a truck with the bodies of about seventy suffocated migrants was found over the weekend. The second is the first city in Italy that the traveller on the main highway from Monaco, France comes to, although it is about ten kilometers from the actual border we see on television, where migrants who have crossed the Mediter-ranean heading for France are stopped by French authorities, forcing them onto the huge boulders that line the shore against flooding. Seventy years after World War II, both of these frontiers had become nominal in a Europe that had at least become whole, and now, suddenly, they risk reopening old wounds.
I know both of these borders crossings well, having lived in both Eastern and Wester Europe for several periods of two-plus decades.  I travelled the first by car many times when I lived in Budapest, which was behind the Iron Curtain at the time, on my way to Western Europe, where I still had ties.  That border in the middle of a wooded area, could seem foreboding, the road barred by what looked like a very thick log, just under a watch tower.   I crossed it in 1971, with my Hungarian husband and two small children, on the way to a flight from Amsterdam to Philadelphia, where my mother awaited our visit.  At that time, even the most organized of travelers would be slightly apprehensive, wondering whether some paper or other might be missing. In the eighties, when I went to pick up some things in Budapest, it had already become a major highway as part of a UNDP plan to link Europe to Asia and Africa.
As for St Louis, or San Luigi, just a building alongside the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean, I passed it many times during vacations from Paris in villages with spacious aristocratic summer retreats where those large boulders served as beaches for those who knew not to take the superhighway to Ventimiglia but rather the poorly maintained narrow road that hugged the coast between hothouses where roses for the entire world were grown.
I’m wondering what my friends along that coast are thinking these days, seeing their seemingly inviolable space overrun by swarthy, dusty escapees from wars their government failed to oppose on the other side of ‘Mare Nostrum’, the sea which Europe shares with Africa and the Middle East, but continues to think of as its own.
The mindlessness of Europe’s situation is mind-boggling: for decades it has ‘cooperated’ with former African colonies, but then allowed the United States to commit a vicious bombing campaign against Muammar Ghaddafi’s Libya, after befriending him for decades. Resolutely secular Europe thought nothing of turning Libya, one of the better run countries in Northern Africa, from a secular land to one divided into two warring religious camps, wedged between Egypt and Algeria, with southern borders touching Sudan, Niger and Chad, like a basket waiting to be filled with the desperate fleeing these areas to which Boko Haram/ISIS has spread from its base in Nigeria.
European governments have devised elaborate plans to combat Islamic terrorism, with no thought to the millions fleeing war, hunger, and terrorism on the opposite shore of ‘their’ sea.  Comfortable in their role of obedient subordinates (strange that we don’t hear the homey tag Uncle Sam anymore…) the brilliant men and women who pulled together to create a union of twenty-eight countries where war would no longer be a periodic scourge, accepted their status of American vassals without a second thought: after all, the powerful USSR could, conceivably decide to no longer be content with Eastern Europe and proceed to swallow Western Europe as well…….
As for the governments in Eastern Europe who chafed under Soviet control  - though much freer than their cousins in the West imagined - they never imagined that twenty-five years after the celebratory hacking of the Berlin Wall, they would find themselves building walls to keep brown people out. (The separation of Eastern  Europeans from the West was experienced as an unfair situation by populations who saw themselves as similar white Christians, and now barely 25 years after they have been accepted as equals, the European Union expects them to welcome brown people?!  Clearly, Eastern Europe has not yet had time to develop the one-world ethos that constitutes the bedrock of the European Union.)

In a situation that has not been seen since the end of World War II, thousands of brown men, women and children fleeing white aggression storm trains and demonstrate in holding areas, as seemingly helpless governments looks on. Twice in the twentieth century, the US came ‘gallantly’ to the rescue of Europe’s three dozen countries unable to make diplomacy work. But today’s monumental challenge results from a combination of American-led aggressions against Europe’s neighbors and its own lingering racism.  

Is Chris Matthews Losing It?

August 18th, 2015
His style is to play devil’s advocate to the hilt, but tonight it was hard to tell the difference between an imitation of enthusiasm by MSNBC’s star of Hardball and the real thing.  It’s hard to believe that Chris Matthews is merely describing the way 45% of Republican voters feel about Donald’Trump’s plan to halt illegal immigration - or his solution to the lightening spread of ISIS (bomb the oilfields they get their money from) that has 34% of Republicans ready to vote for him.

Eyes sparkling, Matthews could hardly curb his ardor, as the sole woman on his panel of three, Joan Walsh, of, tried to speak sanity.  It may not have been his intention to promote Trump, but if that is the case, he chose the wrong way to go about it.  After showing a clip of the Donald bragging about his wealth, it did not even occur to him to wonder how many workers Trump had made prosperous.