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“Europe The Unready”: Europe’s Ability To Protect Itself Turns Out To Have Been Undermined By Its Imperfect Union

Thanksgiving as we know it dates not to colonial days but to the middle of the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln made it a federal holiday. It is, in other words, a celebration of national unity. And our national unity is indeed something to be thankful for.

To see why, consider the slow-motion disaster now overtaking the European project on multiple fronts.

For those not familiar with the term, the “European project” has a very specific meaning. It refers to the long-term effort to foster a peaceful, prosperous Europe through ever-closer economic and social integration, an effort that began more than 60 years ago with the formation of the Coal and Steel Community.

The effort continued with the creation of the Common Market in 1959; the expansion of that market to include newly democratic nations in southern Europe; the Single European Act, assuring free movement of people as well as goods; further extension of the European Union to former Communist nations; the Schengen agreement, which removed many border controls within the continent; and, of course, the creation of a common European currency.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

One way to think about all these moves is that they were attempts to give Europe many of the attributes of a single nation without formal political union — at least not yet. The more or less explicit hope of many in the European elite was that technical and economic integration would gradually foster psychological unification, and eventually pave the way for a United States of Europe.

And for a long time the project worked very well, as Europe grew steadily more prosperous, peaceful, and free. But how would the process deal with setbacks? After all, the European project was creating ever-growing interdependence without creating either the institutions or, despite elite hopes, the sense of political legitimacy that would be needed to manage that interdependence if things went wrong.

Which brings me to the disasters.

At first sight, the financial crisis, the refugee crisis, and the terrorist attacks might not seem to have anything in common. But in each case Europe’s ability to protect itself turns out to have been undermined by its imperfect union.

On the financial crisis: There’s widespread consensus among economists (though not, alas, among politicians) that Europe’s woes were mainly caused by mood swings among private investors, who recklessly poured money into southern Europe after the creation of the euro, then abruptly reversed course a decade later. Yet something similar happened in America, too, where money first poured into mortgage lending in the “sand states” — Florida, Arizona, Nevada, California — then took flight. In the U.S., however, the pain of that reversal was limited by federal institutions, ranging from Social Security to deposit insurance. In Europe, unfortunately, the cost of bank bailouts and much more fell on national governments, so that private-sector overreach soon spilled over into fiscal crisis.

On refugees: the politics of immigration in general, and refugees in particular, are nasty everywhere — just listen to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. But Europe is also trying to maintain open internal borders while leaving the management of external borders to national governments like that of impoverished, austerity-ravaged Greece. No wonder, then, that border controls are making a comeback.

And on terrorism: No free society can ever be perfectly secure from attack. But think about how much harder it gets when anti-terrorism is pretty much left up to national governments, whose capacity for policing varies greatly. Imagine how New Yorkers would feel if political paralysis in New Jersey were getting in the way of any effective anti-terrorist policy there, and you have a good idea of the problems Belgium has created for France.

Ideally, Europe would respond to these setbacks by strengthening its union, creating more of the institutions it needs to manage interdependence. But the political will for that kind of move forward seems lacking, even for the most obvious steps. For example, on Tuesday the European Commission proposed the gradual phase-in of a Europe-wide system of deposit insurance, which is the bare minimum needed to maintain stable banks within a currency union. Yet the plan faces furious opposition within Germany, which sees it as a giveaway to its spendthrift neighbors.

The alternative is to take a step back, which is already happening on border controls. European leaders are, rightly, concerned that each such move damages the whole European project. But what is the realistic alternative?

The truth is that I don’t know the answer. I’m just thankful that America has the kind of unity Europe can only dream of — at least for now. I guess we’ll see what’s left after President Trump gets done with it.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, Opinion Pages, The New York Times, November 27, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Europe, European Union | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Serious People Discount Fox News”: What The European Response Tells Us About Ourselves For This Garbage

Tucker Carlson said on Fox that more children die of bathtub drownings than of accidental shootings. They don’t.

Steve Doocy said on Fox that NASA scientists faked data to make the case for global warming. They didn’t.

Rudy Giuliani said on Fox that President Obama has issued propaganda asking everybody to “hate the police.” He hasn’t.

John Stossel said on Fox that there is “no good data” proving secondhand cigarette smoke kills nonsmokers. There is.

So maybe you can see why serious people — a category excluding those who rely upon it for news and information — do not take Fox, well … seriously, why they dub it Pox News and Fakes News, to name two of the printable variations. Fox is, after all, the network of death panels, terrorist fist jabs, birtherism, anchor babies, victory mosques, wars on Christmas and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. It’s not just that it is the chief global distributor of unfact and untruth but that it distributes unfact and untruth with a bluster, an arrogance, a gonad-grabbing swagger, that implicitly and intentionally dares you to believe fact and truth matter.

Many of us have gotten used to this. We don’t even bother to protest Fox being Fox. Might as well protest a sewer for stinking.

But the French and the British, being French and British, see it differently. And that’s what produced the scenario that recently floored many of us.

There was Fox, doing what Fox does, in this case hosting one Steve Emerson, a supposed expert on Islamic extremist terrorism, who spoke about so-called “no go” zones in Europe — i.e., areas of Germany, Sweden, France and Great Britain — where non-Muslims are banned, the government has no control and sharia law is in effect. Naturally, Fox did not question this outrageous assertion — in fact, it repeated it throughout the week — and most of us, long ago benumbed by the network’s serial mendacities, did not challenge Fox.

Then, there erupted from Europe the jarring sound of a continent laughing. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson an “idiot.” A French program in the mold of The Daily Show sent correspondents — in helmets! — to interview people peaceably sipping coffee in the no-go zones. Twitter went medieval on Fox’s backside. And the mayor of Paris threatened to sue.

Last week, Fox did something Fox almost never does. It apologized. Indeed, it apologized profusely, multiple times, on air.

The most important takeaway here is not the admittedly startling news that Fox, contrary to all indications, is capable of shame. Rather, it is what the European response tells us about ourselves and our waning capacity for moral indignation with this sort of garbage.

It’s amazing, the things you can get used to, that can come to seem normal. In America, it has come to seem normal that a major news organization functions as the propaganda arm of an extremist political ideology, that it spews a constant stream of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, paranoia and manufactured outrage, and that it does so with brazen disregard for what is factual, what is right, what is fair, what is balanced — virtues that are supposed to be the sine qua non of anything calling itself a newsroom.

If you live with aberrance long enough, you can forget it’s aberrance. You can forget that facts matter, that logic is important, that science is critical, that he who speaks claptrap loudly still speaks claptrap — and that claptrap has no place in reasoned and informed debate. Sometimes, it takes someone from outside to hold up a mirror and allow you to see more clearly what you have grown accustomed to.

This is what the French and the British did for America last week.

For that, Fox owed them an apology. But serious people owe them thanks.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 26, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Europe, Fox News, Journalism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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