Not Just Airlines

The U.S. airlines furloughed 32,000 people yesterday, as a government support program ran out. The travel industry is collapsing, but it’s not just the airlines:

Hospitality: “more than two-thirds of hotels said they would not be able to last six more months at the current projected revenue and occupancy levels, and half of the hospitality owners polled said they are in danger of foreclosure.”

And this: “Business is booming at a sea dock in western Turkey, where five hulking cruise ships are being dismantled for scrap metal sales after the COVID-19 pandemic all but destroyed the industry, the head of a ship recyclers’ group said on Friday.”

Quotes: The President on Borders

“After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. They exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the border.”

– President Trump on his latest initiative. In the presidential idiom, the Israeli/Emirati border is a border, many people say, when you think about it, like no one has ever seen before. Because, of course, there is no Israeli/Emirati border. The two countries are about 1200 miles apart.


After yesterday’s explosion, it is for others to properly eulogize Beirut. I had only one opportunity, twenty-one years ago this month, to visit the Paris of the Middle East, to admire the ski-slopes-to-the-Mediterranean panorama, to enjoy the famous levant cuisine along the corniche, to stay in a fancy hotel the likes of which were then commonplace to hordes of foreign correspondents.

Yet I have the uneasy feeling that a eulogy is what’s in order. For Lebanon was failing, and failing fast, before yesterday’s calamity. Inflation ran at the harrowing monthly rate of 56%. State-owned Electricite du Liban could only summon power to that once-elegant corniche a couple of hours a day, and suddenly, overnight, Lebanon’s governor estimates the country will need three to five billion dollars for repairs. How does the most robust economy provide shelter overnight to 300,000 homeless people

Just now every country is focused inward, intent on tending to itself. There may not be enough willing partners in the world to make Beirut whole. Could Beirut turn out to be the first human-caused, post-apocalyptic scorched hole in the earth? Might it just be abandoned as beyond repair by those who can – like much of the governing class? What of those left behind?

William Butler Yeats’s The Second Coming, written in the aftermath of the First World War, has worked its way into the zeitgeist. As the stampede toward extreme politics accelerates in our own era, Yeats’s words resonate:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;”

In a step back yesterday, it would appear that in Italy, the center-left thwarted a power grab by Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League Party in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna.

Small victories are welcome, too.