Samantha Power: My Friend- the Russian Ambassador – NYT

“When I arrived in New York, my predecessor, Susan Rice, told me: “Invest in your relationship with Churkin. He will drive you crazy, but you will need each other.” Vitaly had been Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations for six years and a diplomat for nearly four decades. Because Russia holds one of five vetoes at the Security Council (allowing it to block any resolution it chooses), I needed Vitaly’s support to secure council condemnations, to send peacekeepers to conflict areas and to impose sanctions on rogue individuals and nations.

We often ended up in heated — sometimes vitriolic — clashes over basic issues of fact and justice. On the illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea, the official Russian narrative deviated so far from the truth that I accused him of writing better fiction than Tolstoy; on Syria, I challenged him to answer for the carnage, asking during the joint Syrian-Russian-Iranian assault on Aleppo, “Are you truly incapable of shame?”

He, in turn, was a master of diversion, blasting me as a self-styled “Mother Teresa” and pivoting away from Ukraine and Syria to America’s wars in Vietnam and Iraq.Sometimes — such as when he ludicrously argued that civilians in Aleppo had simply covered themselves in dust to look like bombing victims for photographers — my abhorrence infected our working relationship.”

The Generals Guarding American Democracy – POLITICO Magazine

“Chairman Dunford has said little so far, but his role was brought to the fore by the president’s executive order reorganizing the National Security Council. The order left him, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, without a permanent seat on the NSC’s most senior body, while giving one to Bannon. According to reporting from the Associated Press, it was on account of concern with these sorts of half-baked executive orders coming out of the White House that Mattis and Kelly arranged to have one of them in the country at all times during Trump’s initial weeks in office. While the detail is buried deep in the AP’s story, it’s a significant revelation. Essentially, it shows that it is military leaders, albeit retired, who feel the need to guard against the overreach of a civilian executive. It’s a phenomenon familiar to countries like Turkey or Egypt, but not the United States. Until now.”

Source: The Generals Guarding American Democracy – POLITICO Magazine

Trump Voters, Your Savior Is Betraying You – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“But that seems like a classic shell game. The Tax Policy Center estimated that Trump’s tax plan (to the extent that there is one) would hugely increase the federal debt and give middle-income households an average tax cut of $1,010, or 1.8 percent of after-tax income — while the top 1 percent would save $214,690, or 13.5 percent of after-tax income.

Trump made more than 280 campaign promises as a candidate, and a few — such as infrastructure spending to create jobs — would be sensible if done right. But there still is no infrastructure plan, and The Washington Post Fact Checker is tracking 60 specific campaign promises and found only six cases so far of promises kept.”

Lovely op-ed Nicholas Kristof.

Unfortunately, you made a glaring mistake, maligning Marie Antoinette, when you otherwise made another excellent point, writing: ”

The biggest Trump bait-and-switch was visible Friday when he talked about giving Americans “access” to health care. That’s a scam his administration is moving toward, with millions of Americans likely to lose health insurance: Instead of promising insurance coverage, Trump now promises “access” — and if you can’t afford it, tough luck.

This promise of “access” is an echo of Marie Antoinette. In Trump’s worldview, starving French peasants wouldn’t have needed bread because they had “access” to cake.’

Marie Antoinette was a remarkable saint. Her bad reputation was created by propagandist in the Netherlands etc., who wanted to overthrow the French monarchy. They published disgusting rubbish and lies about the lovely, young, Austrian princess, whose real crime, was that she kept giving away large amounts of her own money to orphanages and hospitals. My source is an history book by Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette, which I listened to in an audio book. The malignant quote, let them eat cake, was never said by Marie Antoinette. It was sourced to a queen from a century before.

Trump Deportation Order Risk: Immigrants Driven Underground – The New York Times

“New deportation rules proposed by the Trump administration risk creating an American underclass with parallels to others around the world: slum residents in India, guest workers in oil-rich Persian Gulf states and internal migrant workers in China.

Those groups provide a cautionary tale for what could happen if the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, as well as their family members, are forced deep into the shadows.Stuck in a gray zone outside the legal system, they are vulnerable to exploitation, including wage theft and sex trafficking. Because they are denied formal protections or services, informal alternatives take their place — creating an ideal space for corruption, gangs and other forms of criminality.

The result is often the precise opposite of what the administration is seeking: not a cohesive society but a fragmented one, not less crime but more, and, rather than ending undocumented immigration, deepening the secrecy that makes it difficult to manage.”

Death and Tax Cuts – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Suppose you want to make insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions. You can’t just forbid insurance companies to discriminate based on medical history; if you do that, healthy people won’t sign up until they get sick. So you have to mandate the purchase of insurance; and you have to provide subsidies to lower-income families so that they can afford the policies. The end result of this logic is … Obamacare.”

Thank you Paul Krugman.
The top comment is surprising. It doesn’t compliment Krugman, but it acutually says something so important, it compliements his piece with a crucial insight.

Stephen Reichard

It can’t be said enough (and isn’t said enough for reasons that utterly escape me): Obamacare is Republican health care. It was developed as a concept at the Heritage Institute in the 1990s in response to Hillary Care. It was first implemented in Massachusetts by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney. There is no Republican alternative to Obamacare because Obamacare IS the Republican alternative to Democratic healthcare which is, of course, single payer.

I get why Republicans don’t call this out: it exposes the lie that their opposition to Obama was based not on his race but on his supposed fire breathing radicalism. But why don’t Democrats hammer this truth?


Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“I understand the vehemence. Trump is a demagogue who vilifies and scapegoats refugees, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, racial minorities, who strikes me as a danger to our national security. By all means stand up to him, and point out his lies and incompetence. But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

The glove factory closed down. The timber business slimmed. Union jobs disappeared. Good folks found themselves struggling and sometimes self-medicated with methamphetamine or heroin. Too many of my schoolmates died early; one, Stacy Lasslett, died of hypothermia while she was homeless.

This is part of a national trend: Mortality rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen, reflecting working-class “deaths of despair.” Liberals purport to champion these people, but don’t always understand them.In Yamhill, plenty of well-meaning people were frustrated enough that they took a gamble on a silver-tongued provocateur. It wasn’t because they were “bigoted unthinking lizard brains,” but because they didn’t know where to turn and Trump spoke to their fears.”


Thank you Nicholas Kristof.  You continually impress me for daring to go where others don’t even want to follow. I have a category just for your writings at my blog,, which I called “Saint Nicholas Kristof.” Even if I dropped the Saint, it still often applies. I enjoyed some of the comments blowing back against you so much I recommended some of them. But you are still right. We are in a serious fight, like JR Tolkien’s epic fight for middle earth. Only this threat to both the planet and our way of life is real.

So I want to remind the angry commentator’s, and myself, your wisdom is from both love and discipline. We have to save the country and the planet. If we are going to use the democratic system, we have to think and communicate strategically. It makes no sense, as you aptly pointed out, to write off or insult the very audience that you have to educate and win over. This round of the war isn’t lost, it is just beginning. Thank you, for the lesson in tactics, manners and wisdom.

I was directed to a piece about Thich Nhat Hanh, and his followers, who counselled people to find peace even with Donald Trump. The idea was to recognize what you hate about him, has vestiges in yourself. You can therefore value your enemies, as being vehicles to help you become a more perfect, loving person. It is a Buddhist principle to value your enemies, for you can learn about your own weakness, by recognizing the weakness that making you angry.

President Trump Takes Aim at the Environment – The New York Times

“President Trump brandished executive pen and fresh hyperbole last week in blessing the coal industry’s decades-old practice of freely dumping tons of debris into the streams and mountain hollows of America’s mining communities.

“Another terrible job-killing rule,” Mr. Trump declared at a signing ceremony that struck down the Obama administration’s attempt to regulate surface mining wastes. He insisted he was saving “many thousands of American jobs” in sparing coal companies the expense of cleaning up their environmental messes.

The signing ceremony was not just an insult to the benighted coal hamlets of Appalachia, where the industry’s dumping of debris down the mountainsides has created a wasteland. It also ignored two truths. One is that by official estimates the rules, while helping the environment, would in fact cost very few jobs — 260 on average a year offset by almost the same number of jobs for people hired to comply with the rules. What’s been costing jobs in the industry for years — and this is the second and larger truth — is a shifting global market in which power plants have turned to cleaner natural gas. In cynically promising the resurgence of King Coal, Mr. Trump might as well have been signing a decree that the whaling industry was being restored to Nantucket.”

Stomach turning. Good comments, to ruin your day:


Atlanta, GA 6 hours ago

So how will this rescinding of regulating the surface mining wastes play out? How about this scenario in say 2030 or so. The coal companies continued their stripping of the mountain tops, wastes dump into the streams, drinking water is polluted in the process, people get sick and complain to their governments in the West Virginia, and Kentucky coal regions. The state governments say they don’t have the funds to clean up the mess. And the coal companies are all bankrupt because no one is buying their coal. Renewable energy (wind and solar) are the “new” power sources.

Well someone has to clean up the mess and make the water safe again.
Guess who? Yep, you guessed it; the taxpayer!

NYT Pick

Bruce Carroll

Palo Alto, CA 6 hours ago

If there ever was case to made against the”let’s give him a chance” viewpoint it must start with how quickly he can damage the environment. If he starts to privatize any part of it without regulatory safeguards the damage may be irreversible.

Plennie Wingo

Weinfelden, Switzerland 7 hours ago

Meanwhile, in more enlightened places the Netherlands is running their trains on wind power and the British have announced an ambitious plan to have 25% of their power delivered through tidal.

Trump and his Nattering Nabobs will be the most destructive administration ever and it is only one month in. Don’t look for any courageous resistance from the bought-and-paid-for GOP (Grand Oil Party).

Larry Lundgren

Sweden 7 hours ago

Yes, here I am “Poor Johnny OneNote”, that to save my critics the time of pointing that out.

If the Trump Administration were seriously interested in providing jobs while at the same time reducing the environmental degradation of land, air, and water and reducing climate change it would learn about a well established technology in use in Sweden and many other European countries.

It would first learn about:

The incineration of solid-waste in hypermodern systems, the best example of which is available at the Gärstad Plant here in Linköping, Sweden to produce heat – for heating/electricity generation.

Conversion of food waste/human waste to bio gas also done in Linköping.

Stockholm’s plans to end one of the last remaining coal-fired generating systems.

Key ideas:
Solid waste is a renewable energy resource.
Food waste/human waste is a renewable energy resource.

Imagine every US city as a Linköping and then examine the number of people per 100,000 inhabitants who make this technology possible. Picture your favorite local landfill and tell me that you love it so much you could not live without it.

Dual citizen US SE

Meet the 5 Trump Administrations – by Tom Friedman – NYT

“It should be clear by now that there are five different Trump administrations swirling before our eyes — Trump Entertainment, Trump Cleanup, Trump Crazy, Trump G.O.P. and the Essential Trump — and no one can predict which will define this presidency, let alone make a success of it.

Trump Entertainment shows up every day now in the form of an outrageous “alternative fact,” a pugnacious press conference, a tweet denouncing the news media as “the enemy of the American people” — or as a pep rally in Florida, unconnected to any particular legislative agenda and organized entirely for the purpose of giving the president an ego sugar high.”

Good column, an comments, such as the most popular:

Christine McM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 11 hours ago
I think the fact that Essential Trump subtly despises the people who elected him is probably the most unattractive aspect of his administration. Yes Mr. Friedman, that statement about Fifth Avenue was more of a pat on the back of how Trump touches gold no matter what he does and what he says.

Supporters are a means to an end. Bannon is a means to an end. Donald Trump is a quintessential fifth grader living the dream of running the world. During the campaign I compare trump to the drunken bum at the end of the bar ranting and Raving about the state of the world. And what should be done about it.

And now this bum is president–ill equipped, dangerously volatile, and preeminently dangerous.

If he can single-handedly, without Congress, run America based on personal whim, conspiracies and white nationalism unchallenged and unbent like a obnoxious child, just how long is it going to take before we have no country left at all?

646 Recommended

At Town Halls, Doses of Fury and a Bottle of Tums – The New York Times

“FAIRVIEW, Tenn. — Representative Marsha Blackburn may have expected to draw a friendly crowd by scheduling a town hall-style meeting in a Tennessee community that had voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, but she instead faced a hurricane-strength blast of disapproval on Tuesday.

Ms. Blackburn, an eight-term Republican, was sharply questioned about a wide range of issues that have unsettled Mr. Trump’s first month in office, including health care, the environment, education and the president’s links to Russia.At many moments, her replies elicited boos or shouts to “tell the truth.”

“We’re not stupid; you have to do better,” Renee Armand said at one point, interrupting Ms. Blackburn as she was defending the new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, for bringing “a true love of education reform.” ”

Love this article, and its comments. I never quite understood how the tea party emerged and became so successful. I am learning how it worked, since this new awakening apparently resembles it in many ways.

Here are the top comments, which I support:

AJ Iowa 2 hours ago
This is what happens when a 40% president and his minions meet the 60%. Time to govern for all americans, to put patriotism over party, rather than serve a dysfunctional regime destined to collapse of its own incompetence and corruption.
325 Recommended

NYT Pick
Jerry Sturdivant Las Vegas 2 hours ago
Ask these Republican politicians: When you take away our healthcare, do you still get to keep yours? When you cut our Social Security, will your retirement be cut? When you don’t increase the Minimum Wage, will you keep getting your increases? Demand an answer.
294 Recommended

New Trump Deportation Rules Allow Far More Expulsions – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — President Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.”

Excellent reporting. Thank you Misters Shear and Nixon. I wanted immigration reform, but not this way. The comments are more critical, and more alarming, than the article. I agree that this is the wrong way. It opens up the faucet for employers to be abusive. At the end of the month, don’t pay the hard worker, have him or her deported. This method appears to pander the worst among us, while giving license to the bullies and scoundrels of business.