The Muggle Problem – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“This week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter novel, and the beginning — in Britain, at least; the first volume’s publication in America came a little later — of a cultural juggernaut that defined a generation’s experience with books.

It is a timely anniversary, since if you believe what you read on social media the Potterverse has never been more relevant. As Western politics has become more extreme and a generation raised on Hogwarts more politically engaged, the Potter novels have been embraced ever more fervently as political allegories and moral manuals for our times.

As I write this The Telegraph of London has just informed its readers that a poll reveals that Jeremy Corbyn belongs in Gryffindor while Theresa May should be in Slytherin — respectively the bravest and most sinister of houses on the Hogwarts campus. Hillary Clinton has just given a speech praising the Potter novels for instilling progressive values in the young. Meanwhile, the social-media celebrations of 20 years of Potter have temporarily crowded out the endless liberal memes comparing Trump and his court to Voldemort and his Death Eater lackeys.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Nonsense and rubbish. We learned a great deal from J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books, like how to deal with an inflated right wing ding bat from the the big bad Times. We take out our wand, and order a Patronous, with Expecto Patronem. Then we stand and watch while the dementor from the Times slowly evaporates.

Trump Is China’s Chump – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“HONG KONG — Having just traveled to New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, China, Taiwan and now Hong Kong, I can say without an ounce of exaggeration that more than a few Asia-Pacific business and political leaders have taken President Trump’s measure and concluded that — far from being a savvy negotiator — he’s a sucker who’s shrinking U.S. influence in this region and helping make China great again.These investors, trade experts and government officials are still stunned by an event that got next to no attention in the U.S. but was an earthquake out here — and a gift that will keep on giving America’s allies pain and China gain for years to come. That was Trump’s decision to tear up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal in his first week in office — clearly without having read it or understanding its vast geo-economic implications.”

“Yes, like any trade deal, TPP would have challenged some U.S. workers, but it would have created opportunities for many others, because big economies like Japan and Vietnam were opening their markets. For decades we had allowed Japan to stay way too closed, because it was an ally in the Cold War, and Vietnam, because it was an enemy. Some 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners were coming into the U.S. duty-free already, while our goods and services were still being hit with 18,000 tariffs in their countries — which TPP eliminated.

That’s why the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that U.S. national income would have grown by some $130 billion a year by 2030 with TPP — not huge, just a nice boost for U.S. workers, businesses and diplomats.”

Trump is a moron when it comes to the TPP and international trade.

Here are the top two comments, which I approve:


sweden 4 hours ago

Sadly, this article is right on the money. Even sadder is the fact that the Bozo in Chief will not receive the “credit” he so richly deserves for the long term economic and international relation catastrophes that will result from this and many of his other ill-advised decisions and non-decisions. I’m sure that the TPP was not a perfect treaty, but you know, they never are in the real world. Getting thirteen different parties to agree to a complex economic treaty requires compromise. That is something that American politicians seem to have forgotten completely.


Santa Monica 5 hours ago

Trump doesn’t care about any of the American interests lost by pulling out of the TPP so long as his daughter gets her trademarks approved and the Chinese by his family’s buildings and funnel more money Trumps way. His supporters bizarrely believe he’s “tough” on China though all he does is exploit personal opportunity there. And liberal have been complicit in all this by allowing and in Sanders case attacking Ms Clinton for rightly supporting the TPP. America is way behind in its leadership in Asia. China is building roads, infrastructure and investing in its neighbors whether they like it or not. The untied states should be leading the way and we’d all benefit as a result. Sad.

Canada’s Ruthlessly Smart Immigration Policy – The New York Times

“But Canada’s hospitable attitude is not innate; it is, rather, the product of very hardheaded government policies. Ever since the mid-1960s, the majority of immigrants to the country (about 65 percent in 2015) have been admitted on purely economic grounds, having been evaluated under a nine-point rubric that ignores their race, religion and ethnicity and instead looks at their age, education, job skills, language ability and other attributes that define their potential contribution to the national work force.”

Google Fined Record $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling – The New York Times

“Google suffered a major blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant a record $2.7 billion for unfairly favoring some of its own services over those of rivals.

The penalty, of 2.4 billion euros, highlights the aggressive stance that European officials have taken in regulating many of the world’s largest technology companies, going significantly further than their American counterparts.

By levying the fine against Google — more than double the previous largest penalty in this type of antitrust case — Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, also laid claim to being the Western world’s most active regulator of digital services, an industry still dominated by Silicon Valley.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT comments.

Good article, thank you. We need and deserve more information. Is it true, as I heard today on NPR, that some of Google’s competitors find that their offerings in a “want to buy x” search, appear on page 4, while the google owned retailer is at the top of page 1. Does Google own retailers, and ecommerce sites? Which ones.

Should it be illegal for Google to charge for top placement? This is how they get their money, instead of making us pay a fee each month to use their search engine capability. If I were one of regulators, I would think about requiring Google to identify the companies that it owns. It already identifies paid ads, which one can hardly quibble with.

The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism – by David Brooks – NYT

“. . . First, conservative policy intellectuals tend to have accepted the fact that American society is coming apart and that measures need to be taken to assist the working class. Republican politicians show no awareness of this fact. Second, conservative writers and intellectuals have a vision for how they want American society to be in the 21st century. Republican politicians have a vision of how they want American government to be in the 21st century.

Republican politicians believe that government should tax people less. The Senate bill would eliminate the 3.8 percent tax on investment income for those making over $250,000. Republican politicians believe that open-ended entitlements should be cut. The Senate health care plan would throw 15 million people off Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (This is the program that covers nearly 40 percent of America’s children.)”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT comments:

Great piece David Brooks. Thank you. Regarding a good comment by Uncle Jetski, I found The parable of the blind men and the elephant in Wikipedia :
“The earliest versions of the parable of blind men and elephant is found in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain texts, as they discuss the limits of perception and the importance of complete context. The parable has several Indian variations, but broadly goes as follows:

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

(In one of many versions) a sighted man enters the parable and describes the entire elephant from various perspectives, the blind men then learn that they were all partially correct and partially wrong. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Wishful Peace – The New York Times

“YANGON — Early this month, just days after a round of major talks in the capital, Naypyidaw, fighting broke out between the armed forces and the ethnic Kachin Independence Army in the northern state of Kachin. Ahead of a clearing operation, the Myanmar military airdropped pamphlets ordering residents of Tanai township to leave and warned that anyone who stayed would be seen as cooperating with the K.I.A. Thousands of displaced people are reported to still be stranded in the conflict zone.”

The Iran Puzzle – The New York Times

“The fear is that Mr. Trump’s demonizing of Iran, and his unwillingness to engage its government, could result in a broadening of the American military mission from defeating ISIS to preventing Iranian influence from expanding. This would be dangerous. Iran is a vexing state to be smartly managed, not assumed to be an implacable enemy.”

Well said, NYT.   And, here is  a comment I support:


Spruce Pine NC 2 hours ago

We are being played by the Saudis as well as the Russians (not to mention the Israelis). Whatever we do, it will be in the interests of one or the other of those countries interests.
Going against Iran, our most natural ally in the area, would be the natural culmination of a fools analysis of the chess board called Middle East geopolitics.

Liu Xiaobo- Chinese Nobel Laureate-Leaves Prison for Cancer Care – The New York Times

“BEIJING — Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his writings promoting democracy, has been moved from prison to be treated for late-stage cancer, two of his lawyers said on Monday.

Mr. Liu, who had been imprisoned in northeast China, was found in late May to have advanced liver cancer and was hospitalized soon after, said one of the lawyers, Shang Baojun, citing Mr. Liu’s relatives. Mr. Shang said the outlook for Mr. Liu appeared grim.”

. . . .         “In Mr. Liu’s absence, his statement from his 2009 trial, titled “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” was read as his Nobel lecture.

“Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience,” he wrote. “Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost good will, and to dispel hatred with love.”

What an extraordinary leader. His words remind one of Martin Luther King, or Gandhi.

Goodluck to the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, in suppressing such a powerful voice.

Where Trump Zigs- Tillerson Zags- Putting Him at Odds With White House – The New York Times

“Exxon Mobil, arrived in Washington five months ago to become the secretary of state, his boosters said he brought two valuable assets to a job that had usually gone to someone steeped in government and diplomacy: a long history managing a global company, and deep relationships from the Middle East to Russia that enabled him to close deals.

But his first opportunity to use that experience — as a behind-the-scenes mediator in the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia — has put Mr. Tillerson in exactly the place a secretary of state does not want to be: in public disagreement with the president who appointed him.

Mr. Tillerson tried to position himself as an intermediary and sought for all sides to put their demands on the table. But President Trump openly sided with the Saudis, first on Twitter, then again at a news conference. Mr. Trump called Qatar a “funder of terrorism at a very high level” just as the State Department was questioning whether the Saudis were using the terrorism charge to cover for “long-simmering grievances” between the Arab nations.”


David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

This article is excellent, but depressing. What is wrong with Rex Tillerson? Maybe he is in an impossible situation. The man I listened to in two days of hearings was smart and decisive. That does not prepare us for a secretary who fails to surround himself with the best and brightest and most learned about the many countries and areas around the world where the United States has interests and roles to play. In Tillerson’s defense, he did ask for an old GOP hand as his right hand man, but the famous diplomat was rejected, for having not supported Trump for President. It must be hard to express leadership when the President undermines your work through his tweets, his son iin law, and his weird loyalty to Steve Bannon. I join the more famous diplomats quoted in the article, in urging Rex Tilllerson to demonstrate that he is listening and using his expert team, while methodically filling in the holes in higher level staff. David blogs at

You Don’t Want to Buy Groceries From a Robot – by Stacy Torres – NYT

“The next time you check out at Whole Foods, you might meet my friend Esther at the register. In a few years, you might meet a robot. Or no one at all.Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is expected to revolutionize the grocery business, accelerating a trend toward increasing automation and the elimination of cashiers and other human workers. The Amazon Go store in Seattle, devoid of sales clerks and checkout lines, offers a glimpse of what this “just walk out” grocery shopping experience might look like.

I’m not looking forward to it. While interactions with cashiers may seem insignificant, or at times even a nuisance, they also foster sociability between strangers.I first met Esther 10 years ago when she worked as a cashier at a mom-and-pop bakery in Manhattan, where I’d come to study how adults over 65 used neighborhood spaces to develop social connections that helped them avoid social isolation and live independently.”

I’m with this lovely op-ed by Stacy Torres. I can’t stand it that the supermarkets I shop in are trying to force us into the robot check out machines. Stop It, Stop and Shop. Do Right, ShopRite! Let our neigbors keep their jobs.
Under employment is a giant problem. As I’ve written before, I propose a new, national, full employment tax on all business and business people. The proceeds of this 1-2% tax would go to support make work progams so that all Americans who wish to can work. It would go down, as the employment rate went down, and up, when the unemployment rate went up. This would penalize those retailers who think they can replace all working Americans with robots.

There are many good comments. Here are some that caught my attention:

CV Danes

Upstate NY 6 hours ago

Will these robot workers pay taxes?

If you want a view into what our society will look like when the robots are doing all the jobs, look no further than the hopelessness behind the opiate crisis that is currently unfolding in many of our rural areas. And if you think the government will come to the rescue, note that many of these same people voted for an administration that is poised to redirect a trillion dollars to tax cuts for the rich that before that would have went to health care for many of these addicts.

Father Eric

Ohio 6 hours ago

The Amazon takeover of Whole Foods is a harbinger of yet another withdrawal from our ever-decreasing store of social capital. There’s a direct link between this development and our political leaders’ willingness to deprive large chunks of the populace of health care; both betoken lack of kindness, a failure of human interaction, the loss and destruction of a sense of community and commonality. “Love your neighbor” and “doing unto the least” lose their meaning and moral force when there is no contact with the neighbor and the least; giving us fewer and fewer opportunities for such contact will be the inevitable result of retail automation. Shredding the social network will lead to more shredding of the social safety net.

Maybe it is  more complicated than I think. Here is what might be a contrarian point of view.


Mill Valley 4 minutes ago

I was a cashier at Whole Foods for 5 or 6 years and it was miserable. My feet hurt so much at the end of each day that I could barely walk home after work without bursting into tears and my eyes took several hours to stop blurring at the end of each shift which made it difficult to do what I enjoy most (reading & writing) during my evenings away from the store. So, I often listened to music by candlelight just to calm my nerves after being stuck under the fluorescent bulbs at the registers for too long. Even so, the high pitched beeps of my workplace seemed to keep ringing in my ears. So, I became even more deeply depressed after work than I had been at the store, where I was often putting up with unwelcome sexual advances from customers and mean spirited demands from my bosses. “Smile more!” is the refrain that comes to mind, but even once I acted like a phoney just to get a meager raise, then I’d be given my next instruction, which was usually “sell more”. I hope Amazon figures out a way to make customers & employees happy at the grocery store, because it’s not as easy as it sounds lately…