David: Merry Christmas. Merry Solstice.
Peace on earth and good will to all!
NYT: Seen from space 50 years ago, Earth appeared as a gift to preserve and cherish. What happened?
By Matthew Myer Boulton and Joseph Heithaus
Mr. Boulton is a writer and a filmmaker. Mr. Heithaus is a poet.
Dec. 24, 2018
The “Earthrise” photograph taken by William Anders on Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve in 1968.CreditCreditNASA
On Christmas Eve 1968, human beings orbited the moon for the first time. News of the feat of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission dominated the front page of The New York Times the next day. Tucked away below the fold was an essay by the poet Archibald MacLeish, a reflection inspired by what he’d seen and heard the night before.
Even after 50 years, his prescient words speak of the humbling image we now had of Earth, an image captured in a photograph that wouldn’t be developed until the astronauts returned: “Earthrise,” taken by William Anders, one of the Apollo crew. In time, both essay and photo merged into an astonishing portrait: the gibbous Earth, radiantly blue, floating in depthless black space over a barren lunar horizon. A humbling image of how small we are — but even more, a breathtaking image of our lovely, fragile, irreplaceable home. The Earth as a treasure. The Earth as oasis.
When the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman, addressed Congress upon his return, he called himself an “unlikely poet, or no poet at all” — and quoted MacLeish to convey the impact of what he had seen. “To see the Earth as it truly is,” said the astronaut, quoting the poet, “small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.”
The message offered hope in a difficult time. Not far away on that same front page was a sobering report that the Christmas truce in Vietnam had been marred by violence. These were the last days of 1968, a divisive and bloody year. We’d lost Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy that year, gone through a tumultuous election, and continued fighting an unpopular and deadly war.
A roundup of the columns that no one, except maybe my mom, read.
By Nicholas Kristof
Dec. 19, 2018, 330
Photo: Suffering in Yemen.
“Good thing my mother is a loyal Times subscriber. She was just about the only reader of some of my columns this year!
Well, yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But while some people like to showcase their greatest hits, at the end of every year I like to offer my list of Greatest Duds. These were columns that, yawn, sent readers away in droves.
My No. 1 Dud was a column called “#MeToo Goes Global,” about the need to address sexual violence not just in the U.S. but all over in the world. In part of Papua New Guinea, I noted, 62 percent of men acknowledged having raped a woman. And worldwide, an underage girl is married somewhere every three seconds.
Sigh. A reader somewhere in the world clicked away from my column every two seconds. 🙂
My No. 2 Dud was about the importance of bringing human rights, not just nuclear weapons, to the negotiations with North Korea. After all, North Korea is repressive like no other country in the world today: Did you know that triplets are seized from parents and raised by the state, because they are considered auspicious? We could at least use our intelligence community’s satellites to highlight some of the prison camps there and raise the cost of human rights violations. Still, the column disappeared without a ripple.
How should Democrats understand — and confront — them?
By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.
Dec. 20, 2018, .137
Voters at Merry Acres Middle School in Albany, Ga. on Nov. 6, 2018CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times
“For 50 years Republicans have battered the Democratic coalition, wielding the so-called southern strategy — built on racism and overlaid with opposition to immigration — to win control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress.
At the same time, Democrats have struggled to piece together a coalition strong enough to deliver an Election Day majority. In the 1950s, the Democratic coalition was 87 percent white and 13 percent minority, according to the American National Election Studies; it is now 59 percent white and 41 percent minority, according to Pew Research.
As the Democratic Party has evolved from an overwhelmingly white party to a party with a huge minority base, the dominant strategic problem has become the tenuous balance between the priorities of its now equally indispensable white and minority wings.
President Trump has aggressively exploited Democratic vulnerabilities as no previous Republican candidate had dared to do. The frontal attack Trump has engineered — in part by stigmatizing “political correctness” — has had a dual effect, throwing Democrats back on their heels while simultaneously whetting their appetite for a fight.
“. . . In other words, pro-immigration, pro-diversity Democrats face clear obstacles breaking the Republican hold on white voters — and a challenge in repelling Trump’s race-and-immigration-focused offensive. Still, the accumulating insights on how and where Republicans have successfully worked these levers may help demonstrate — as President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and the results of this year’s midterm elections prove — that these obstacles are not insuperable and that they can be overcome.”
By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
Dec. 19, 2018, 534 c
It was less than three months ago that John Bolton, the national security adviser, declared an expanded objective for American troops in Syria.
The goal is not just defeating the Islamic State, but also ensuring that Iranian forces leave the country, he told reporters in what seemed like an authoritative statement of official policy.
Only, as is so often the case with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, it apparently wasn’t.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump summarily overruled Mr. Bolton and the rest of his national security team. He ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 American ground troops from Syria within 30 days.
That abrupt and dangerous decision, detached from any broader strategic context or any public rationale, sowed new uncertainty about America’s commitment to the Middle East, its willingness to be a global leader and Mr. Trump’s role as commander in chief.
Vladamir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan applaud vocally Trump’s announcement that he will have the last 2000 US troops withdraw from Syria in the next 30 days.
The NYT is properly horrified. They write: “Among the biggest losers are likely to be the Kurdish troops that the United States has equipped and relied on to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, considers many of the Kurds to be terrorists bent on destroying his country. In recent days he has vowed to launch a new offensive against them in the Syrian border region. Mr. Trump discussed his withdrawal decision in a telephone call with Mr. Erdogan on Friday.
The American withdrawal is likely also to worry Israel, anxious about Iran’s robust military presence in Syria, and Jordan, which bears a considerable burden from Syrian refugees who fled the fighting across the border.
Decisions of such consequence normally are thoroughly vetted by a president’s national security advisers. But congressional lawmakers said there were no signs that any process was followed, and a senior White House official, refusing to discuss internal deliberations, said Wednesday, “The issue here is the president made a decision.”
It’s hard not to wonder whether Mr. Trump is once again announcing a dramatic step as a way of deflecting attention from bad news, in this case a torrent of legal judgments that are tightening the legal noose around him.”
DL: Our ill-conceived interventions played a major role in creating the monster of ISIS. If we abandon our fighting Kurds, we leave the whole mess for ISIS to come back, and for Russia and Iran to dominate much of the region.
By Ross Douthat, Opinion Columnist
Dec. 19, 2018, 341c
President Emmanuel Macron presides over a country roiled by populist protests.CreditCreditPool photo by Benoit Tessier
“In France, where the extraordinarily unpopular Emmanuel Macron presides over a country roiled by populist protests, a leading politician of Macron’s centrist party was asked in a televised interview what policy mistakes his peers had made: “We were probably too intelligent, too subtle,” he told the interviewer, whose eyebrows danced with disbelief.
Around the same time a Hungarian newspaper ran an interview with Radek Sikorski, the former foreign minister of Poland and a member of a centrist party that has been swept aside by the populists who currently rule in Warsaw. Asked to explain the chaotic European situation, he cited a recent Atlantic essay by his wife, the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, which portrayed populism as, in part, a revolt by the resentfully unsuccessful against “meritocracy and competition.” The centrist alternative to populism, he suggested, was embodied by Macron, who won the French presidency on “positive ideas” rather than “what is worst in us.”
“Macron’s poll numbers are breaking negative records,” the interviewer dryly noted.
While I read both of these exchanges, my Kindle was open to “The Rise of the Meritocracy,” written in 1958 by the British civil servant Michael Young. The book coined the term in its title, and Young’s neologism was soon adopted as a compliment, a term of praise for a system of elite formation that relied on SAT tests and resumes and promised rule by the most intelligent rather than the well-bred.”
David Lindsay: Ross, well done. You kept me till the end, when you wrote:
“In theory the impasse can be overcome. That’s what statesmanship is for — to bridge gaps between complacent winners and angry losers, to weld populism’s motley grievances into a new agenda suited for the times, to manifest an elitism that is magnanimous instead of arrogant.
But can the system we have really produce such a statesman? The next one we find will be the first.”
What a silly way to end. Think Barak Obama, John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin D Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt. And that doesn’t include the great Europeans such as Winston Churchill.
You write brilliantly. Perhaps you should consider controlling your right wing, Catholic litmus tests.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com
There are some excellent comments, such as:
By Thomas L. Friedman
Dec. 18, 2018, 573c
Yellow Vest protesters clashed with the police in Paris on Saturday.CreditCreditVeronique De Viguerie/Getty Images
PARIS — Ever since World War II, the liberal global order that has spread more freedom and prosperity around the world than at any other time in history has been held up by two pillars: the United States of America and the United Nations of Europe, now known as the European Union.
Both of these centers of free markets, free people and free ideas are being shaken today by rural and beyond-the-suburbs insurgencies of largely white working-poor and anxious middle classes, which have not generally benefited from the surges in globalization, immigration and technology that have lifted superstar cities like London, Paris and San Francisco and their multicultural populations.
Having just seen the shocking sight of Parisian stores boarded up right before Christmas to protect against rioting along the Champs-Élysées by some of France’s yellow-vested protesters; after being told in Rome a few days earlier that Italy, a founding member of the E.U., could conceivably shuck off both the E.U. and the euro one day under its new bizarre far-left/far-right governing coalition; after watching Britain become paralyzed over how to commit economic suicide by leaving the E.U.; and after watching President Trump actually cheer for the breakup of the E.U. rather than for its good health, it is obvious to me that we’re at a critical hinge of history.
By Nicholas Fandos
Dec. 18, 2018, 91c
“WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday the most substantial changes in a generation to the tough-on-crime prison and sentencing laws that ballooned the federal prison population and created a criminal justice system that many conservatives and liberals view as costly and unfair.
The First Step Act would expand job training and other programming aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners. It also expands early-release programs and modifies sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, to more equitably punish drug offenders.
But the legislation falls short of benchmarks set by a more expansive overhaul proposed in Congress during Barack Obama’s presidency and of the kinds of changes sought by some liberal and conservative activists targeting mass incarceration.
House leaders have pledged to pass the measure this week, and President Trump, whose support resuscitated a yearslong overhaul effort last month, said he would sign the bill.”
“As climate change warms the world’s oceans, these islands are a crucible. And scientists are worried. Not only do the Galápagos sit at the intersection of three ocean currents, they are in the cross hairs of one of the world’s most destructive weather patterns, El Niño, which causes rapid, extreme ocean heating across the Eastern Pacific tropics.
Research published in 2014 by more than a dozen climate scientists warned that rising ocean temperatures were making El Niño both more frequent and more intense. Unesco, the United Nations educational and cultural agency, now warns the Galápagos Islands are one of the places most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
To see the future of the Galápagos, look to their recent past, when one such event bore down on these islands. Warm El Niño waters blocked the rise of nutrients to the surface of the ocean, which caused widespread starvation.
Large marine iguanas died, while others shrank their skeletons to survive. Seabirds stopped laying eggs. Forests of a giant daisy tree were flattened by storms and thorny invasive bushes took over their territory. Eight of every 10 penguins died and nearly all sea lion pups perished. A fish the length of a pencil, the Galápagos damsel, was never seen again.
Sea lions on Isabela Island.
That was in 1982. The world’s oceans have warmed at least half a degree Celsius since then.”
By Nicholas Confessore, Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance
Dec. 18, 2018, 66c
“You are the product: That is the deal many Silicon Valley companies offer to consumers. The users get free search engines, social media accounts and smartphone apps, and the companies use the personal data they collect — your searches, “likes,” phone numbers and friends — to target and sell advertising.
But an investigation by The New York Times, based on hundreds of pages of internal Facebook documents and interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its partners, reveals that the marketplace for that data is even bigger than many consumers suspected. And Facebook, which collects more information on more people than almost any other private corporation in history, is a central player.
Here are five takeaways from our investigation.”
By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist, Dec. 17, 2018, 1092c
Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“The midterm elections were, to an important extent, a referendum on the Affordable Care Act; health care, not Donald Trump, dominated Democratic campaigning. And voters delivered a clear verdict: They want Obamacare’s achievements, the way it expanded coverage to roughly 20 million people who would otherwise have been uninsured, to be sustained.
But on Friday, Reed O’Connor, a partisan Republican judge known for “weaponizing” his judicial power, declared the A.C.A. as a whole — protection for pre-existing conditions, subsidies to help families afford coverage, and the Medicaid expansion — unconstitutional. Legal experts from both right and left ridiculed his reasoning and described his ruling as “raw political activism.” And that ruling probably won’t be sustained by higher courts.
But don’t be too sure that his sabotage will be overturned. O’Connor’s abuse of power may be unusually crude, but that sort of behavior is becoming increasingly common. And it’s not just health care, nor is it just the courts. What Nancy Pelosi called the “monstrous endgame” of the Republican assault on health care is just the leading edge of an attack on multiple fronts, as the G.O.P. tries to overturn the will of the voters and undermine democracy in general.
For while we may congratulate ourselves on the strength of our political institutions, in the end institutions consist of people and fulfill their roles only as long as the people in them respect their intended purpose. Rule of law depends not just on what is written down, but also on the behavior of those who interpret and enforce that rule.”