U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on North Korea and Iran – By Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger – The New York Times

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By Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger
Jan. 29, 2019

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WASHINGTON — A new American intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” all of its nuclear stockpiles, and that Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” needed to make a bomb, directly contradicting two top tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy.

Daniel R. Coats, the director of national intelligence, also challenged Mr. Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State had been defeated, a key rationale for his decision to exit from Syria. The terror group, the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report to Congress concluded, “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” and maintain eight branches and a dozen networks around the world.

via U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on North Korea and Iran – The New York Times

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren Does Teddy Roosevelt – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman
By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 28, 2019, 633 c

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Elizabeth Warren at a campaign event in Iowa early this month.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“America invented progressive taxation. And there was a time when leading American politicians were proud to proclaim their willingness to tax the wealthy, not just to raise revenue, but to limit excessive concentration of economic power.

“It is important,” said Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, “to grapple with the problems connected with the amassing of enormous fortunes” — some of them, he declared, “swollen beyond all healthy limits.”

Today we are once again living in an era of extraordinary wealth concentrated in the hands of a few people, with the net worth of the wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans almost equal to that of the bottom 90 percent combined. And this concentration of wealth is growing; as Thomas Piketty famously argued in his book “Capital in the 21st Century,” we seem to be heading toward a society dominated by vast, often inherited fortunes.

So can today’s politicians rise to the challenge? Well, Elizabeth Warren has released an impressive proposal for taxing extreme wealth. And whether or not she herself becomes the Democratic nominee for president, it says good things about her party that something this smart and daring is even part of the discussion.”

Opinion | Trump’s Wall of Shame – By Jamelle Bouie – The New York Times

By Jamelle Bouie
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 24, 2019, 1267
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Guillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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CreditCreditGuillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
This is Jamelle Bouie’s debut column.

“The wall of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency has always operated both as a discrete proposal — an actual structure to be built under his leadership — and as a symbol with a clear meaning. Whether praised by its supporters or condemned by its opponents, the wall is a stand-in for the larger promise of broad racial (and religious) exclusion and domination.

It’s no surprise, then, that some Americans use “Build the wall” as a racist chant, much like the way they invoke the president’s name. And it’s also why, despite the pain and distress of the extended government shutdown, Democrats are right to resist any deal with the White House that includes funding for its construction.

That’s not to say there aren’t practical reasons for Democrats to resist the proposals on hand. The president calls his most recent bid a major compromise, but its headline provision — protections for immigrants covered by either Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status — are short-term and limited. It also puts a cap on the number of Central American migrant children and teenagers who can receive asylum, requiring them to apply in their home countries, while also eliminating automatic court hearings for minors who arrive at the border in order to streamline the deportation process. Together with its $5.7 billion for “the wall,” it’s less a compromise than a near capitulation to the president’s vision for immigration policy — a vision he could not get through Congress when he had Republican majorities in both chambers. A border wall also just won’t work — erecting a barrier does nothing to solve the political conflicts and economic pressures that drive migration to the United States.

Agreeing to this deal — or any deal beyond a straightforward bill to end the shutdown — would only validate the president’s extortion tactics, adopted after conservatives pressured him at the end of last year to reject a so-called clean bipartisan bill to fund the government. To agree to wall funding in these circumstances would guarantee a repeat performance the next time President Trump wants to secure a legislative “win” without the difficult work of negotiating with Congress, much less his opposition.
But the paramount reason for resisting this deal, and any other, is what it would mean symbolically to erect the wall or any portion of it. Like Trump himself, it would represent a repudiation of the pluralism and inclusivity that characterizes America at its best. It would stand as a lasting reminder of the white racial hostility surging through this moment in American history, a monument to this particular drive to preserve the United States as a white man’s country.In fact, you can almost think of the wall as a modern-day Confederate monument, akin to those erected during a similar but far more virulent period of racist aggression in the first decades of the 20th century. Built as shrines to white racial dominance as much as memorials for any particular soldier, they were part of a larger, national drive to uphold white supremacy against what one nativist thinker termed a “rising tide of color.” “
David Lindsay:
Welcome Jamelle Bouis. Well done. Fabulous explanation. Best I’ve heard in explaining this damned nusissance of a wall.

Opinion | Howard Schultz- Please Don’t Run for President – By Michelle Goldberg – The New York Times

Michelle Goldberg
By Michelle Goldberg
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 28, 2019, 1095
Howard Schultz, the former chief executive of Starbucks, says he is considering running for president as a “centrist independent.”
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

“Unlike Donald Trump, the former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz is a genuinely successful businessman who built a company that’s become part of the daily lives of people across America. For this, those of us who are horrified by Trump’s relentless grifting should be grateful. It gives us something concrete to boycott should Schultz decide to launch a narcissistic spoiler campaign for president.

In an interview with Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Schultz decried “extremes on both sides” and said he’s considering a run for president as a “centrist independent.” He hasn’t yet made up his mind, and perhaps the overwhelmingly negative reaction from almost all segments of the Democratic Party, as well as some NeverTrump Republicans, will dissuade him. There’s a danger, though, that the reality-distorting effects of being a billionaire will warp his judgment, convincing him that his business acumen is transferable to the realm of politics. If so, he could end up helping Donald Trump get re-elected.

Shultz appears to share the conviction, endemic among American elites, that the country hungers for a candidate who is socially liberal but fiscally conservative. After all, if you’re rich, you probably know a lot of people like this. “I’m a socially liberal, fiscally conservative centrist who would love to vote for a rational Democrat and get Trump out of the White House,” a chief executive of a major bank, who wanted to remain anonymous, recently told Politico, lamenting Michael Bloomberg’s poor odds in a Democratic primary.

But this frustrated executive’s politics aren’t widely shared by people who haven’t been to Davos. In a 2017 study, the political scientist Lee Drutman plotted the 2016 electorate along two axes, one dealing with social issues and identity, the other with economics and trade. Only 3.8 percent of voters fell into the socially liberal/economically conservative quadrant.”

David Lindsay:

“Only 3.8 percent of voters fell into the socially liberal/economically conservative quadrant.”   That would include me. I didn’t realize I was in such a small group of smart, compassionate people. But for me, economic conservativism is not agains the New Deal, or the Great Society, or the New Green Deal that includes population control.

Why a Border Wall Could Mean Trouble for Wildlife – By John Schwartz – The New York Times

John Schwartz
By John Schwartz
Jan. 24, 2019

“As the fight continues over President Trump’s demand to extend the border wall between the United States and Mexico, one thing is clear: Whatever the wall’s effect on immigration might be, it would have an impact on the environment of the borderlands.

About 650 miles of border wall already exist along the 2,000-mile boundary between the two countries. Most of it has been built on federal land where the terrain provides no natural barrier. Mr. Trump has called for a 1,000-mile wall, which would extend farther across land that includes important habitats for wildlife.

A Customs and Border Protection policy says the agency “will integrate environmental stewardship and sustainability practices into operations and activities.” But Congress has given the agency the power to waive environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act. Such laws could require the government to produce an in-depth environmental impact analysis of a new project, develop less-damaging alternatives and perform environmental monitoring after construction.

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection was unavailable because of the partial government shutdown, a result of the political standoff over funding for the wall.

An article published last year in the journal Bioscience, which has been signed by more than 2,900 scientists, said the administration’s plan would “threaten some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions” by blocking free movement of many species and contributing to flooding. More than 1,500 native animal and plant species would be affected by the wall, the paper said, including 62 listed as endangered or vulnerable.

Here are some of the possible effects that an extended border wall could have on wildlife.

Animals would be cut off
An extended border wall would impede the movement of many species and would put creatures already under pressure in peril.”

Opinion | Your Loyalties Are Your Life – Josiah Royce – By David Brooks – The New York Times

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By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 24, 2019,  772 c

Josiah Royce
In 1900, there were two great philosophers working side by side at Harvard, William James and Josiah Royce. James was from an eminent Boston family and had all the grace, brilliance and sophistication that his class aspired to. Royce, as the historian Allen Guelzo points out, was the first major American philosopher born west of the Mississippi. His parents were Forty-Niners who moved to California but failed to find gold. He grew up in squalor, was stocky, lonely and probably knew more about despair and the brooding shadows that can come in life.

James and Royce admired and learned from each other, but their philosophies were different, too. James was pragmatic and tough-minded, looking for empirical truth. Royce was more idealistic and tender-minded, more spiritual and abstract.

They differed on the individual’s role in society. As David Lamberth of Harvard notes, James’s emphasis was on tolerance. We live in a pluralistic society and we each know only a fragment of the truth. People should give one another enough social space so they can be themselves. For Royce the good life meant tightly binding yourself to others — giving yourself away with others for the sake of a noble cause. Tolerance is not enough.

via Opinion | Your Loyalties Are Your Life – The New York Times

Opinion | Why Trump Will Lose in 2020 – By Rachel Bitecofer – The New York Times

By Rachel Bitecofer
Dr. Bitecofer is a professor of political science at Christopher Newport University.

Jan. 24, 2019, 1336

“With several major Democratic primary candidates having declared, the palace intrigue of America’s 2020 presidential election is already in nearly full swing. But what if I were to tell you that barring a significant unforeseen shock to the system, the outcome of 2020 is already set in stone?

The high levels of hyperpartisanship and polarization in the electorate have profoundly affected the political behavior of Americans and, by extension, made the outcome of our elections highly predictable.

Always powerful, partisanship has become the be-all and end-all for American voters. With these political dynamics, a person accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls and young women can run for and win upward of 90 percent of his party’s vote — as the Republican Roy Moore did, according to exit polls, in the special Senate election in Alabama in 2017.

Yet a key aspect of polarization has been somewhat overlooked: negative partisanship. Voters with this attitude are mobilized not by love of their own party so much as by hatred of the opposition party. Negative partisanship especially benefits the party that doesn’t hold the presidency, because out-party voters find themselves living in a world where their political preferences are under constant assault, or at least appear to be so.”

A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’ – The New York Times

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“SAN FRANCISCO — Despite a trade war between the United States and China and past admonishments from President Trump “to start building their damn computers and things in this country,” Apple is unlikely to bring its manufacturing closer to home.

A tiny screw illustrates why.

In 2012, Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, went on prime-time television to announce that Apple would make a Mac computer in the United States. It would be the first Apple product in years to be manufactured by American workers, and the top-of-the-line Mac Pro would come with an unusual inscription: “Assembled in USA.”

But when Apple began making the $3,000 computer in Austin, Tex., it struggled to find enough screws, according to three people who worked on the project and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.

In China, Apple relied on factories that can produce vast quantities of custom screws on short notice. In Texas, where they say everything is bigger, it turned out the screw suppliers were not.”

Source: A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’ – The New York Times

Opinion | The Safe Zone Northern Syria Needs – By Shervan Derwish – The New York Times

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By Shervan Derwish
Mr. Derwish is a spokesman for the Manbij Military Council.

Jan. 23, 2019


A soccer match in Manbij, Syria, which was freed from Islamic State control by Kurdish fighters in 2016.CreditCreditEPA, via Shutterstock
MANBIJ, Syria — Whether the United States and the international coalition against the Islamic State will protect Manbij and areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria from an unknown future is a significant test of their credibility.

I am writing from Manbij, a city of 700,000 people in northern Syria governed by a civilian administration made up of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Circassians. Thanks to the Kurdish fighters who liberated Manbij in 2016, we have been able to enjoy freedoms unimaginable under either the Islamic State or the Syrian government.

In Manbij, where women were once bought and sold as slaves by the Islamic State terrorists, now they run economic cooperatives, serve in the Manbij Military Council and have equal representation in elected councils.

For the first time in Syrian history, we have held free local elections. We have reopened or built several hospitals and 350 schools attended by 120,000 students. We have given 2,000 licenses to factories and flour mills. The physical reconstruction of our city has been slow but steady. Most important, people are living without fear.

via Opinion | The Safe Zone Northern Syria Needs – The New York Times

Opinion | The Embargo on Cuba Failed. Let’s Move On. – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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By Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 23, 2019, 244 c

American and Cuban flags flying from a balcony in Havana.CreditCreditIvan Alvarado/Reuters
HAVANA — It has been 60 years since Fidel Castro marched into Havana, so it’s time for both Cuba and the United States to grow up. Let’s let Cuba be a normal country again.

Cuba is neither the demonic tyranny conjured by some conservatives nor the heroic worker paradise romanticized by some on the left. It’s simply a tired little country, no threat to anyone, with impressive health care and education but a repressive police state and a dysfunctional economy.

Driving in from the airport, I saw billboards denouncing the American economic embargo as the “longest genocide in history.” That’s ridiculous. But the embargo itself is also absurd and counterproductive, accomplishing nothing but hurting the Cuban people — whom we supposedly aim to help.

After six decades, can’t we move on? Let’s drop the embargo but continue to push Havana on improving human rights, and on dropping support for other oppressive regimes, like those in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Let’s make room for nuance: Cuba impoverishes its citizens and denies them political rights, but it does a good job providing basic education and keeping people healthy. As I noted in my last column, on Cuba’s health care system, Cuba’s official infant mortality rate is lower than America’s (its real rate may or may not be).

via Opinion | The Embargo on Cuba Failed. Let’s Move On. – The New York Times