Opinion | God Is Now Trump’s Co-Conspirator – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

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“Listening to the speech William Barr, the attorney general, gave last week at the University of Notre Dame Law School, I found myself thinking of the title of an old movie: “God Is My Co-Pilot.” What I realized is that Donald Trump’s minions have now gone that title one better: If Barr’s speech is any indication, their strategy is to make God their boss’s co-conspirator.

Given where we are right now, you might have expected Barr to respond in some way to the events of the past few weeks — the revelation that the president has been calling on foreign regimes to produce dirt on his domestic opponents, the airport arrest of associates of the president’s lawyer as they tried to leave the country on one-way tickets, credible reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is under criminal investigation.

Alternatively, Barr could have delivered himself of some innocuous pablum, which is something government officials often do in difficult times.

But no. Barr gave a fiery speech denouncing the threat to America posed by “militant secularists,” whom he accused of conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order,” blaming them for rising mental illness, drug dependency and violence.”

David Lindsay: Amen.

I am reading Eager to Love, by Richard Rohr, and it is opening my eyes to a form of Christianity, following St. Francis of Asisis, that is open, big tent, humble, focused on good works, and more Unitarian than expected.

I agree with Paul Krugman, and here is one of the many good comments, I heartily recommended.

Tim Doran
Evanston, IL
Times Pick

Speaking as a very religious Christian, I hope and pray that the influence of American evangelicalism disappears as soon as possible. I much prefer that the influence of atheistic secularism increases because generally atheistic secularists do a far better job of following Jesus than does the typical American evangelical. Jesus explicitly condemned those who make a show of praying in public and those who oppress the poor. Trump’s evangelical supporters love to pray loud and long as they push for policies that oppress the poor and immigrants. Secular atheists obviously never pray in public and typically support policies that assist immigrants and the poor. This country would likely more closely follow the teachings of Jesus under the influence of secular atheism than under American evangelicalism.

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Editorial | Trump Just Created a Moral and Strategic Disaster – The New York Times

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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.

CreditCreditIllustration by Nicholas Konrad; photograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The roughly 1,000 American troops stationed in Syria find themselves in an impossible situation, by order of their commander in chief. They are now caught between the Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad, an unrepentant war criminal who has used poison gas against his own people, and the Turkish military — a NATO ally — which has already rained down artillery shells near positions held by American soldiers.

When Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise to end “endless wars,” it was always unspoken that doing so would mean to some extent abandoning allies, like the Kurdish forces that helped devastate the Islamic State, or the Afghan government in Kabul. But surely putting America first never meant leaving American soldiers behind. The Times reported Monday that removing the American troops from Syria may require an airlift, a move that may also be needed to relocate the estimated 50 American tactical nuclear weapons housed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Dozens of civilians and combatants were killed in fighting, according to the BBC, when Turkey struck south into Kurdish-held areas of Syria over the weekend, an operation that was greenlit by the White House. Islamic State fighters and their family members, who had been held in a detention camp by Kurdish forces, have scattered to the winds, The Times reports. The Kurds, under fire from Turkish forces, quickly allied with the Syrian government, which sent its own Russian-backed army north.

One thousand decisions led the United States to find itself refereeing the border between Syria and Turkey, but only one decision — made abruptly just over a week ago by President Trump after a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — led to the chaos and bloodletting that has gushed across the region in the past few days.”

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren Divides the Room – By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By Gail Collins and 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every other week.

ImageElizabeth Warren is one of 12 candidates who will be participating in Tuesday’s Democratic debate.
CreditCreditKyle Grillot for The New York Times

Gail Collins: Bret, where should we start? Democratic debate? Impeachment? Mideast crisis? Rudy Giuliani? Actually, as a New Yorker I always figured that someday Rudy would do something even more outrageous than the time he called a news conference to announce he was separating from his wife before he told said spouse. But I did not imagine it would include sleazy Ukrainians and Joe Biden’s son.

But hey, it’s debate day. Let’s start with the Democrats. Who do you like tonight?

Bret Stephens: Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like to start with a certain Gail Collins, whose extraordinary history of older women in America, “No Stopping Us Now,” hits bookstores this week. Congratulations!

Gail: Thanks! You’ve made my day.

Bret: O.K. Now to the doleful stuff.

I know we don’t often discuss foreign affairs, but I feel sick about the way in which President Trump has betrayed our Kurdish allies. They lost thousands of soldiers to defeat the Islamic State, which made it possible to keep American casualties to a minimum in that fight. And now we’ve sold them out to a Turkish strongman who takes Americans hostage, locks up his political opponents by the thousands, makes common cause with Hamas, mutters anti-Semitic garbage, blackmails Europe, attempts to steal elections and builds a gigantic palace for himself.

It’s one of the lowest moments in American foreign policy. Which is to say, just another day in Trumpworld.

Bolton Objected to Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Calling Giuliani ‘a Hand Grenade’ – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)”

Violent Video Was Product of Right-Wing Provocateurs and Trump Allies – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The creator of a gruesome video that showed a fake President Trump killing journalists and political opponents and that was played at a meeting of a pro-Trump group over the weekend is part of a loose network of right-wing provocateurs with a direct line to the White House.

The unidentified creator of the video operates under the name of “The GeekzTeam” and has proclaimed on Twitter to be a “red blooded American with ZERO tolerance for the liberal agenda.” Like many in the online group, the person specializes in creating pro-Trump internet content, often by remixing the president’s image into clips from popular movies and television shows.

Another of the provocateurs, Logan Cook, who often has posted the videos on MemeWorld, his website, participated in a social media summit at the White House in July and took his children to meet the president in the Oval Office, accompanied by Dan Scavino, the White House social media director.

The connections underscore how the president’s escalating war on what he calls the “fake news” media has elevated people from the far-right fringe into allies who defend Mr. Trump with extreme language and images.”

World’s top three asset managers oversee $300bn fossil fuel investments | Environment | The Guardian

Data reveals crucial role of BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard in climate crisis

by 

“The world’s three largest money managers have built a combined $300bn fossil fuel investment portfolio using money from people’s private savings and pension contributions, the Guardian can reveal.

BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, which together oversee assets worth more than China’s entire GDP, have continued to grow billion-dollar stakes in some of the most carbon-intensive companies since the Paris agreement, financial data shows.

The two largest asset managers, BlackRock and Vanguard, have also routinely opposed motions at fossil fuel companies that would have forced directors to take more action on climate change, the analysis reveals.”

Source: World’s top three asset managers oversee $300bn fossil fuel investments | Environment | The Guardian

Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurdish Allies Describing ‘Betrayal’ – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — American commandos were working alongside Kurdish forces at an outpost in eastern Syria last year when they were attacked by columns of Syrian government tanks and hundreds of troops, including Russian mercenaries. In the next hours, the Americans threw the Pentagon’s arsenal at them, including B-52 strategic bombers. The attack was stopped.

That operation, in the middle of the American-led campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, showed the extent to which the United States military was willing to protect the Syrian Kurds, its main ally on the ground.

But now, with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies.

“They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

Opinion | Are School Debate Competitions Bad for Our Political Discourse? – The New York Times

By Jonathan Ellis and 

Dr. Ellis is a philosophy professor. Ms. Hovagimian is a law student.

CreditCreditRichie Pope

“What do conservative political figures like Ted Cruz, Steve Bannon, Karl Rove and Richard Nixon have in common with liberal politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris and Bill Clinton? They all honed their skills of rhetoric, reasoning and persuasion on school debate teams.

That’s no surprise. Excelling in school debate opens many academic and professional doors, conferring prestige and signaling exceptional verbal and logical aptitude. Some of those skills will no doubt be on display at the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday.

But while school debate can be good for aspiring politicians, it may not be good for our politics. In particular, it may contribute to the closed-minded, partisan and self-interested nature of so much of today’s public and political dialogue.

Why? Because school debate ultimately strengthens and rewards biased reasoning.

In traditional debate competitions, teams are assigned at random to argue one or the other side of an issue. Each round, one team is assigned the affirmative view — say, “Recreational drug use should be legalized” — and the other team, the negative. That means teams start with a conclusion, whether they endorse it or not, and work backward from there, marshaling the best arguments they can devise to make that conclusion come out on top.

The goal is not to determine the most reasonable or fair-minded approach to an issue, but to defend a given claim at all costs. This is an exercise not in deliberation but in reasoning with an agenda.”

David Lindsay: This essay turned out to be the most challenging piece I read over the weekend.  It also highlights the value of the comments section of the Times, which I have become a fan of  The piece moved me to question the validity of my own daughter’s extraodinary experince on the Hamden High School debate team, where she became the Captain for two years.  I was a judge on two different 8 hour Saturdays, and was deeply moved and humbled by the experience.

The comments take apart the articulate essay above, with a hundred cuts, starting with this most recomended comment:

JT FLORIDA
Venice, FL

As a thirty year speech and debate coach at a public high school and now fifteen years beyond that with university students debating overseas, I disagree with with the conclusions of these authors. Debate is more than a training ground for lawyers and politicians. It is about building critical thinking skills not often taught in a regular school setting. Creating an environment to build confidence as a public person, acquiring research skills, teamwork, appreciation for multiple sides of an argument, putting oneself in the shoes of another by arguing a different perspective than their own are just a few benefits of debate. Debate is an academic sport. I was fortunate to witness one of my all female teams win a state championship in the late 70’s at a time when athletics were slow getting started in schools and debate typically was dominated by males. The authors should also get updated on the several debate styles being practiced in classrooms across the country. They refer to a policy-style team debate but now we have Lincoln Douglas Values debates, Public Forum Debates, parliamentary debates and others. True enough, lots of students become lawyers and politicians but I have seen many students engage in the activity because it has intrinsic value. I would invite them to locate a local high school or look up a high school tournament at a nearby university and volunteer to judge debates. I think it will change their views about school debates.

4 Replies109 Recommended

Opinion | Should We Soak the Rich? You Bet! – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditJohannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Donald Trump promised struggling working-class voters that he heard their frustrations and would act.

He did: He pushed through a tax cut that made income inequality worse. In 2018, for the first time, the 400 richest American households paid a lower average tax rate than any other income group, according to new research by two economists.

Those billionaires paid an average total rate of 23 percent in 2018, down from the 70 percent their 1950 counterparts paid. Meanwhile, the bottom 10th of households paid an average of 26 percent, up from 16 percent in 1950.

That’s the rot in our system: Great wealth has translated into immense political power, which is then leveraged to multiply that wealth and power all over again — and also multiply the suffering of those at the bottom. This is a legal corruption that President Trump magnified but that predated him and will outlast him; this is America’s cancer.”

Opinion | Fire Floods and Power Outages: Our Climate Future Has Arrived – By Justin Gillis – The New York Times

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Mr. Gillis, a former environmental reporter for The Times, is a contributing opinion writer.

CreditCreditMichael Owen Baker/Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Now we suffer the consequences.

In Northern California, power was cut to more than a million people this week. Near Houston, houses that flooded only two years ago just succumbed again. The South endured record-shattering fall heat waves. In Miami, salt water bubbled through street drains yet again as the rising ocean mounted a fresh assault.

All of it was predicted, in general outline, decades ago. We did not listen. Ideologues and paid shills cajoled us to ignore the warnings. Politicians cashed their checks from the fossil fuel lobbyists and slithered away.

Today, we act surprised as the climate emergency descends upon us in all its ferocity.

The scientists knew long ago, and told us, that the sea would invade the coasts. They knew a hotter atmosphere would send heavier rains to inundate our cities and farms. They knew the landscape of California, which always becomes desiccated in the late summer and early fall, would dry out more in a hotter climate.

But even the scientists did not quite foresee the way that bone-dry vegetation would turn into a firebomb waiting for a spark. California is the state that has done the most to battle the climate crisis, but that has not saved it from recent fires so ferocious they burned people alive.”

“. . . . We can sit back, citizens, and watch the fires and the floods and the heat waves with a rising sense of doom. Or we can be as brave as a schoolgirl and decide that now is the time to stand up and fight.”

David Lindsay:

My favorite essay in the Times this weekend was by
Justin Gillis in the Sunday Review, NYT, Our Climate Future Has Arrived.