Opinion | Every Country Has Its Own Climate Risks. What’s Yours? – The New York Times

“President Biden has wasted no time in moving to repudiate his predecessor’s regressive climate policies. That’s good news. This map shows which areas could be at high risk unless greenhouse-gas emissions are cut drastically.

We’ve colored the map to identify the top risks across the globe, using a model by Four Twenty Seven, a company that analyzes climate risks. Accumulated emissions in the atmosphere are causing accelerating risks for a number of climate hazards.”

Incidentally, the first hyperlink introduced me to an organization called 427 in California. I went to their site to learn: “The name Four Twenty Seven is a reference to California’s previous 2020 emissions target, 427 million tonnes of carbon.” I found through google that CA did meet its emissions targets for 2020.

Thomas B. Edsall | ‘The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets.’ – The New York Times

“Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality. He has written extensively about the rise of the political right and the religious right.

Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

“It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.

Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, professors of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Oklahoma, describe Christian Nationalism in their book “Taking America Back for God”:

It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively ‘Christian’ from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies — and it aims to keep it this way.

In her recent book, “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” Katherine Stewart, a frequent contributor to these pages, does not mince words:

It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy, but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a ‘biblical worldview’ that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders.

This, Stewart writes, “is not a ‘culture war.’ It is a political war over the future of democracy.”

Famous cartoonist made donkey and elephant the symbols of political parties – The Washington Post

A political cartoonist associated the donkey and the elephant with the two major political parties.

Why is the elephant the symbol of the Republican Party and a donkey the symbol of the Democrats?

“A very famous political cartoonist named Thomas Nast is credited with making these animals the symbols of their parties during the 1870s. (The donkey was first associated with the Democrats during the election of 1828, but it wasn’t until Nast used it in 1870 that many people began to link the Democrats with the donkey.)

In 1874, Nast drew the cartoon shown above with a donkey wearing a lion’s skin and scaring all the other animals in the forest. One of the animals was an elephant, and it was labeled “The Republican Vote.” And the rest, as they say, is history.”

Source: Famous cartoonist made donkey and elephant the symbols of political parties – The Washington Post

Opinion | How to Reform the Senate Filibuster – The New York Times

“For President Biden to succeed, the Democrats must find a way to limit the Republicans’ use of the filibuster, the procedural weapon in the Senate that requires 60 votes to advance legislation to a vote and threatens to leave the new president’s agenda in purgatory.

On Monday, the newly demoted Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, relented on his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the filibuster, and he agreed to move ahead with discussions on a power-sharing agreement. But the filibuster still lives: At least two Democrats have said they oppose ending it, enough to frustrate any effort by Democrats to do so by a majority vote in the 50-50 Senate.

So long as Mr. McConnell holds those two cards, any Democratic threat to end the filibuster altogether — the so-called nuclear option — is doomed. This leaves Mr. McConnell with a potential veto over most of the Biden legislative agenda.

But what if a genuine compromise were possible that preserved the Senate filibuster as a protection of individual conscience while giving President Biden a fair shot at enacting a desperately needed Covid-19 relief package? Such a compromise exists, we believe, by restoring the original “speaking filibuster,” made famous by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in place of the modern version.

In the beginning, from 1789 to 1806, debate in the Senate could be ended at any time by majority vote. In 1806, the Senate abolished that rule, leaving no way to cut off debate. This decision gave birth to the filibuster to delay or block legislative action. This involved a senator holding the floor continuously, as Mr. Smith did (not easy), or to act in carefully choreographed relays with like-minded colleagues (also not easy) and prevent a vote on the merits.

Still, a few successful filibusters were maintained, most notoriously to block anti-lynching and other civil rights legislation, but only when opposition was so passionate that senators were willing to endure the physical and logistical rigors of seizing the Senate floor and refusing to let go. In 1917, opponents of the United States’ entry into World War I were able to sustain such a speaking filibuster, blocking widely supported legislation that would have enabled merchant vessels to arm themselves. An angry Senate reacted by adopting formal rules that allowed an end to debate by a vote by two-thirds of the senators present on the floor.

From 1917 to 1975, with tweaks in 1949 and 1959, the Senate operated under the two-thirds rule, but the real constraints on filibustering were three self-limiting aspects of the 1917 rule. First, a motion to end debate (known as cloture) froze the Senate, forcing the body to vote on the motion before proceeding with any other business. Second, maintaining a speaking filibuster required a senator to hold the floor, individually or in relays. Third, supporters of the filibuster needed more than one-third of the Senate as allies to be present on the Senate floor to head off a surprise cloture vote. Once again, if opposition was passionate enough, successful filibusters were maintained, especially of civil rights legislation, but the difficulties of mounting a filibuster placed a lid on the number of times one could be successfully sustained.

Beginning in 1975, though, the original speaking filibuster was transformed into the modern version. First, Southern senators agreed to confine the filibuster to a short period in the morning session, allowing the Senate to move on to other business in the afternoon. Then they agreed to a reduction of the cloture number to a fixed 60 votes, from two-thirds present and voting, or 67 votes if the entire Senate was present.

All of a sudden, the self-limiting factors that had kept the filibuster in check since 1806 disappeared. There was no longer an institutional cost since the Senate could conduct business as usual during most of the day. A filibustering senator no longer had to hold the floor speaking for long periods of time. And most important, supporters of the filibuster no longer had to worry about being in the Senate chamber because it was the job of opponents to marshal the fixed 60 votes to end debate. Supporters of the filibuster could stay home in bed.”

Thomas Friedman | Made in the U.S.A.: Socialism for the Rich. Capitalism for the Rest. – The New York Times

“. . . There has been so much focus in recent years on the downsides of rapid globalization and “neoliberal free-market groupthink” — influencing both Democrats and Republicans — that we’ve ignored another, more powerful consensus that has taken hold on both parties: That we are in a new era of permanently low interest rates, so deficits don’t matter as long as you can service them, and so the role of government in developed countries can keep expanding — which it has with steadily larger bailouts, persistent deficit spending, mounting government debts and increasingly easy money out of Central Banks to finance it all.

This new consensus has a name: “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest,” argues Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, author of “The Ten Rules of Successful Nations” and one of my favorite contrarian economic thinkers.

“Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest” — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s — happens, Sharma explained in a phone interview, when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. Meanwhile, mediocre productivity in the real economy has limited opportunity, choice and income gains for the poor and middle class alike.” . . .

The Battle Lines Are Forming in Biden’s Climate Push – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — As President Biden prepares on Wednesday to open an ambitious effort to confront climate change, powerful and surprising forces are arrayed at his back.

Automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future; large oil and gas companies have said some curbs on greenhouse pollution lifted by former President Donald J. Trump should be reimposed; shareholders are demanding corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future, and a youth movement is driving the Democratic Party to go big to confront the issue.

But what may well stand in the president’s way is political intransigence from senators from fossil-fuel states in both parties. An evenly divided Senate has given enormous power to any single senator, and one in particular, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who will lead the Senate Energy Committee and who came to the Senate as a defender of his state’s coal industry.

Without a doubt, signals from the planet itself are lending urgency to the cause. Last year was the hottest year on record, capping the hottest decade on record. Already, scientists say the irreversible effects of climate change have started to sweep across the globe, from record wildfires in California and Australia to rising sea levels, widespread droughts and stronger storms.”

“. . .Mr. Biden’s team is already drafting new national auto pollution standards — based on a deal reached between the state of California and Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo — that would require passenger vehicles to average 51 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2026. The current Trump rules only require fuel economy of about 40 miles per gallon in the same time frame.

And just two weeks after Mr. Biden’s electoral victory, General Motors signaled that it, too, was ready to work with the new administration.

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

“President-elect Biden recently said, ‘I believe that we can own the 21st century car market again by moving to electric vehicles.’ We at General Motors couldn’t agree more,” wrote Mary Barra, the chief executive of GM, in a letter to leaders of some of the nation’s largest environmental groups.

If enacted, a fuel economy rule modeled on the California system could immediately become the nation’s single largest policy for cutting greenhouse gases.

Mr. Biden’s team is also drafting plans to reinstate Obama-era rules on methane, a planet-warming gas over 50 times more potent than carbon dioxide, though it dissipates faster. Last summer, when Mr. Trump rolled back those rules, the oil giants BP and Exxon called instead to tighten them.”   . . . 

Stuart A. Thompson | Three Weeks Inside a  – The New York Times

“As President Biden’s inauguration ticked closer, some of Donald Trump’s supporters were feeling gleeful. Mr. Trump was on the cusp of declaring martial law, they believed. Military tribunals would follow, then televised executions, then Democrats and other deep state operatives would finally be brought to justice.

These were honestly held beliefs. Dozens of Trump supporters spoke regularly over the past three weeks on a public audio chat room app, where they uploaded short recordings instead of typing. In these candid digital confessionals, participants would crack jokes, share hopes and make predictions.

“Look at the last four years. They haven’t listened to a thing we’ve said. Um … there’s going to have to be some serious anarchy that goes on. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.”

I spent the past three weeks listening to the channel — from before the Jan. 6 Washington protest to after Mr. Biden’s inauguration. It became an obsession, something I’d check first thing every morning and listen to as I fell asleep at night. Participants tend to revere Mr. Trump and believe he’ll end the crisis outlined by Q: that the world is run by a cabal of pedophiles who operate a sex-trafficking ring, among other crimes. While the chat room group is relatively small, with only about 900 subscribers, it offers a glimpse into a worrying sect of Trump supporters. Some conspiracists like them have turned to violent language in the wake of Mr. Trump’s electoral loss.

“If the Biden inauguration wants to come in and take your weapons and force vaccination, you have due process to blow them the [expletive] away. Do it.”

Paul Krugman | Helping Kids Is a Very Good Idea – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photographs via Getty Images

“Some things about American politics are completely predictable, even in a time of insurrection and QAnon craziness. Anyone who has been paying attention over the past decade knew that as soon as a Democrat took the White House, Republicans would instantly do another 180-degree turn on budget deficits.

Remember, the G.O.P. went from hyperventilating about debt as an existential threat during the Obama years to complete indifference about deficits under Donald Trump. Surely nobody is surprised to see Republicans immediately revert to deficit hysteria now that Joe Biden is president.

Why are Republicans suddenly peddling debt phobia again? Their usual argument is that federal debt is a burden on future generations; I and others have spent considerable time trying to explain that this is bad economics.

But leave the economics of debt aside. Shouldn’t politicians who claim to be terribly worried about the future of America’s children support, you know, actually helping America’s children today?”

From Navy SEAL to Part of the Angry Mob Outside the Capitol – The New York Times

“In the weeks since Adam Newbold, a former member of the Navy SEALs, was identified as part of the enraged crowd that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he has been interviewed by the F.B.I. and has resigned under pressure from jobs as a mentor and as a volunteer wrestling coach. He expects his business to lose major customers over his actions.

But none of it has shaken his belief, against all evidence, that the presidential election was stolen and that people like him were right to rise up.

It is surprising because Mr. Newbold’s background would seem to armor him better than most against the lure of baseless conspiracy theories. In the Navy, he was trained as an expert in sorting information from disinformation, a clandestine commando who spent years working in intelligence paired with the C.I.A., and he once mocked the idea of shadowy antidemocratic plots as “tinfoil hat” thinking.

Even so, like thousands of others who surged to Washington this month to support President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Newbold bought into the fabricated theory that the election was rigged by a shadowy cabal of liberal power brokers who had pushed the nation to the precipice of civil war. No one could persuade him otherwise.”

Deeply disturbing story. It actually left me with virtigo.  Here are the two most popular comments, which helped me grow more calm and centered.

Brooklyn3h ago
Times Pick

There is a real tendency in this country to automatically apply hero status to anyone in uniform. Here in New York, post 9/11 cops were afforded hugely outsized reverence, regardless of who the individual was behind the badge. This aura only grows when describing somebody as well trained and disciplined as a Navy Seal. That rare position has mythical status, automatically exalting the person. It is dangerous to forget that, regardless of rank or title, these are just people. People can be susceptible. People can be prone to fantasy, or delusions. I secretly reject the automatic hero status & credibility these titles impart, because it lets bad apples off the hook. Maybe this guy is a Seal, but to me he’s a dangerously well trained conspiracy theorist who should be regarded as such, full stop.

14 Replies1107 Recommended
ChristineMcM commented 3 hours ago


Massachusetts3h ago
Times Pick

““I tried to reason with him, show him facts, and he just went nuclear.”” Almost one third of the country thinks like this. There’s a fine line between patriotism in the original sense of the word, and fascism. All it takes is a desire to believe. The Trump phenomen is nothing new, as Eric Hoffer wrote seventy years ago in “The True Believer.” The question is, in a fractured society like ours, what are we going to do about all the Adam Newbolds out there? We’re moving from isolated malcontents like the perpetrator of the Oklahoma bombing to a true mass movement dominated by one party so cutlike and outrageous that it’s chilling it’s growing so fast. A free democratic society can’t exist when there’s no common ground on what constitutes reality.

4 Replies698 Recommended

Roy Scranton | I’ve Said Goodbye to ‘Normal.’ You Should, Too. – The New York Times

“. . .  I put on my mask. I want our normal lives back.

But what does normal even mean anymore?

It’s easy to forget that 2020 gave us not just the pandemic, but also the West Coast’s worst fire season, as well as the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. And, while we were otherwise distracted, 2020 also offered up near-record lows in Arctic sea icepossible evidence of significant methane release from Arctic permafrost and the Arctic Ocean, huge wildfires in both the Amazon and the Arcticshattered heat records (2020 rivaled 2016 for the hottest year on record)bleached coral reefs, the collapse of the last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic, and increasing odds that the global climate system has passed the point where feedback dynamics take over and the window of possibility for preventing catastrophe closes.

President Biden has recommitted the United States to the Paris Agreement, which is great except that it doesn’t really mean much, since that agreement’s commitments are voluntary. And it might not even matter whether signatories meet their commitments, since their pledges weren’t rigorous enough to keep global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels to begin with. According to Climate Action Tracker, a collaborative analysis from independent science nonprofits, only Morocco and Gambia have made commitments compatible with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and the commitments made by several major emitters, including China, Russia, Japan and the United States, are “highly insufficient” or “critically insufficient.” “