Paul Krugman | Helping Families Will Help Create Jobs – The New York Times

Mr. Krugman is an Opinion columnist.

“Conservatives beware: If the main elements in Joe Biden’s American Family Plan become law, they’ll be very hard to repeal. Why? Because they’ll deliver huge, indeed transformational benefits to millions.

I mean, just imagine trying to take away affordable child care, universal pre-K and paid leave for new parents once they’ve become part of the fabric of our society. You’d face a backlash far worse than the one that followed Republican attempts to eliminate protection for coverage of pre-existing health conditions in 2017. And that backlash quickly gave Democrats control of the House and set the stage for their current control of the Senate and White House as well.

So what’s the Republican counterargument? Well, much of the party appears uninterested in debating policy, preferring to lash out at imaginary plans to ban red meat or give immigrants Kamala Harris’s children’s book.

The official G.O.P. response to Biden’s speech on Wednesday, by Senator Tim Scott, seemed low-energy; Scott is still complaining about “big government” and denouncing Biden for spending money on things other than roads and bridges. The closest thing to a real argument was the claim that Biden is proposing “the biggest job-killing tax hikes in a generation” — presumably a reference to Bill Clinton’s tax increase in 1993.  . . . “

A Bet 20 Years Ago Made It the Exxon of Green Power – The New York Times

“MADRID — In the winter of 2015, three directors of a Connecticut electric company met with a potential acquirer: a determined Spanish utility executive named José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, who surprised them with a bold vision for America’s utility industry.

“He was very clear then that he saw the U.S. as having enormous potential in renewable energy,” said John L. Lahey, who was chairman of the company, United Illuminating. “This guy six years ago was already way ahead of where the U.S. was.”

Mr. Galán clinched that deal for United Illuminating for $3 billion. His company, Iberdrola, is now poised, with a Danish partner, to begin constructing the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States, in waters off Massachusetts. Over all, Iberdrola and its subsidiaries reach 24 U.S. states and have investments in countries from Britain to Brazil to Australia.

For the past 20 years, since he took over Iberdrola, based in Bilbao with 37,000 employees, Mr. Galán has been on a mission to upend the electrical utility industry, a fragmented collection of companies tied to aging coal- and oil-burning generators.  . . . “

Tesla’s Latest Solar Stumble: Big Price Increases – The New York Times

“On an October evening five years ago, Elon Musk used a former set for “Desperate Housewives” to show off Tesla’s latest innovation: roof shingles that can generate electricity from the sun without unsightly solar panels.

After delays, Tesla began rolling out the shingles in a big way this year, but it is already encountering a major problem. The company is hitting some customers with price increases before installation that are tens of thousands of dollars higher than earlier quotes, angering early adopters and raising big questions about how Tesla, which is better known for its electric cars, is running its once dominant rooftop solar business.

Dr. Peter Quint was eager to install Tesla’s solar shingles on his 4,000-square-foot home in Portland, Ore., until the company raised the price to $112,000, from $75,000, in a terse email. When he called Tesla for an explanation, he was put on hold for more than three hours.

“I said, ‘This isn’t real, right?’” said Dr. Quint, whose specialty is pediatric critical care. “The price started inching up. We could deal with that. Then this. At that price, in our opinion, it’s highway robbery.”  . . . :

Michelle Cottle | Biden Underpromises, Overdelivers – The New York Times

Ms. Cottle is a member of the editorial board.

“Like any employee, President Biden has to suffer through periodic performance reviews. Thursday marks his 100th day in office — a time-honored if vaguely arbitrary milestone at which a president’s early moves are sliced, diced and spun for all the world to judge. How many bills has he gotten passed? Whom has he appointed? How many executive orders has he signed? Which promises has he broken? Which constituencies has he ticked off?

Mr. Biden took office under extraordinary circumstances, with the nation confronting what he has called a quartet of “converging crises”: a lethal pandemic, economic uncertainty, climate change and racial injustice. Bold policy action was needed. So, too, was an effort to neutralize the toxic politics of the Trump era — which, among other damage, spawned a large reality-free zone in which the bulk of Republicans buy the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

All of which feels like a lot for one mild-mannered 78-year-old to tackle in his first three or so months. Then again, Mr. Biden is built to keep chugging along in the face of adversity, tragedy and lousy odds. That’s how he rolls. And while his first 100 days have been far from flawless, they reflect a clear understanding of why he was elected and what the American people now expect of him.

The president moved fast and went big on his signature challenge: confronting the one-two public-health-and-economic punch of the pandemic. He asked Congress for a $1.9 trillion relief package, and Congress basically gave him a $1.9 trillion relief package. Did Republican lawmakers sign on? No, they did not. But the ambitious bill — which went so far as to establish a (temporary) guaranteed income for families with children — drew strong bipartisan support from the public. That was good enough for the White House.  . . . “

Bret Stephens | Race and the Coming Liberal Crackup – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief last week after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The crime was heinous, the verdict just, the moral neat. If you think that systemic racism is the defining fact of race relations in 21st-century America, then Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck is its defining image.

But what about a case like that of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager who was shot and killed last week by Nicholas Reardon, a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio, at the instant that she was swinging a knife at a woman who had her back against a car?

Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, accused the Columbus police in a tweet of killing “an unarmed 15yo Black girl.” Valerie Jarrett, the former Obama adviser, tweeted that Bryant “was killed because a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times in order to break up a knife fight.” Jarrett wants to “Demand accountability” and “Fight for justice.”

An alternative view: Maybe there wasn’t time for Officer Reardon, in an 11-second interaction, to “de-escalate” the situation, as he is now being faulted for failing to do. And maybe the balance of our sympathies should lie not with the would-be perpetrator of a violent assault but with the cop who saved a Black life — namely that of Tionna Bonner, who nearly had Bryant’s knife thrust into her.  . . . “

After Failures to Curb Sexual Assault, a Move Toward a Major Shift in Military Law – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — After decades of failing to curb sexual assault in the armed forces, lawmakers and Pentagon leaders are poised to make major changes in military laws that many experts have long argued stand in the way of justice.

A bill championed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, would remove military commanders from a role in prosecuting service members for sexual assault and has gained support from scores of key members of Congress. Among them is Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa and a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, who said her own experience with assault and her daughter’s stories from West Point helped shift her views on the issue.

“I have been torn,” Ms. Ernst said in an interview. “On the one hand, I was a commander in the National Guard and know how important that role is. But also, as a sexual assault survivor, I know we have to do more. I never really wanted to take this out of chain of command, but we are not seeing a difference.”

Can You Have Alcohol After the Covid Vaccine? – Anahad O’Connor – The New York Times

“After a long year and a lot of anticipation, getting the Covid-19 vaccine can be cause for celebration, which for some might mean pouring a drink and toasting to their new immunity. But can alcohol interfere with your immune response?

The short answer is that it depends on how much you drink.

There is no evidence that having a drink or two can render any of the current Covid vaccines less effective. Some studies have even found that over the longer term, small or moderate amounts of alcohol might actually benefit the immune system by reducing inflammation.

Heavy alcohol consumption, on the other hand, particularly over the long term, can suppress the immune system and potentially interfere with your vaccine response, experts say. Since it can take weeks after a Covid shot for the body to generate protective levels of antibodies against the novel coronavirus, anything that interferes with the immune response would be cause for concern.  . . . .”

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Anahad O’Connor, for an excellent wake up reminder, that we have to be vigilant, if we like our alchohol too much. I am disappointed by the NYT commenting blogosphere today, as so many attack you for being down or causing stress. Hark, perhaps you have struck a nerve. It is not just in Russia, that many people drink regularly, and sometimes to excess. I have to monitor my own behavior, as Professor Moody desccribed fighting Voldemort, “with constant vigilance.” Two terrific but alcoholic parents are clear indicators that I fall in that half of the US, and probably world population, that is very easily addicted to sugar based products, that include sweets, alcholic beverates, opiods and niccotine. There was an astonishly good book about this by a researcher, called “The Hidden Addiction,” by Dr. Janice Phelps and Dr. Alan Nourse. All these dangerous but popular products have a commen source of molecules, belonging to the sugar family. I’m so sorry that so many here attack you for presenting life-protecting information, as if you were out to take away the punch bowl just as the party got cooking. However, more often than not, that is what responsible people, reading the science, should do more often, and I thank you for the clarity of your reporting. I just measured 1.5 ounces, and it is easily half of what I thought it was. Your new fan, David. David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Inherit the Wind movie review (1960) | Roger Ebert

“History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

This statement by Karl Marx admirably serves two functions: (1) It describes the difference between the two times the teaching of Darwin’s theories were put on trial in this country, in Tennessee in 1925 and in Pennsylvania in 2005; (2) Because it is from Karl Marx, it will automatically be rejected, along with the words to follow, by those who judge a statement not by its content but by its source. That is precisely the argument between Darwinism and creationism. Stanley Kramer‘s “Inherit the Wind” (1960) is a movie about a courtroom battle between those who believe the Bible is literally true and those who believe, as the Spencer Tracy character puts it, that “an idea is a greater monument than a cathedral.”

The so-called Monkey Trial of 1925 put a young high school teacher named John T. Scopes on trial for violating a state law, passed the same year, prohibiting the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical account of divine creation. Darwin’s theory of evolution was also therefore on trial. Two of the most famous lawyers and orators in the land contested the case. Scopes was defended by the legendary Clarence Darrow, and the prosecution was led by three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Darrow’s expenses were paid by the Baltimore Sun papers, home of the famed journalist H.L. Mencken, who covered the trial with many snorts and guffaws.

In Kramer’s film, Darrow becomes Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy), Bryan is Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March), Mencken is E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly), and Scopes is Bertram T. Cates (Dick York). Another major player is the gravel-voiced Harry Morgan, as the judge. So obviously were the characters based on their historical sources that the back of the DVD simply refers to them as “Bryan” and “Darrow,” as if their names had not been changed.  . . . “

Source: Inherit the Wind movie review (1960) | Roger Ebert

Kathleen and I saw the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind on Saturday night, and were enthralled and moved. I was sure that some of the vital exchanges in the courtroom probably happened, but did the good, god-fearing people of Hillsboro really march while singing about lynching Clarence Darrow and the local school teacher Scopes. Apparently, that was all made up by the propagandist, Stanley Kramer. I’m sorry he made those lies, because he didn’t need them. His inaccuracies diminish the underlying truth of his brilliant work.

From Wikipedia:

“Historical inaccuracies[edit]

Being mostly faithful to the play, the film engages in literary license with the facts and should not be relied upon as a historical document. For example, Scopes (Bertram Cates) is shown being arrested in class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher. William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a “busted belly” while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom. The townspeople are shown as frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant. None of that happened in Dayton during the actual trial. This is because the story is an allegory for McCarthyism.[12]

Because the judge ruled that scientific evidence was inadmissible, a ruling which the movie depicted, Darrow called Bryan as his only witness and attempted to humiliate him by asking Bryan to interpret Scripture. When Darrow, in his closing remarks, called upon the jury to find Scopes guilty so that he could appeal the verdict, Bryan was kept from delivering his own summation. The guilty verdict was overturned two years later.[13] Bryan suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep five days after the trial ended.[14]

Opinion | ‘All in All, the Worst Oscars Ever’ – The New York Times

“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ pared-down pandemic version of the Oscars on Sunday could be described as either incredibly refreshing or incredibly awkward — depending on what you thought of Glenn Close doing Da Butt, among other moments.

What did you think of Frances McDormand’s howl? The meandering format, with few clips of the nominated movies? Yuh-Jung Youn’s gentle trolling of Brad Pitt? We asked readers to share their thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards — the highlights, oddities and innovations. A selection of their responses, edited for clarity and length, follows.

Give us your take in the comments section.

It occurred to me that this version of the Oscars was like the very first ceremonies, when it was an industry affair held in a hotel ballroom, with no thought of communicating with a mass audience. Eventually, the yearly show turned into entertainment, which this year’s was not. All in all, the worst Oscars ever, and that’s quite an accomplishment. — Glenn Lambert, Los Angeles”

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

2020 was the worst Oscar I can remember. It had great moments, but I was repeatedly angry at the recipients: tell us about your documentary, animation, or even movie, most of us don’t know anything about it! You are talking about shows, show us clips and trailers, so we can see what the insider fuss is all about. Thirty years ago, I discovered that if a saw the Oscars, I could decide what movies to go find and seek out. I became a devoted Oscar watcher, even though I only saw a handful of movies a year, I picked them out at the Oscars. To my utter disappointment, there has been a slow slide into pathetic, uninteresting blabber, of one recipient after another thanking their team, their mothers and their third grade teachers. Every year is seems, there is less of the absolutely invaluable clips and trailers, and more of the utter boring gratefulness to teams, mentors and sex partners. This year, by my personal standard was the worst, because it had the fewest little hints and videos of the products under consideration, and an avalanche of pathetically boring speeches. There were some shining exceptions, like speeches by Chloe Zoe for best director, and Yuh Jung Youn for best actress in a supporting role. What I also remember, is not knowing what most of the shows were actually about, or what they looked like, and whether I might want to take the time to watch them. Time to quit? David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at

Opinion | Getting Real About Coal and Climate – The New York Times

We just watched a documentary on PBS, “Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World.” Surprisingly well done, where she goes from rallys to interviews of oustanding scientists, economists and politicians. She interviews coal miners in Poland at the Belchatow Power Station, and they said they accepted the transition away from coal because of the threat of climate change, but wanted supports to find new work. A similar message to the beginning of the following Krugman piece, left out in the ending below. I continue to lobby or at least pray and sing for a carbon tax.

“. . . . . Some background: Conventional economics suggests that the best way to limit greenhouse gas emissions is either to impose a carbon tax or to create a cap-and-trade system in which polluters must buy permits for their emissions.

This argument underlies high-profile initiatives like the Climate Leadership Council, whose founding members included a wide array of business leaders and economists — including Janet Yellen, now the Treasury secretary — and a number of major corporations. The council, whose creation was announced in 2017, calls for carbon fees whose proceeds would be redistributed to families. This plan is part of a “bipartisan road map” for action.

This is, however, not the path the Biden administration is taking. Why?

First, the economic case for relying almost exclusively on a carbon tax misses the crucial role of technological development. The reason large reductions in emissions look much easier to achieve now than they did a dozen years ago is that we’ve seen spectacular progress in renewable energy: a 70 percent fall since 2009 in the cost of wind power, an 89 percent fall in the cost of solar power.

And this technological progress didn’t just happen. It was at least partly a result of investments made by the Obama administration. These investments were ridiculed by conservatives; back in 2012 Mitt Romney declared that all of the money went to “losers” like Solyndra and, um, Tesla. In retrospect, however, it is clear that government spending provided a crucial technological lift. And this suggests that public investment, as well as or even instead of a carbon tax, can be a way forward in fighting climate change.

Second, the idea that a carbon tax can achieve bipartisan support is hopelessly naïve. Only 14 percent of Republicans even accept the notion that climate change is an important issue. And redistributing the proceeds of such a tax to families in general won’t win over voters who believe that climate action will threaten their jobs and communities.

What might win over at least some of these voters, however, is the kind of program the United Mine Workers is calling for: targeted spending designed to help retrain former miners and support development in coal country communities.

I don’t want to be overly optimistic about the Biden strategy. For one thing, while there’s a compelling case against relying exclusively on a carbon tax to fight climate change, public investment alone also probably isn’t enough. Eventually we will almost surely have to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, politically difficult though that will be.

On the other side, while it’s great to see the mine workers’ union call for policies that support “coal country,” not coal jobs — that is, communities rather than a specific industry — that’s still a tall order. Although Covid-19 created temporary disruptions, it remains true that the 21st-century economy “wants” to concentrate good jobs in major metropolitan areas with highly educated work forces. Promoting job creation in West Virginia or eastern Kentucky won’t be easy, and may be impossible.

But we can and should make a good-faith effort to help workers and regions that will lose as we try to avoid environmental catastrophe, and in general to make climate policy as politically palatable as possible, even at some cost in efficiency. Climate action is too important a task to insist that it be done perfectly.