Your Memories. Their Cloud. – Kashmir Hill- The New York Times


“I have many fears as a mother. My kindergarten-age daughter recently learned a game on the school bus called “Truth or Force.” My youngest refuses to eat almost anything but Kraft Mac and Cheese. Added to the list this year, alongside outside influences and health concerns, is the possibility that my daughters could inadvertently lock me out of my digital life.

That’s what happened to a mother in Colorado whose 9-year-old son used her old smartphone to stream himself naked on YouTube, and a father in San Francisco whose Google account was disabled and deleted because he took naked photos of his toddler for the doctor.

I reported on their experiences for The New York Times, and as I talked to these parents, who were stunned and bereft at the loss of their emails, photos, videos, contacts and important documents spanning decades, I realized I was similarly at risk.”

Crispin Sartwell | Have I Been Good or Bad This Year? Here’s Some New Math. – The New York Times

Mr. Sartwell is an associate professor of philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

“Here we are at the end of another year, and as humans are wont to do around this time, I’ve been reflecting. Have I been a good person? Has my existence been of net benefit to humanity? When my expiration date comes — whether by murder hornet, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or an encounter with a garbage truck that transforms me suddenly into a crimson mist — I expect that St. Peter, Brahman, or some similarly all-knowing judge will meet me at the gates of pearl or in the limbo between incarnations, report my tally, and tell me where I’m headed next.

To be honest, though not too honest, I’m concerned about how this exit interview is going to go. Honestly, though not too honestly, I’ve done some things that might be frowned on. I admit it: I don’t have a lovely bouquet of moral virtues to wave around. What I have instead is knockdown proof that I richly deserve eternal bliss.

I’m not here to beg you, oh Gatekeeper. I’m here to dazzle you into submission with a pure display of virtuoso ratiocination, like Charlie Daniels fiddling against the Devil.

Allow me to start with this claim: We humans, as moral beings, can be as culpable for what we fail to do as for what we do. While some wrongdoers commit wrongs proactively (traditionally known as sins of commission), others do so through inaction or sheer negligence (sins of omission). A coldblooded killer, for example, is an active wrongdoer, while the sleazy real estate developer who fails to maintain a building that subsequently collapses, injuring and killing his tenants, is a passive one. Clearly, both have done wrong. But while the killer displays an obvious moral truth (that it is bad to do what one shouldn’t do), the developer offers a more subtle one (it is bad to not do what one should do).

Surely, oh Eternal Bouncer, you will agree that if it is bad to not do what one should do, then it is good to not do what one should not. In other words, if omissions can be blameworthy, they can be praiseworthy, too.

This fundamental moral insight has stunning implications. If embezzling money is wrong, for instance, then not embezzling money is right. However much money I may have embezzled over the years, there is so much more that I have commendably not embezzled, if you follow me. Think of all those banks, all those charities, all those law firms I didn’t steal from. The amount of money I stole, if I stole any money, is infinitesimal compared to all the money I could conceivably have stolen. Surely, my restraint should earn me a few points in the plus column.

I used to read the news every morning as a litany of blunders and crimes, getting more and more bummed out as I went along. But then I realized: not only is each day’s crop of bad things minuscule compared to the bad things that might have happened but did not, but almost every bad thing that happened was not something I personally did, or did much of, anyway. There are so many things, I see now, for me to be proud of, every day. I didn’t, for instance, blow anything up. I didn’t come up with the phrase “Build Back Better agenda.”

Just think of what evil we could fail to accomplish if we were united in our inaction.

But I seem to hear you, Omnipotent One, protesting that there was so much good I could have done but failed to do. That, for example, I allowed my abilities and talents, which could have been of service to humanity, atrophy. It’s true, I didn’t create any great paintings, write any great novels, or achieve any scientific breakthroughs. I just lay here on the couch watching ESPN.

On the other hand, before you lob me into the outer dark, I want to point out that my sloth had an upside. Of all the repulsive and derivative art produced over the course of my too-brief life — the “abstract” paintings, the plop sculptures, the “yacht rock,” and all those works of “autofiction” — I personally produced very few of them. The legacy of all the bad art I did not make is secure.

So stand down, St. Pete, or whoever you are. Go back to Tampa. Stop being so judgmental. Or in the words of the poet Adele, take it easy on me. The burning question of whether I deserve an enjoyable afterlife has been answered once and for all.

Now that you’ve heard the argument, Big Fella, fork over the bliss.” -30-

David Lindsay:  I’m taking notes.  Here are some of my favorite comments:


I find it easier and more scientific to think of cause and effect. Virtuous actions cause happiness. Non-virtuous actions cause suffering. -The Buddha

12 Replies152 Recommended

ImagineMoments commented December 30


The neat thing about being an atheist is that I don’t to worry about this stuff. I kind of like taking on the adult responsibility of having to decide for myself what actions are moral and just, and what those words even mean.

8 Replies124 Recommended

Julie commented December 30

BoiseDec. 30

When the Dalai Lama was asked where do people go when they die, his response was, “We don’t know. But, I hope I go where I can reduce the suffering of others.” Me too. And, in my life, I make it my practice here as well.

1 Reply121 Recommended
Robert Scull
Cary, NCDec. 30

Takes me back to elementary school in St. Mary’s Academy where I first heard about “sins of omission.” At the time it seemed that my sins of commission were embarrassing enough, but then when I thought about all the good I could have done…then I knew I was in big trouble. Now that I am a septuagenarian, I have accumulated decades of sins for reflection. The only advantage of these past failures I can see is they give us pause to display a little humility…a traditional virtue that does not get much credit in contemporary society. I still think it is a fascinating concept…that we have a responsibility to do good in our short lives to avoid an eternity of suffering as depicted in all those medieval paintings of naked people falling helplessly into the abyss in utter shock that the unbelievable stories about the afterlife were actually true. It is actually unfortunate that most of us really don’t believe it as shown by the way most of us live, wasting our lives on seeking the next thrill, restricting good deeds to an hour of dressed-up ceremony once a week and an orgy of consumerism and kindness to others during the Saturnalia festival or whatever it is called today in the religion of choice. Is it possible that our portfolios that make some of us feel so secure are in fact a record of our sins of omission? I see no chance of the world improving as long as feelings of guilt are considered to be a psychological disorder. Guilt may in fact be good for us.

1 Reply65 Recommended
Orlando, FL11h ago

It is easy to come up with excuses not to do good. The real challenge is in forming habits of being good. Are we nice to our neighbors, do we lend a hand when we see them carrying groceries or trying to stuff leaves into a bag? Do we treat others with kindness and compassion? Do we think kind and compassionate thoughts about others? Or do we pull a shoulder patting ourselves on our back for not kicking a homeless person when we walk by disdaining them? I don’t want to get by in life doing the least I can. Many generations ago moral laws were mostly “don’ts.” A person once pointed out to me that a clam obeys most of the ten commandments. Do you want “slightly better than a clam” to be how people remember you? But even thousands of years ago the best among us proposed commandments of action, of doing. Love others. I don’t pretend I get a pass from loving others because I haven’t recently stolen my neighbor’s donkey. Not only that, I actively want to love others. I want to help others. I want to be of service. I am calmer, more joyful, more at peace when I do. I want my life to have purpose, so I have sought purpose and try to live up to the highest ideals of moral living that I have discovered. It is a great challenge to be the best person we can be. It is an exciting adventure to try to make tomorrow’s world better than yesterday’s. And that leads to supreme joy and humbling satisfaction if we can honestly say we did our best.

26 Recommended

David Brooks | Biden’s America Finds Its Voice – The New York Times

   Opinion Columnist

“The cameras mostly focused on Volodymyr Zelensky during his address to Congress on Wednesday night, but I focused my attention as much as I could on the audience in the room. There was fervor, admiration, yelling and whooping. In a divided nation, we don’t often get to see the Congress rise up, virtually as one, with ovations, applause, many in blue dresses and yellow ties.

Sure, there were dissenters in the room, but they were not what mattered. Words surged into my consciousness that I haven’t considered for a while — compatriots, comrades, co-believers in a common creed.

Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians have reminded Americans of the values and causes we used to admire in ourselves — the ardent hunger for freedom, the deep-rooted respect for equality and human dignity, the willingness to fight against brutal authoritarians who would crush the human face under the heel of their muddy boots. It is as if Ukraine and Zelensky have rekindled a forgotten song, and suddenly everybody has remembered how to sing it.

Zelensky was not subtle about making this point. He said that what Ukraine is fighting for today has echoes in what so many Americans fought for over centuries. I thought of John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, George Marshall, Fannie Lou Hamer, the many unsung heroes of the Cold War. His words reminded us that America supports Ukraine not only out of national interest — to preserve a stable liberal world order — but also to live out a faith that is essential to this country’s being and identity. The thing that really holds America together is this fervent idea.”

“. . . .  American policy has oscillated between a hubristic interventionism and a callous non-interventionism. “We overdo our foreign crusades, and then we overdo our retrenchments, never pausing in between, where an ordinary country would try to reach a fine balance,” George Packer wrote in The Atlantic recently. The result has been a crisis of national self-doubt: Can the world trust America to do what’s right? Can we believe in ourselves?

Finding the balance between passionate ideals and mundane practicalities has been a persistent American problem. The movie “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis was about that. Lincoln is zigging and zagging through the swamps of reality, trying to keep his eye on true north, while some tell him he’s going too fast and others scream he’s going too slow.

Joe Biden has struck this balance as well as any president in recent times, perhaps having learned a costly lesson from the heartless way America exited from Afghanistan. He has swung the Western alliance fervently behind Ukraine. But he has done it with prudence and calibration. Ukraine will get this weapons system, but not that one. It can dream of total victory, but it also has to think seriously about negotiations. Biden has shown that America can responsibly lead. He has shown you can have moral clarity without being blinded by it.”

David Lindsay: Great column Mr. Brooks. Here are the three most liked comments:

New YorkDec. 22

At long last. A recognition that neither smooth oration nor tough talk matter. What both Biden and Zelinsky do is lead from the heart with competence, confidence, courage, and calm. It’s making all the difference. Thank you, David, for giving credit where credit is due.

20 Replies3296 Recommended

Jon commented December 22

San Carlos, CADec. 22

Joe Biden has done a great job given the cards he was dealt. He inherited a mess and has steadily just been cleaning up the mess. He has not gotten nearly enough credit for just being a good steward. Life gets a lot worse when there is bad stewardship.

11 Replies3113 Recommended

Kevin Leibel commented December 22

Kevin Leibel
Chapel HillDec. 22

I actually love President Biden with all my heart. He’s been doing the right thing since taking office, he has a team that earns my respect and his policies are leading the US in the right direction. The war in Ukraine is an existential fight between good and evil and I am so very proud we are on the right side.

10 Replies2394 Recommended

Bill Saporito | Will Southwest’s Debacle Finally Spur Congress to Act? – The New York Times

Mr. Saporito is an editor at large at Inc.

“It’s the holiday season, and terrible weather is causing airlines to make a cascade of cancellations across the country. One airline — its jets and crews caught in the wrong places, its data and phone systems hopelessly inadequate — suffers a catastrophic meltdown, stranding thousands of angry passengers and employees for days as it struggles to knit the system back together.

Southwest? No, JetBlue, in 2007, in what became known in the industry as the Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

Rob Walker | Clutter Is Good for You – The New York Times

Mr. Walker writes frequently about design and memory.

“Several years before she died, my mother began sending me things — ostensibly significant objects. These included expected items like jewelry and photographs, but also puzzling ones. For example, one afternoon I opened a package containing a carefully wrapped eight-inch-tall ceramic leprechaun that I don’t recall ever having seen. (My family has no connection to Ireland.) Not long after, she announced that she wanted to send along her collection of bird figurines, in which I had never expressed any special interest.

Clearly this was no longer about handing down heirlooms. It was about getting rid of objects — basically, a form of decluttering. I had to put a stop to it, and not just because these objects didn’t actually mean anything to me. Much more important: They did mean something to her. In fact, what I most enjoyed about her accumulation of bird figures and ceramics and sand dollars from Texas beaches was her enjoyment of these things. Her un-self-conscious confidence about what she liked was one of her most admirable traits.

So I persuaded her not only to keep her figurines, but to let herself continue to appreciate their presence. Because ultimately my mother’s urge to purge struck me as illuminating something misguided about our general relationship to material culture. In short: What we often dismiss as “clutter” — all those nonessential, often oddball objects that a third-party observer might write off as needless junk — can actually be good for us.”

David Brooks | The Sad Tales of George Santos – The New York Times

“What would it be like to be so ashamed of your life that you felt compelled to invent a new one?

Most of us don’t feel compelled to do that. Most of us take the actual events of our lives, including the failures and frailties, and we gradually construct coherent narratives about who we are. Those autobiographical narratives are always being updated as time passes — and, of course, tend to be at least modestly self-flattering. But for most of us, the life narrative we tell both the world and ourselves gives us a stable sense of identity. It helps us name what we’ve learned from experience and what meaning our life holds. It helps us make our biggest decisions. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once observed, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of.

A reasonably accurate and coherent autobiographical narrative is one of the most important things a person can have. If you don’t have a real story, you don’t have a real self.”

David Lindsay Jr.
NYT Comment:

Excellent and thoughtful, David Brooks. Thank you. How about a follow up and this crook. Is a recall possible, how would it come about, and what is needed if it is not available, for starters. It would also be interesting to hear you respond to to you many critics in the comments. You made impressive points about psychology, which is one of your beats that you cover.

Carlos Lozada | How the House of Trump Was Built – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

When journalists write books on the presidency of Donald Trump, they tend to choose one of three options. They write about personality, they write about paper, or they write about people.

This choice not only determines what kinds of work they produce but also affects how their audiences interpret Trump’s continuing influence over American life. In personality-driven narratives, the former president’s uniqueness and unpredictability render him mesmerizing but always verging on self-destruction; after all, when you suck all the air out of the room, you risk bursting. Writers who focus on paper — meaning the investigations, memos and ritual documentation of Washington, which Trump challenged with equal measures of deliberation and carelessness — depict his presidency as a tug between disruption and procedure, as the political system and Trump resisted and adapted to each other. An emphasis on people tells the story of Trump’s craven enablers, his true believers, his embattled opponents and, looking ahead, his most opportunistic imitators.”

Letter from David Lindsay

to:,  NYT Managing Editor <>

” One of the great questions of this time has always been whether Trump changed the country or revealed it more clearly. The answer is yes; it is both. He changed America by revealing it. On Jan. 6, Trump was the man who could win the country back for those who yearned for him long before they imagined him. If he can’t do it, someone like him will do. Or someone like him, perhaps, but more so.  .”

But it probably would have been better if it allowed comments. It is my experience that the finest essays at the NYT can stand up to scrutiny and even attacks.  I even have a little niche, often defending centrist writers, who are attacked by the left wing mob that likes so much to like each other’s comments. This essay expanded our already extensive knowledge of one of the greatest conmen and grifters of our age. It is way past time that the Department of Justice take him down. And yet, the irony of my desire, is that he is now the not so secret weapon for the moderate democrats. When he falls, the right, and the fossil fuel corporations,  will probably be strengthened, and the environmental movement weakened. And woe is US. The scientist say we have only about 8 years to turn our great ship around, before hitting the icebergs.

David Lindsay

blogging at

Peter Coy |  Can Raise Thorny Questions – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“The last week of the year is a big one for writing checks to charities, especially for Americans who are fortunate enough to have incomes high enough to justify itemizing their deductions. There’s something bewildering about the ritual, though. On what basis do we decide who should get our money? And how much should each receive? Normally we feel good about spending as little as possible on things, but with charitable giving, we tend to think of more as better.

I began thinking about this after I received an email from a psychology professor, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, criticizing what he called “the capitalist system of charities in the U.S.A.” He wrote that charities are “competing to the death for the same 50 cents.”

“Thus,” he went on, “hundreds of organizations fight hunger locally and nationally. When it comes to illnesses, there are thousands of organizations competing. This means a terrible waste of resources.” He recommended that I look at Germany, where the government performs functions that charities perform in the United States.

My psychologist friend has a point about the waste of resources, I think, as I chuck another stack of fund-raising pitches into the recycling bin. (When I spy a nickel or a quarter through the glassine window, I take that out first, with zero guilt pangs.)”

David Lindsay wrote to Peter Coy,   coy-newsletter(at)

Hi Peter,

This is an interesting topic, I missed having comments after your piece.
You made excellent points.  You left out people like me — climate hawks.
I have cut my normal donations down this year, when I felt I had to make a lot of political contributions, since the current Republican Party is more pro fascism than democracy, and more dirty Anthropocentric growth, than sustainable development.
Second, I usually don’t give to charities as much as I used to that mostly help people survive, since people are causing the decline of other species in dramatic terms. In a non election year, I give most of my donations to Environmental and family planning organizations.
I posted a piece other species decline this morning from 2001 in my blog:
David Lindsay

Why protecting 30% of lands and waters is critical | The Wilderness Society

Decline in populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians over 40 years

“A 2018 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report focusing on how human activity has affected wildlife found that between 1970 and 2014, there was an approximately 60 percent decline in populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. The report highlighted deforestation and other types of land degradation as a major driver of this trend, citing data showing only about one-quarter of land on Earth is largely free of human impacts. Protecting 30% of U.S. lands and waters—as part of the global 30×30 goal—is a critical step to shore up critical habitat, save migration corridors and stop the bleeding. For example, species forced to shift to higher elevations in order to escape hotter temperatures need intact, interconnected thruways of land and water to make their move.

The chart below shows The Living Planet Index, an indicator of the state of global biodiversity cited by WWF. It measures the average rate of change over time across a set of species populations and shows an overall decline of 60% in the population sizes of vertebrates between 1970 and 2014–an average drop over half in less than 50 years.”

Source: Why protecting 30% of lands and waters is critical | The Wilderness Society

Tony Pipa | A Policy Renaissance Is Needed for Rural America to Thrive – The New York Times

Mr. Pipa is a senior fellow at the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution.

“In what has become a postelection tradition, there has been no shortage of analysis the past several weeks about rural voters and their role in determining the outcome of the midterms.

Yet during a visit to Shamokin, Pa., I asked a former mayor and the current one, both Republicans, whether differences between Republicans and Democrats were affecting local efforts to revive their town. They both agreed: not really. They don’t think about it.

This does not fit the conventional narrative about a former coal mining town of some 7,000, where nearly 70 percent voted for Donald Trump in 2020. The town’s decline was already bad enough 30 years ago to warrant a New York Times article with the headline “In a Gritty Town, Hope Outlives the Prosperity.”

The question then was whether the construction of a new prison there would help. It didn’t. The town has lost almost 25 percent of its population since, and the poverty rate now hovers above 30 percent.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Tough issues. My thought, is it would be interesting for the Federal Government to fund a non-profit to set up small factories all over rural America, to make solar panels for the county and state. It would provide good jobs, valuable training, and help the transformation to a sustainable economy.
David blogs at