Thomas L. Friedman | Putin to Ukraine: ‘Marry Me or I’ll Kill You’ – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Why is Vladimir Putin threatening to take another bite out of Ukraine, after devouring Crimea in 2014? That is not an easy question to answer because Putin is a one-man psychodrama, with a giant inferiority complex toward America that leaves him always stalking the world with a chip on his shoulder so big it’s amazing he can fit through any door.

Let’s see: Putin is a modern-day Peter the Great out to restore the glory of Mother Russia. He’s a retired K.G.B. agent who simply refuses to come in from the cold and still sees the C.I.A. under every rock and behind every opponent. He’s America’s ex-boyfriend-from-hell, who refuses to let us ignore him and date other countries, like China — because he always measures his status in the world in relation to us. And he’s a politician trying to make sure he wins (or rigs) Russia’s 2024 election — and becomes president for life — because when you’ve siphoned off as many rubles as Putin has, you can never be sure that your successor won’t lock you up and take them all. For him, it’s rule or die.

Somewhere in the balance of all of those identities and neuroses is the answer to what Putin intends to do with Ukraine.

If I were a cynic, I’d just tell him to go ahead and take Kyiv because it would become his Kabul, his Afghanistan — but the human costs would be intolerable. Short of that, I’d be very clear: If he wants to come down from the tree in which he’s lodged himself, he’s going to have to jump or build his own ladder. He has completely contrived this crisis, so there should be no give on our part. China is watching — and Taiwan is sweating — everything we do in reaction to Vlad right now.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment”
Draft 2, fixing typos.
Why am I a hawk on this? I was against the war in Vietnam as a 16 year old, and that position changed my life deeply. NATO should send troops and aircraft to the Ukraine, but the Europeans lost so many in two world wars, that they don’t have the heart to sacrifice their youth. Can’t blame them. I am reminded of the Tolkien books and movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, and in book two, the people of the horse retreat to a fortress, where the forces of Saruman are sure to destroy them. Then the elves come to their aid, even though elves are immortal, until slain in battle. Their sacrifice was part of the almost miraculous saving of middle earth. It feels similar, but I’m not sure it is as easy as the fantasy I refer to. But the fantasy was also about WW II. If we stop Putin, or take him out, will we save middle earth? I’m afraid we should try, but assassination would be so much more sophisticated, say the great strategists like Sun Tsu. The other shoulder has a smart spirit saying, let Putin take Ukraine, it will help bleed him to death. But I am a creature of the 21st century. It will make terrible TV. And there is a small chance it will prop up the monster, rather than topple him. If its true that the GNP of Russia is between that of Florida and New York, NATO should have no trouble turning the rube into ruble.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated | AP News

“Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.

An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 107,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 1.1%.

And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.”

Breakthrough infections of fully vaccinated is 1.1%       =  .011

Of those who die to covid, the fully vaccinated  are .8% = .001

.011 * .001 = .00009   which is 9/100,000  which rounds to 1/10,000

If I have done the math right, your chances of dying of covid if fully vaccinated in the US, are 1 in 10,000.

Source: Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated | AP News

Ezra Klein | This Presidency Isn’t Turning Out as Planned – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. His Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, was Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Reserve. The director of Biden’s National Economic Council, Brian Deese, was deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council. His chief of staff, Ron Klain, was his chief of staff for the first two years of the Obama administration and then Obama’s top Ebola adviser. And so on.

The familiar names and faces can obscure how different the new administration, in practice, has become. The problems Biden is facing are an almost perfect inversion of the problems Obama faced. The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply.”

Brilliant. Many valid points, despite the comments, which have some truth too. Maybe the Republicans threw the banana peels, but Biden chose to slip on them all.

Gail and Bret | Welcome to the ‘Well, Now What?’ Stage of the Story – The New York Times

Gail Collins: Bret, I suspect that even some diligent readers roll their eyes and turn the proverbial page when the subject of the filibuster comes up.

Bret Stephens: In the thrills department it ranks somewhere between budget reconciliation and a continuing resolution.

Gail: Yet here we are. Looks like Joe Biden’s voting rights package is doomed because he can’t get 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster. I’m inclined to sigh deeply and then change the subject, but duty prevails.

Bret: It’s another depressing sign of Team Biden’s political incompetence. How did they think it was a good idea for the president to go to Georgia to give his blistering speech on voting rights without first checking with Kyrsten Sinema that she’d be willing to modify the filibuster in order to have a chance of passing the bill? And then there was the speech itself, which struck me as … misjudged. Your thoughts?

Gail: If you mean, was it poorly delivered — well, after all these years we know that’s the Biden Way. He can rise above, as he did with the speech about the Jan. 6 uprising, but it’s not gonna happen a whole lot.

Bret: I meant Biden’s suggestion that anyone who disagreed with him was on the side of Jefferson Davis, George Wallace and Bull Connor. The increasingly casual habit of calling people racist when they disagree with a policy position is the stuff I’ve come to expect from Twitter, not a president who bills himself as a unifier. And again, it’s political malpractice, at least if the aim is to do more than just sound off to impress the progressive base.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT commentd:
Great conversation, thank you Gail and Bret. For me, the zenith was: Gail: Have to admit Harris has never knocked me over as a potential president. And as veep she’s stuck between assignments that nobody could possibly do, like solving the Mexican border crisis, and things she’s just bad at, like some of the inside-the-administration jobs her staff doesn’t seem capable of mastering. A group that is roiled by consistent turnover, by the way. Tell me your thoughts. Bret: Someone told me — it might have been you — that Harris is warm and funny in person. But she’s a lousy politician, and it showed when she flamed out of the Democratic primary before the Iowa caucus. Fixing the border is not mission impossible. It requires a mix of tough-minded security provisions of the sort past Democratic administrations were willing to put into place; ambitious legislative proposals to create broader avenues for legal immigration; a willingness to accept “Remain in Mexico” as an interim policy provided we help the Mexican government ensure humane conditions for migrants; and long-term security and economic assistance for troubled Latin American states.” Gail pitched the ball, and Bret hit the home run. I disagree with Brit that Biden is dead for re-election. He has elder chops. He just has to stay centered, pun intended.
David blogs at InconvientNews.Net.

Margaret Renkl | This Winter, Snow Can Help Us Learn to Stop – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — It was 78 degrees here on New Year’s Day, a record high for Nashville, and I broke into a sweat just packing for a weekend on the Cumberland Plateau. “Did you remember to bring your coat?” my husband asked when I got into the car.

It was not an unreasonable question, despite the heat. I hadn’t packed my coat when we left for the Cumberland Plateau last month. It was warm that day, too. In fact, it had been so warm for so long that the cherry laurels were already in bud. Who thinks to pack a coat when cherry laurels are in bud?

But the next day the temperature dropped to 45, and there I was, stranded in the woods with no coat nor even so much as a sweater. Apparently, this is how winter works now. Daffodils out of the ground, Lenten roses in full bloom two months out of time, and then wham.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  Jan. 10,  NYT Comment:

Hi Margaret,

Thank you for another lovely post about snow and the changes in the weather. I am sharing with friends and neighbors a new 2021 video from climate scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI).

This is important information, not usually so well described. Here is the link to: “Earth Emergency: Feedback Loops” available at PBS for the next 3 weeks or so. https://www.pbs.org/show/earth-emergency/ Go to the PBS site, and the right video says it is for 52 minutes and 24s or seconds.

Here is a link to access separately the 5 original shorts from a year ago, that make up the full length video, through my blog post at InconvenientNews.Net. https://inconvenientnews.wordpress.com/2022/01/01/climate-emergency-feedback-loops/ The responsible group at WHOI is the Woodwell Climate Research Center, can be found at: https://www.woodwellclimate.org/?event=national-premiere-of-earth-emergency-on-pbs I hope to write a column on this, but while my head is high, my platform is small.

David Lindsay

5 Recommended

David Brooks | America Is Falling Apart at the Seams – The New York Times – And my response

Opinion Columnist

“In June a statistic floated across my desk that startled me. In 2020, the number of miles Americans drove fell 13 percent because of the pandemic, but the number of traffic deaths rose 7 percent.

I couldn’t figure it out. Why would Americans be driving so much more recklessly during the pandemic? But then in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths were up 18.4 percent even over 2020. Contributing factors, according to the agency, included driving under the influence, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Why are so many Americans driving irresponsibly?

While gloomy numbers like these were rattling around in my brain, a Substack article from Matthew Yglesias hit my inbox this week. It was titled, “All Kinds of Bad Behavior Is on the Rise.” Not only is reckless driving on the rise, Yglesias pointed out, but the number of altercations on airplanes has exploded, the murder rate is surging in cities, drug overdoses are increasing, Americans are drinking more, nurses say patients are getting more abusive, and so on and so on.”

“. . . But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.

What the hell is going on? The short answer: I don’t know. I also don’t know what’s causing the high rates of depression, suicide and loneliness that dogged Americans even before the pandemic and that are the sad flip side of all the hostility and recklessness I’ve just described.

We can round up the usual suspects: social media, rotten politics. When President Donald Trump signaled it was OK to hate marginalized groups, a lot of people were bound to see that as permission.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you David Brooks for another thoughtful and challenging column. You do have a blind spot, or malfunction, like the EVSE I use to charge up my two electric cars, or one electric car, and a Prius Prime, which is only electric for 25 miles in the summer. To fix the EVSE, when some widget seizes up, the manufacturer said, turn off the breaker, and hit the unit with a rubber mallet really hard. And it worked. I wonder if a rubber mallet would unstick you. I’d like to add to your thoughtful short list of the usual suspects, climate change and the sixth extinction, and the world overpopulation which are the cause of both. My adult daughter says she might not have any children because of these environmental crises. My adult son son says nothing I do for mitigation matters, since we have probably already passed the tipping point, and human life on the planet is probably doomed. I write about this stuff, with weird dark thoughts intruding on my brain, when awake and asleep. One sick thought, is that the pandemic has failed, because it hasn’t killed enough people. I admit this is a dark and ugly thought, but so is driving thousands of non human species into extinction, which is real, and going on this century, and accelerating. Are we committing an unforgiveable sin against other forms of life?
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net
x
In addition,  one irony of this sin of human overpopulation and consumption, and of our poisoning the water, the air, the land, and the atmosphere, is that according to the late scientist Edward O Wilson, if we kill off over 50% of the world’s other species, which is where we are headed, the human species will probably not survive. During the 5th and last great extinction in the geological record, when the dinosaurs died off, so did probably about 95% of the world’s other species at that time.

Bret Stephens | What Putin Really Wants From the Ukraine Crisis – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Grave may have been the mistakes of Donald Rumsfeld, but George W. Bush’s first defense secretary did have a gift for memorable phrases. One of them — “weakness is provocative” — explains the predicament we again find ourselves in with Russia’s belligerence against Ukraine and NATO.

Let’s recap how we got here.

■ In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and took control of two of its provinces. The Bush administration protested but did almost nothing. After Barack Obama won the White House that fall, he pursued a “reset” with Russia. In 2012, he cut U.S. force levels in Europe to their lowest levels in postwar history and mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia our principal geopolitical threat.

■ In September 2013, Obama famously retreated from his red line against Bashar al-Assad’s use of nerve gas in Syria, accepting instead a Russian offer of mediation that was supposed to have eliminated al-Assad’s chemical arsenal. That arsenal was never fully destroyed, but Vladimir Putin took note of Obama’s palpable reluctance to get involved.

■ In February 2014, Russia used “little green men” to seize and then annex Crimea. The Obama administration protested but did almost nothing. Russia then took advantage of unrest in eastern Ukraine to shear off two Ukrainian provinces while sparking a war that has lasted seven years and cost more than 13,000 lives. Obama responded with weak sanctions on Russia and a persistent refusal to arm Ukraine.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
First I liked Bret’s arguments, but then Frank chimed in with a longer more sophisticated view. “Play the long game because that is how you will win. Move the economies of the world to renewables and watch them fall. If Putin choses to invade make sure he and his oligarch’s can’t shop in Milan ,Rome, Paris etc. Watch them squirm.”
It is awful, but both are right. And so is the commenter who pointed out, this is Europe’s neighbor, not really our problem. I would like to see Germany take the lead, by reversing its decision to get rid of all nuclear power, and follow the French, into the new, modern, and safer than before, nuclear energy era, to really tie Putin and his shaky economy into knots. In the short run, the new nuclear energy plant designs are the safest way for Europe to lose its dependency on Russian oil and gas. Without the sale of such products, the birds are singing, Putin has a problem. Apparently his GNP is now estimated at about $1.5 trillion, larger than that of Florida, $1.2 trillion, but smaller than that of New York, $1.9 trillion.
David Lindsay is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” a novel about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Frank Bruni | How the Capitol Riot Led to a Broken America – The New York Times

” “Things feel broken.”

Those weren’t the first three words in a recent article in The Times by Sarah Lyall about our pandemic-frazzled nerves. They weren’t the fanciest. But they seemed to me the truest — or, rather, the truth of our moment distilled to its essence. This country isn’t working, not the way it’s supposed to.

Oh, it’s functioning, with a mammoth economy (which distributes wealth much too unevenly), an intricate transportation network (about to improve, thanks to infrastructure legislation) and the historically swift and heroically expansive delivery of vaccines to Americans rooted firmly enough in truth to accept them.

But in terms of our democratic ideals? Our stated values? Our basic contentment?

We’re a mess, and the pandemic mainly exposed and accelerated an ugliness already there. Would the violence at the U.S. Capitol a year ago today have happened in the absence of Covid closures and fears? Maybe not then. But we were headed there before the first cough.

The anniversary of the Jan. 6 rioting has rightly focused attention on the intensifying efforts to undermine our democracy, but it should also prompt us to contemplate the degradation of the country’s civic spirit and the foulness of its mood.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Bruni, you are still great, but you are so anthropocentric.
(There might be an issue larger than how we feel about ourselves and our democracy.)
From my song, Talking Climate Change Blues, “The folks a BusinessWeek saw the damage was horrid, They put on their cover, its climate change stupid. All around the world, the oceans are rising, while the coral reefs are slowly dying, Wake up my friends, the Scientist cry, World temperature is rising and its no lie.”

Thomas Friedman | How to Stop Trump and Prevent Another Jan. 6 – The New York Times

“. . . .  I love that phrase — unexpected truths. We have launched a space telescope that can peer far into the universe to discover — with joy — unexpected truths.

Alas, though, my joy is tempered by those two other stories, by the fact that here on Earth, in America, one of our two national parties and its media allies have chosen instead to celebrate and propagate alternative facts.

This struggle between those seeking unexpected truths — which is what made us great as a nation — and those worshiping alternative facts — which will destroy us as a nation — is THE story on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurgency, and for the coming year. Many people, particularly in the American business community, are vastly underestimating the danger to our constitutional order if this struggle ends badly.

If the majority of G.O.P. lawmakers continue to bow to the most politically pernicious “alternative fact” — that the 2020 election was a fraud that justifies empowering Republican legislatures to override the will of voters and remove Republican and Democratic election supervisors who helped save our democracy last time by calling the election fairly — then America isn’t just in trouble. It is headed for what scientists call “an extinction-level event.”

Only it won’t be a comet hurtling past the Webb telescope from deep space that destroys our democracy, as in the new movie “Don’t Look Up.”

No, no — it will be an unraveling from the ground up, as our country, for the first time, is unable to carry out a peaceful transfer of power to a legitimately elected president. Because if Donald Trump and his flock are able in 2024 to execute a procedural coup like they attempted on Jan. 6, 2021, Democrats will not just say, “Ah shucks, we’ll try harder next time.” They will take to the streets.

Right now, though, too many Republicans are telling themselves and the rest of us: “Don’t look up! Don’t pay attention to what is unfolding in plain sight with Trump & Company. Trump won’t be the G.O.P.’s candidate in 2024.”

Who will save us?

God bless Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two Republican House members participating on the Jan. 6 investigation committee. But they are not enough. Kinzinger is retiring and the G.O.P. leadership, on Trump’s orders, is trying to launch Cheney into deep space.

I think our last best hope is the leadership of the U.S. business community, specifically the Business Roundtable, led by General Motors C.E.O. Mary Barra, and the Business Council, led by Microsoft C.E.O. Satya Nadella. Together those two groups represent the roughly 200 most powerful companies in America, with 20 million employees. Although formally nonpartisan, they lean center-right — but the old center-right, the one that believed in the rule of law, free markets, majority rule, science and the sanctity of our elections and constitutional processes.

Collectively, they are the only responsible force left with real leverage on Trump and the Republican lawmakers doing his bidding. They need to persuade their members — now — not to donate a penny more to any local, state or national candidate who has voted to dismantle the police or dismantle the Constitution.”

David Lindsay Jr: Great column, Thomas Friedman, thank you. While there are a few good comments, most criticize Friedman, since all rich business people are evil and authoritarian.  I’m sure that Friedman is right, and they are wrong. My father was a wall street lawyer, who worked for major multinationals like Mobil Oil, but his passion was to study Abraham Lincoln and the civil war. The Lindsay brothers were committed to the civil rights movement, and a democracy of law as well as order. My father once explained to me that big corporations were not all evil, especially in a democracy, because if the government were to turn bad, and become authoritarian, the only force in the country strong enough to stand up to the government, are the big corporations. They are like a ballast, in my own words, that keep this ship from tilting too far to the left or the right. I hope he was right.

Prosecutors Move Quickly on Jan. 6 Cases, but Big Questions Remain – The New York Times

“By almost any measure, the criminal investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is a prosecutorial effort of unparalleled complexity and scope.

For an entire year, federal agents in almost every state have been poring over mounting stacks of tipster reports, interviews with witnesses, public social media posts and private messages obtained by warrants. They have also collected nearly 14,000 hours of video — from media outlets, surveillance cameras and police-worn body cameras — enough raw footage that it would take a year and a half of around-the-clock viewing to get through it.

While the Justice Department has called the inquiry one of the largest in its history, traditional law enforcement officials have not been acting alone. Working with information from online sleuths who style themselves as “Sedition Hunters,” the authorities have made more than 700 arrests — with little sign of slowing down.

The government estimates that as many as 2,500 people who took part in the events of Jan. 6 could be charged with federal crimes. That includes more than 1,000 incidents that prosecutors believe could be assaults.”

David Lindsay: Excellent article, thank you. I found one of many good comments, which informed on subject I am deeply curious about. If this is true, wonderful.

Aurora
Vermont5h ago

Merrick Garland knows that if he is ever to indict former president Donald Trump he can never give the slightest indication that such an investigation is on. Donald Trump would label it a witch hunt and make sure the whole world knows it. Avoiding a circus atmosphere is critical to prosecuting such a case, if ever prosecuted. If a criminal trial were to occur Trump’s defense team would use the same tried-and-true strategy that has served Trump so well these past 6 years: people are attacking Donald Trump for political reasons; it’s Democrats against Republicans. Garland has one other bullet to dodge in his investigation: at trial he’ll need 12 guilty votes in a country where 40% of Americans fully support the former president. For this reason Garland must have an ironclad, squeaky clean case. The good news, for those of us who put reality above crazy conspiracy theories and political histrionics, Merrick Garland is the perfect choice to build an ironclad, squeaky clean case. But it will probably take another year.

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