Opinion | Can Any of the Democratic Candidates Save the Party From Itself? – The New York Times

By Gail Collins and 

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

Credit…Getty Images

Gail Collins: Bret, how do you feel about billionaires? Not personally — I’m sure some of your best friends are billionaires — but as presidential candidates. Ever since Michael Bloomberg started running, there’s been a lot of complaining about rich guys trying to buy the race. Does that worry you, or do you find people like Bloomberg and Tom Steyer to be, um, valuable additions?

Bret Stephens: I guess it depends on who the billionaires are, how they made their money, and what they’ve done with it. There’s a world of difference between someone like Mike Bloomberg — who came from relatively humble beginnings, made his fortune honestly, ran his businesses capably, devoted a significant amount of his life to public service and then gave billions away to great causes — and someone like Donald Trump, who did none of those things.

What about you?

Gail: Thank you for throwing in an attack on President Trump. Really, is there any topic that doesn’t offer some opportunity to snipe at our commander in chief? I notice he’s blaming energy-efficient light bulbs for his orange skin tone.

Bret: They use energy-efficient light bulbs on tanning beds now?

Gail: I’ll bet we could talk about the presidential complexion all day and the readers would be extremely happy to chime in and keep it going for another week. But of course we’re above that.

Bret: We are?

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
Draft 2
Fellow commentators! You don’t have to agree with Bret Stevens, but you do have to listen to his advice. His conservative views are closer to the views of the majority in the crucial swing states than the views of us progressives on either coast. We don’t need more votes in New York or California, we need the six crucial swing states that gave Trump the electoral college. Wake up. Look at the polls. Every conservative in Connecticut I have interviewed, has said that they will not support or vote for Sanders or Warren. Either one of these fine progressives will crush Trump in the popular vote, but deliver to him the presidency, that is what people like Bret Stevens are trying to warn you to be aware of. We have to take the White House, to put the war on climate change on hyper drive and rebuild the middle class. The sure way for Pete Buttigieg to win the support of the black community, is to support the candicacy of their favorite candidate, Joe Biden, and try to become his vice president. (David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

‘The Amazon Is Completely Lawless’: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year – The New York Times

Photographs and Video by 

Written by 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — When the smoke cleared, the Amazon could breathe easy again.

For months, black clouds had hung over the rainforest as work crews burned and chain-sawed through it. Now the rainy season had arrived, offering a respite to the jungle and a clearer view of the damage to the world.

The picture that emerged was anything but reassuring: Brazil’s space agency reported that in one year, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon had been razed — a swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon torn from the world’s largest rainforest.

It was the highest loss in Brazilian rainforest in a decade, and stark evidence of just how badly the Amazon, an important buffer against global warming, has fared in Brazil’s first year under President Jair Bolsonaro.

He has vowed to open the rainforest to industry and scale back its protections, and his government has followed through, cutting funds and staffing to weaken the enforcement of environmental laws. In the absence of federal agents, waves of loggers, ranchers and miners moved in, emboldened by the president and eager to satisfy global demand.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
In a sane United States, we would act to stop the desecration of the Amazon rain forest, as an important part of our national security. We would talk with allies, and work with them, and if necessary, overthrow the Bolsonaro government, for reckless endagerment of the future of human and non human species.
(David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

Opinion | Bloomberg’s Bogus- Belated Mea Culpa -by Charles Blow – The New York Times

“Last Sunday I wrote a column entitled “You Must Never Vote for Bloomberg” because of Michael Bloomberg’s promotion, advocacy and defense of the racist stop-and-frisk policy that ballooned during his terms as mayor of New York City.

This Sunday, Bloomberg apologized for that policy.

Speaking at the Christian Cultural Center, a black megachurch in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said:

“Over time, I’ve come to understand something that I long struggled to admit to myself: I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand that back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities. I was totally focused on saving lives, but as we know, good intentions aren’t good enough. Now, hindsight is 20/20. But, as crime continued to come down as we reduced stops, and as it continued to come down during the next administration, to its credit, I now see that we could and should have acted sooner and acted faster to cut the stops. I wish we had. I’m sorry that we didn’t. But, I can’t change history. However today, I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”

This is a necessary apology, but a hard one to take, coming only now, as he considers a run for the Democratic nomination, a nomination that is nearly impossible to secure without the black vote.

It feels like the very definition of pandering.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment.
Charles Blow, I was a big fan of yours for years, and reposted your essasys on my political blog, InconvenientNews.net. But something has changed. What? There is a brittle arrogance to the tone of your position here. The sincere apology of a successful and rich white man is unacceptable, because he hasn’t, as your fans have commented, offeredd to make ammends equal to his sin. My goodness, trying to save the country from Donald Trump, and then facing the resposiblity of the presidency could actually give one repenting sinner a real chance to make ammends, like you have possilby never considered. There can be a deafness to the far left and right, where apologies are never accepted. As humans, we all have to be careful to guard against total clarity.

Apocalypse Got You Down? Maybe This Will Help – By Cara Buckley – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Buckley is a reporter for The Times.

“One day early this fall, 19 people gathered in a small event space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and sat in a circle. They included an immigration lawyer, a therapist, an Extinction Rebellion protester, an artist and me. Outside, it was cloudlessly sunny and hot in a way that would have once been described as unseasonable but that nowadays is just mid-September.

We were there for a workshop called “Cultivating Active Hope: Living With Joy Amidst the Climate Crisis,” a title that sounded wildly optimistic. I was there because, for the life of me, I could not understand how anyone was coping with the climate crisis.

Have you ever known someone who cited the Anthropocene in a dating profile? Who doled out carbon offset gift certificates at the holidays? Who sees new babies and immediately flashes to the approximately 15 tons of carbon emissions the average American emits per year? Who walks around shops thinking about where all the packaging ends up? You do now.”

How Laws Against Child Sexual Abuse Imagery Can Make It Harder to Detect – The New York Times

“Child sexual abuse photos and videos are among the most toxic materials online. It is against the law to view the imagery, and anybody who comes across it must report it to the federal authorities.

So how can tech companies, under pressure to remove the material, identify newly shared photos and videos without breaking the law? They use software — but first they have to train it, running repeated tests to help it accurately recognize illegal content.

Google has made progress, according to company officials, but its methods have not been made public. Facebook has, too, but there are still questions about whether it follows the letter of the law. Microsoft, which has struggled to keep known imagery off its search engine, Bing, is frustrated by the legal hurdles in identifying new imagery, a spokesman said.

The three tech giants are among the few companies with the resources to develop artificial intelligence systems to take on the challenge.

One route for the companies is greater cooperation with the federal authorities, including seeking permission to keep new photos and videos for the purposes of developing the detection software.

But that approach runs into a larger privacy debate involving the sexual abuse material: How closely should tech companies and the federal government work to shut it down? And what would prevent their cooperation from extending to other online activity?

Paul Ohm, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual property section, said the laws governing child sexual abuse imagery were among the “fiercest criminal laws” on the books.

“Just the simple act of shipping the images from one A.I. researcher to another is going to implicate you in all kinds of federal crimes,” he said.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments.
I’ve worked with computer clients since 1991 who shaked with anger about how hard it is to master their computers.They still do. I say to them, what I say about this article, “Just think, in a hundred years, people will write comedies about how we struggled in the early, dark ages of computer science. Nothing is seemless. Nothing works as promised.”
Plug and play still hasn’t happened everywhere for everyone, and you get absurd stories like this one, where the government expects big tech companies to clean out child porn, but they aren’t allowed to store or share the photos they are targeting to remove from the internet. We are living through a comedy, every day.
The best way to deal with the pain is to laugh, and keep working to slowly improve interconnectivity with some respect for privacy. (David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

Opinion | Trump’s Deficits Are an Existential Threat to Conservatism – By Philip Klein – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Klein is the author of “Fear Your Future: How the Deck Is Stacked Against Millennials And Why Socialism Would Make It Worse.”

Credit…George Rose/Getty Image

“Last week, the Treasury Department announced that the federal deficit was just shy of $1 trillion in the 2019 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30. The Congressional Budget Office expects deficits to exceed that mark every year going forward.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, such news triggered sanctimonious outrage among Republicans. Mr. Obama’s run of deficits exceeding $1 trillion helped fuel the Tea Party. Mitt Romney attacked Mr. Obama for fiscal irresponsibility during the 2012 presidential campaign. Mr. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, built his national career around dire warnings about the mounting federal debt.

Even Donald Trump regularly got in on the act. In one of many such warnings about deficits, citizen Trump used the March 2013 debt crisis in Cyprus as an occasion to tweet: “Watching the madness in Cyprus? If our government keeps spending trillion dollar deficits, that could happen here.” In 2016, as a candidate, Mr. Trump said he could eliminate the national debt in about eight years.

Yet as president, Mr. Trump has piled on about $3 trillion to the debt, bringing the total to $22.9 trillion. What’s amazing is that he has managed to increase deficits at a time of historically low unemployment and relative peace, when one would expect the national balance sheet to improve.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Comments at NYT.
Nice essay Philip Klein. I too care about the growing deficit. Are you supporting that ugly idea, starve the beast? Grow the deficit as a way to pressure the cutting of the safety net. Social Security and Medicare allow older Americans to grow old and die with some dignity. It was created when a large percentage, maybe half?, of older Americans lived in poverty. So don’t forget to emphasize undoing unneeded and unfair tax cuts and loopholes for the rich.
Let’s test my argument. From Nasi.org: “Before Social Security, in 1934, roughly one half of seniors were estimated to be poor. Most had to rely on family or friends, or go to the poor house. As ever more seniors paid into Social Security and then received retirement benefits, the poverty rate among seniors steadily declined from circa 50 percent in the Great Depression to 35 percent in 1959, 25 percent in 1970, 15 percent in 1975, and around 10 percent in 2000, where it has hovered ever since. Today, were it not for Social Security, the senior poverty rate would be 43.5 percent, and just over half (PDF) of elderly African Americans (51 percent) and Latinos (52 percent) would be poor.”
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Elizabeth Warren’s Days Defending Big Corporations – By Stephanie Saul- The New York Times

“Elizabeth Warren had never taken on the federal government before.

But in 1995, she found herself up against the Clinton administration, representing the Cleveland-based conglomerate LTV Steel.

Even though LTV had sold off its coal mines during the 1980s, a new law required it to contribute to a health fund for retired miners.

LTV believed that it should not have to pay. Those claims, the company said, should have been handled as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Ms. Warren’s job was to convince the Supreme Court to hear LTV’s case.

The court declined, but for Ms. Warren, the issue would fester. Over a decade later, when she ran for the Senate from Massachusetts in 2012, the Republican incumbent, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, tried to use her work for LTV against her, unleashing an ad calling her a “hired gun” who sided “against working people.” Notwithstanding the attack, Mr. Brown lost his seat to Ms. Warren.

The LTV case was part of a considerable body of legal work that Ms. Warren, one of the nation’s leading bankruptcy experts, took on while working as a law professor — moonlighting that earned her hundreds of thousands of dollars over roughly two decades beginning in the late 1980s, mostly while she was on the faculty at Harvard. Much of it involved representing big corporate clients.”

David Lindsay:  Wow. Terrific and interesting writing by Stephanie Saul, thank you.

This complicated dive into Warren’s corporate work while at Harvard, reinvorces what an extraordinary lawyer she is. She was tough as nails, not working always for widows and orphans, but almost always picking cases where she could try to protect the institution of bankruptcy.

Editorial | Turkey’s Victory Over Donald Trump – The New York Times

By 

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

CreditAdem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw 1,000 American troops from Syria without consulting any aides, experts or allies, and without any warning to America’s Kurdish comrades in arms, whom he placed in mortal danger, has provided chilling evidence of the danger posed by his chronic inability to appreciate a president’s responsibilities.

Mr. Trump, as he always does, claimed a huge victory — “an amazing outcome” that saved “millions and millions of lives.” That scores of Kurdish lives have already been lost, that thousands of people have fled their homes, that a swarm of Islamic State followers escaped from internment camps, that the Kurds themselves turned for help to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, that America’s dwindling credibility in the world was further undermined, meant nothing to the president. “It’s not our border,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump’s apologists, too, have been quick to marshal a defense — the Middle East is full of horrible dictatorships, conflicts and crimes against humanity, and presidents before had longed to pull America out of what Mr. Trump has called the region’s “endless, senseless wars.” In northern Syria, the Americans were trapped between two allies, the Kurds who fought with them on the ground and the Turks, whose country is a NATO ally and repository of American tactical nuclear weapons. Something eventually had to give. There was a serious case to be made for pulling out.

But not like this.

The acute shame of the moment was captured in two reports this week. The first was a video of a Russian-speaking reporter wandering through a hurriedly abandoned American base in northern Syria, rummaging among the Coca-Cola cans and footballs. The second arrived with news that two United States Air Force F-15 jets had destroyed an American munitions bunker in Syria to prevent munitions and other equipment from falling into the hands of other armed groups.”

It has been a bad weekend for those of us who admire the Kurds, and recognized their extraordinary partnership with the United States in fighting and almost destroying ISIS. But alas, Donald Trump has betrayed them, and handed Syria over to Turkey, Bashar Assad, the butcher of Syria, and his Russian handlers. This is by far the biggest mistake of the Trump presidency, and it is because all the adults handlers have quit or been fired.
The Friday NYT editorial summarized the disaster in sober words:

Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

Heterohelix globulosa fossils
A species of foraminifera called Heterohelix globulosa that were picked and isolated from the K-Pg boundary clay at Geulhemmerberg in the Netherlands. Each fossil measures between 150 and 212 microns.

“A new study led by Yale University confirms a long-held theory about the last great mass extinction event in history and how it affected Earth’s oceans. The findings may also answer questions about how marine life eventually recovered.

The researchers say it is the first direct evidence that the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago coincided with a sharp drop in the pH levels of the oceans — which indicates a rise in ocean acidity.

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene die-off, also known as the K-Pg mass extinction event, occurred when a meteor slammed into Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period. The impact and its aftereffects killed roughly 75% of the animal and plant species on the planet, including whole groups like the non-avian dinosaurs and ammonites.

For years, people suggested there would have been a decrease in ocean pH because the meteor impact hit sulphur-rich rocks and caused the raining-out of sulphuric acid, but until now no one had any direct evidence to show this happened,” said lead author Michael Henehan, a former Yale scientist who is now at GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany.

Turns out all they had to do was look at the foraminifera.

Pincelli Hull standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.
Pincelli Hull, assistant professor of geology and geophysics, standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.

Foraminifera are tiny plankton that grow a calcite shell and have an amazingly complete fossil record going back hundreds of millions of years. Analysis of the chemical composition of foraminifera fossils from before, during, and after the K-Pg event produced a wealth of data about changes in the marine environment over time. Specifically, measurements of boron isotopes in these shells allowed the Yale scientists to detect changes in the ocean’s acidity.”

Source: Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

David Lindsay
Excess Carbon Dioxide is causing the oceans to acidify in the last 200 years or so, to the point that half of the Great Barrier Reef, is dead. Coral reefs are dying all over the world. This science shows that ocean acidity in the past led to a great die off of aquatic species during the 5th great extinction 66 million years ago.

Opinion | Democrats, Dream Big but Tell the Whole Truth – by Charles Blow – The New York Times

“So I say to the Democratic field: Give me your biggest, boldest ideas. Almost none of them are policies you could institute by executive action. Almost all require acts of Congress, and Congress would likely produce something vastly different than what you propose, if they pass a bill at all.

Instead, these proposals are statements of principle, and framing of goals, sketching a vision. Vision is key. If your only vision is what you think can squeak through, you’re blind to the desires of the liberal heart, to the American heart, to the desire for the country to aspire to and achieve greatness.

All that said, I still believe that the candidates with the biggest plans need to level with voters about how costly, painful and disruptive transformational changes are likely to be, at least in the short term.

Take for instance the transformation of our health insurance system: Whether we are talking about Medicare for All or an expansion of Obamacare with a public option, there is a sticker price.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Charles Blow. I love this essay, and it resonates and shines. I hope Elizabeth Warren reads it too, and learns something. Same for Joe Biden. I agree that “voters are adult enough to handle the truth,” but wise enough to know that nothing is as easy as it should be.
My favorite expression in 2019 is the admonishment from writers like David Brooks, that to be civilized, you have to be able to hold contradictory ideas in your mind at the same time about something you study or care about. One possibly astute writer in the NYT after the recent Democratic Debate said, Warren was marked down by the op-ed writers who graded the debate from 1 to 10, but not necessaily by the general public. She didn’t give the GOP hate machine the sound bite, this will raise your taxes. But she also appeared to not trust the public to hear the strengths and weaknesses and complexities of her health care plan. She let another on the stage, possibly Uncle Bernie, yes your taxes will go up, but not by as much as your medical expenses will go down.
Meanwhile, if Joe Biden would relax a little, he will make a great president, and he could get elected, ie, win the electoral college, in this maelstrom of fake news and hate.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.