‘Sadness’ and Disbelief From a World Missing American Leadership – By Katrin Bennhold – The New York Times

“BERLIN — As images of America’s overwhelmed hospital wards and snaking jobless lines have flickered across the world, people on the European side of the Atlantic are looking at the richest and most powerful nation in the world with disbelief.

“When people see these pictures of New York City they say, ‘How can this happen? How is this possible?’” said Henrik Enderlein, president of the Berlin-based Hertie School, a university focused on public policy. “We are all stunned. Look at the jobless lines. Twenty-two million,” he added.

“I feel a desperate sadness,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford University and a lifelong and ardent Atlanticist.

The pandemic sweeping the globe has done more than take lives and livelihoods from New Delhi to New York. It is shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism — the special role the United States played for decades after World War II as the reach of its values and power made it a global leader and example to the world.”

DL: I found this piece on Facebook from Seth Bates.

Editorial | Amid Coronavirus, America Needs a More Just Society – The New York Times

“From some of its darkest hours, the United States has emerged stronger and more resilient.

Between May and July 1862, even as Confederate victories in Virginia raised doubts about the future of the Union, Congress and President Abraham Lincoln kept their eyes on the horizon, enacting three landmark laws that shaped the nation’s next chapter: The Homestead Act allowed Western settlers to claim 160 acres of public land apiece; the Morrill Act provided land grants for states to fund universities; and the Pacific Railway Act underwrote the transcontinental railroad.

Nearly 75 years later, in the depths of the Great Depression, with jobs in short supply and many Americans reduced to waiting in bread lines, President Franklin Roosevelt proved similarly farsighted. He concluded the best way to revive and sustain prosperity was not merely to pump money into the economy but to rewrite the rules of the marketplace. “Liberty,” Roosevelt said at the Democratic Party’s convention in 1936, “requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.” His administration, working with Congress, enshrined the right of workers to bargain collectively, imposed strict rules and regulators on the financial industry, and created Social Security to provide pensions for the elderly and disabled.”

“. . .  A major investment in public health would be a fitting place to start.

The larger project, however, is to increase the resilience of American society. Generations of federal policymakers have prioritized the pursuit of economic growth with scant regard for stability or distribution. This moment demands a restoration of the national commitment to a richer conception of freedom: economic security and equality of opportunity. That’s why Times Opinion is publishing this project across the next two months, to envision how to turn the America we have into the America we need.

The purpose of the federal government, Lincoln wrote to Congress on July 4, 1861, was “to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders, and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” The Homestead Act in particular was a concrete step in that direction: 10 percent of all the land in the United States was ultimately distributed in 160-acre chunks. But Lincoln’s conception of “everyone” did not include everyone: The Homestead Act rested on the expropriation of Native American lands.

Roosevelt shared Lincoln’s vision of government, but industry had replaced agriculture as the wellspring of prosperity, so he focused on ensuring a more equitable distribution of the nation’s manufacturing output — although African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens in many New Deal programs.

The United States today is in need of new measures to stake all Americans in the modern economy.

To give Americans a fair chance in the race of life, the government must begin from birth. The United States must reclaim the core truth of the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education: So long as Americans are segregated, their opportunities can never be equal. One of the most important steps the United States can take to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive is to bulldoze enduring patterns of racial and economic segregation. Zoning laws that limit residential development in the very areas where good jobs are most abundant are one of the most important structural obstacles to a more integrated nation.

Over the course of this project, we will examine other ways to equalize opportunity early in life, and also to restore a healthier balance of power between employers and workers.

One of the clearest lessons of the pandemic is that many employers feel shockingly little obligation to protect the health and welfare of their workers, and workers have been left with little means to organize or resist. Amazon, one of the nation’s largest employers, fired a worker protesting safety conditions at the company’s warehouses on the Orwellian grounds that his protest was itself a safety hazard. A manager at a Uline call center instructed employees not to tell colleagues if they weren’t feeling well because it might cause “unnecessary panic.” “

Opinion | Are We Really Facing the Coronavirus Together? – By Michael J. Sandel – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard. His forthcoming book is “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?”

Credit…Erica Lee for The New York Times

“Mobilizing to confront the pandemic and, eventually, to reconstruct the shattered economy, requires not only medical and economic expertise but moral and political renewal. We need to ask a basic question that we have evaded over these last decades: What do we owe one another as citizens?

In a pandemic, this question arises most urgently as a question about health care: Should medical care be accessible to all, regardless of their ability to pay? The Trump administration decided that the federal government would pay for coronavirus treatment for the uninsured. Whether it will be possible to reconcile the moral logic of this policy with the notion that health coverage in ordinary times should be left to the market remains to be seen.

But beyond the issue of health care, we need to think more broadly about the way we contend with inequality. We need to better reward the social and economic contributions of work done by the majority of Americans, who don’t have college degrees. And we need to reckon with the morally corrosive downsides of meritocracy.

In response to rising inequality, mainstream politicians of both parties have, in recent decades, called for greater equality of opportunity — improving access to higher education so that everyone, whatever their starting point in life, can rise as far as their effort and talent will take them. This is, in itself, a worthy principle.

But as an answer to inequality, the rhetoric of rising — the promise that the talented will be able to climb the ladder of success — has a dark side. Part of the problem is that we fail to live up to the meritocratic principles we proclaim. For example, most students at highly selective colleges and universities come from affluent families. At many elite colleges, including Yale and Princeton, there are more students from the top 1 percent than from the entire bottom 60 percent of the country.

There is also a deeper problem: Even a perfect meritocracy, in which opportunities for advancement were truly equal, would corrode solidarity. Focusing on helping the talented clamber up the ladder of success can keep us from noticing that the rungs on the ladder are growing further and further apart.

Meritocracies also produce morally unattractive attitudes among those who make it to the top. The more we believe that our success is our own doing, the less likely we are to feel indebted to, and therefore obligated to, our fellow citizens. The relentless emphasis on rising and striving encourages the winners to inhale too deeply of their success, and to look down on those who lack meritocratic credentials.”

Editorial | Amid Coronavirus, America Needs a More Just Society – The New York Times

“From some of its darkest hours, the United States has emerged stronger and more resilient.

Between May and July 1862, even as Confederate victories in Virginia raised doubts about the future of the Union, Congress and President Abraham Lincoln kept their eyes on the horizon, enacting three landmark laws that shaped the nation’s next chapter: The Homestead Act allowed western settlers to claim 160 acres of public land apiece; the Morrill Act provided land grants for states to fund universities; and the Pacific Railway Act underwrote the transcontinental railroad.

Nearly 75 years later, in the depths of the Great Depression, with jobs in short supply and many Americans reduced to waiting in bread lines, President Franklin Roosevelt proved similarly farsighted. He concluded the best way to revive and sustain prosperity was not merely to pump money into the economy but to rewrite the rules of the marketplace. “Liberty,” Roosevelt said at the Democratic Party’s convention in 1936, “requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.” His administration, working with Congress, enshrined the right of workers to bargain collectively, imposed strict rules and regulators on the financial industry, and created Social Security to provide pensions for the elderly and disabled.

 

This article is part of a Times Opinion series exploring how the nation can emerge from this crisis stronger, fairer and more free. Read the editor’s introductory letter.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare once again the incomplete nature of the American project — the great distance between the realities of life and death in the United States and the values enunciated in its founding documents.”

Opinion | My Father- Out to Sea – By Jaed Coffin – The New York Times

By Jaed Coffin

Mr. Coffin is a writer.

CreditIleana Soon

“For as long as I can remember, my father’s favorite expression has always been “out to sea.” As in, “Well, I used to see that guy around, but then he got divorced, quit his job, and he just went out to sea.” Like many of my father’s expressions, “out to sea” is based on a vague and maybe misunderstood historical allusion; in this case, to the original men of Nantucket, who, my father claims, are my direct male ancestors. These brave souls would regularly leave their families for years on end, to slaughter sperm whales in distant oceans thousands of miles from home. “That’s just how it was back then,” my father often told me, in a whimsical tone laced with longing and nostalgia. “The men in our family, they just went out to sea.”

I’ve never been to Nantucket, and, raised by my single Thai mother, have never had much interest in my father’s heritage. But as a boy, something about my father’s use of the expression “out to sea” always intrigued me. For my father, going “out to sea” carried a mystical connotation, charged with rebellion and renunciation. Men (always men) seemed to reach a point in their lives when the burdens of domestic life — spouse, kids, job, community, whatever — grew too heavy, and the only path to spiritual freedom required that we drift into the mists of existence, never to be seen again.

We make strange heroes out of those who go “out to sea”: Don Draper is one of the newest members of the club. Jack Nicholson’s character in “Five Easy Pieces” (one of my father’s favorite movies), who abandons his girlfriend at a gas station by hitching a ride to Alaska in a logging truck, definitely belongs, too. Even Siddhartha Gautama, auspicious figure of my faith, who left behind his newborn son “Rahula” (Pali for “shackle”) for a life of meditation in the forest, might be the most famous man to ever go “out to sea.” How can I argue with the Buddha?

But my affection for men who go “out to sea” gets complicated when I locate it within the context of my relationship with my father, who met my mother on a military base during the Vietnam War. After the war, my parents came back to the United States, to New England, to start a family. Shortly after I was born, my father got involved with another woman, an American woman, wandered around for a few years, then moved in with her and her five children in Vermont. This left my mother, who worked the night shift as a psychiatric nurse at the local hospital, to raise my older sister and me on her own back in Maine. Throughout my boyhood, it never occurred to me how carefully my mother — who’d been raised in a stilt house, in a dusty village in Central Thailand — had to both scrutinize and adopt the strange customs of New England culture, how learning to navigate these foreign waters became, by necessity, the great project of her adult life.”

Opinion | The Real China Challenge: Managing Its Decline – The New York Times

Bret Stephens

By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

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Sculptures on the campus of the Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, China.CreditCreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

“In 2009, The Economist wrote about an up-and-coming global power: Brazil. Its economy, the magazine suggested, would soon overtake that of France or the U.K. as the world’s fifth largest. São Paulo would be the world’s fifth-richest city. Vast new reserves of offshore oil would provide an added boost, complemented by the country’s robust and sophisticated manufacturing sector.

To illustrate the point, the magazine’s cover featured a picture of Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue taking off from its mountaintop as if it were a rocket.

The rocket never reached orbit. Brazil’s economy is now limping its way out of the worst recession in its history. The murder rate — 175 people per day in 2017 — is at a record high. One former president is in jail, another was impeached. The incoming president is an admirer of the country’s old military dictatorship, only he thinks it should have killed the people it tortured.

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first tout as countries of the future.

I thought about The Economist story while reading a deeply reported and thought-provoking series in The Times about another country of the future: China. The phrase “rise of China” has now become so commonplace that we treat it more as a fact of nature than as a prediction of a very familiar sort — one made erroneously about the Soviet Union in the 1950s and ’60s; about Japan in the ’70s and ’80s; and about the European Union in the ’90s and ’00s.”

Source: Opinion | The Real China Challenge: Managing Its Decline – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

Bret Stephens, as my father liked to say, you’re not as dumb as you look.  Thank you for another terrific, mind-bending piece.

I hope your are right, but fear you are wrong. The Chinese appear to be preparing for the future, fighting for our lives and the lives of our grand children against climate change, better than the United States, which is deeply troubling. You do not appear to understand that climate change is rapidly becoming a crisis. Humans are putting 110 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every What.

Take a guess. Every year, month, week, day or hour. Take a guess.

Unfortunately the answer is daily. No wonder the coral and the shellfish are dying all over the oceans. Scientist who study the sixth extinction predict gloomily, that not only are we humans the cause of the sixth extinction, but we will be one of the myriad species that fails during it.

David Lindsay Jr. has written and performs a folk music concert and sing-a-long about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.