Opinion | Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the Vote of the Irish – By Shawn McCreesh – The New York Times

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Mr. McCreesh is an editorial assistant for the Opinion section.

Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

“In 2016, my vantage point on the donnybrook between Donald and Hillary was an Irish bar in Queens, where I was a bartender a few nights a week. It was a cash-only joint that sometimes stayed open until 7 a.m. and sold discounted cigarettes driven up from Virginia, the sort of place where you could make $800 under the table but you also might get a bottle or a chair thrown at you. This was where I watched the presidential debates and noticed something interesting. Half the patrons were Irish immigrants who considered Mr. Trump a real “eejit,” but the other half, the Irish Americans, thought he was just grand.

Something didn’t compute. Weren’t the Clintons universally beloved by all with Irish blood? (See “Derry Girls” on Netflix for a sample of the rock star treatment they got after Bill brought peace to Northern Ireland.) It was puzzling to watch the barflies buzz about Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric — a drawbridge mentality from a crowd whose lineage had been met with “Irish Need Not Apply” signs. The craic in the Queens shebeen turned out to be a sudsy microcosm: The green vote has never been more red.

“All those Irish were Democrats for literally hundreds of years,” said James F. McKay III, the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the largest Irish Catholic organization in the country. “But what is the old saying? When they got the wrinkles out of the belly, they became Republicans.”

No doubt. My own grandfather, one of 12 children raised in a two-bedroom house in County Armagh, sailed to Philadelphia, and cheered when John F. Kennedy became president. Sixty-six years later, some of my grandfather’s children and his brother voted for Donald Trump.”

Opinion |  How to Make the Coronavirus Pandemic Even Worse – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Having a pandemic is really bad. Having a pandemic and a civil war together is really, really bad. Welcome to Donald Trump’s America 2020.

If you feel dizzy from watching Trump signal left — issuing guidelines for how states should properly emerge from pandemic lockdowns — while turning right — urging people to liberate their states from lockdowns, ignore his own guidelines and even dispute the value of testing — you’re not alone.

Since Trump’s pronouncements are simultaneously convoluted, contradictory and dishonest, here’s my guess at what he is saying:

“The Greatest Generation preserved American liberty and capitalism by taking Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day — in the face of a barrage of Nazi shelling that could and did kill many of them. I am calling on our generation to preserve American liberty and capitalism today by going shopping in the malls of Omaha, Nebraska, in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that will likely only kill 1 percent of you, if you do get infected. So be brave — get back to work and take back your old life.”

Yes, if you total up all of Trump’s recent words and deeds, he is saying to the American people: between the two basic models for dealing with the pandemic in the world — China’s rigorous top-down, test, track, trace and quarantine model — while waiting for a vaccine to provide herd immunity — and Sweden’s more bottom up, protect-the-most-vulnerable-and-let-the-rest-get-back-to-work-and-get-the-infection-and-develop-natural-herd-immunity model, your president has decided for Sweden’s approach.

He just hasn’t told the country or his coronavirus task force or maybe even himself.

But this is the only conclusion you can draw from all the ways Trump has backed off from his own government guidelines and backed up his end-the-lockdown followers, who, like most of the country, have grown both weary of the guidelines and desperate to get back to work and paychecks.

But, in keeping with my D-Day analogy, Trump has basically decided to dispatch Americans into this battle against this coronavirus without the equivalent of maps, armor, helmets, guns or any coordinated strategy to minimize their casualty count. He’s also dispatching them without national leadership — so it’s every platoon, or state, for themselves, maximizing the chances of virus spread between people who want to go shopping and those who still want to shelter in place.

He’s also dispatching them without a national plan to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly, and without setting the example that everyone should wear face masks and practice social distancing whenever they are at work or in a public setting. Finally, he’s dispatching them without a plan of retreat if way too many vulnerable people are infected and harmed as we take to the malls of Omaha and beyond.”

David Lindsay: Great op-ed, and comments. One of my favorite comments:

bill
sunny isles beach, fl
Times Pick

There could have been federal leadership if our federal leader did his job. It could have been good for him too. If Trump had taken the impending arrival of a pandemic seriously, he could have looked like a hero, instead of a snake looking for a hole to hide in while he blames everyone…I mean everyone…for our disaster but himself. ] Meanwhile Trump is still not doing his job regarding the pandemic. We still don’t have a national strategy for testing sufficient numbers so that we can identify the disease spreaders, isolate them, treat them, and track who they might have spread the disease to. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense. It takes a functional, grown-up president to oversee and coordinate it. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have one. I’ve never been a great fan of Andrew Cuomo, but contrast how effectively he’s handling the New York pandemic compared to Trump. It’s appalling. Trump has got to go…the sooner the better.

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Opinion | McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Thibault Savary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump thunders that Democrats are trying to drag America toward “socialism,” Vice President Mike Pence warns that Democrats aim to “impose socialism on the American people,” and even some Democrats warn against becoming, as one put it, “[expletive] Denmark.”

So, before the coronavirus pandemic, I crept behind [expletive] Danish lines to explore: How scary is Denmark? How horrifying would it be if the United States took a step or two in the direction of Denmark? Would America lose its edge, productivity and innovation, or would it gain well-being, fairness and happiness?

So, here, grab a Danish, and we’ll chat about how a [expletive] progressive country performs under stress. The pandemic interrupted my reporting, but I’d be safer if I still were in Denmark: It has had almost twice as much testing per capita as the United States and fewer than half as many deaths per capita.

Put it this way: More than 35,000 Americans have already died in part because the United States could not manage the pandemic as deftly as Denmark.

Denmark lowered new infections so successfully that last month it reopened elementary schools and day care centers as well as barber shops and physical therapy centers. Malls and shops will be allowed to reopen on Monday, and restaurants and cafes a week later.

Moreover, Danes kept their jobs. The trauma of massive numbers of people losing jobs and health insurance, of long lines at food banks — that is the American experience, but it’s not what’s happening in Denmark. America’s unemployment rate last month was 14.7 percent, but Denmark’s is hovering in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent.”

Relying on Science and Politics, Merkel Offers a Cautious Virus Re-entry Plan – The New York Times

“BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday set in motion a plan for Germany to begin lifting social and economic restrictions in place because of the coronavirus, even as she warned that the road ahead would look less like a return to normal than a way to live with a pandemic that has overturned ordinary life.

The chancellor, a physicist by training, was typically restrained and focused on the science as she announced the government’s cautious step-by-step plan, for which she had won the agreement of regional leaders in Germany’s diffuse federal system.

Shorn of any bravado, her announcement seemed again to make Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, a de facto leader on the Continent and something of an example for Western nations looking to navigate the tricky course of rebooting economic activity and fighting the virus.

Her approach stood in stark contrast to the fraught political divisions in the United States, where state authorities have often been at odds with President Trump, who has made forceful but erratic predictions about the virus.”

Trump Has ‘Done Damage That the Soviets Would Have Dreamt Of,’ Former German Foreign Minister Says – Newsweek.com

“Former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and other European officials have lashed out at President Donald Trump and his divisive leadership on the international stage, alleging he has threatened an alliance that took many decades to build.

“He has done damage that the Soviets would have dreamt of,” Gabriel told The Washington Post in a story published on Monday. “We can’t live with Trump,” he warned, before adding: “And we can’t live without the United States.”

Gabriel said that in the beginning, European leaders believed Trump’s unorthodox and aggressive style was just a campaign strategy that would change once he entered the White House. “But he changed the position of the presidency,” Gabriel, who also served as the vice chancellor of Germany from 2013 until last year, told The Post. “I find it shocking that, in such a short time, he has managed to rip apart a relationship that has taken decades to build.”

Source: Trump Has ‘Done Damage That the Soviets Would Have Dreamt Of,’ Former German Foreign Minister Says

 ‘Politics of Hate’ Takes a Toll in Germany Well Beyond Immigrants – By Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy – The New York Times

“COLOGNE, Germany — The last time Henriette Reker ran for mayor, she was nearly killed.

Ms. Reker was handing out flowers to voters at a bustling market in Cologne in 2015, when a man took a rose with one hand and rammed a kitchen knife into her throat with the other. He wanted to punish her for her pro-refugee stance.

Five years later, Ms. Reker is running again. But she is an exception. Since she recovered from a coma to find herself elected, far-right death threats have become an everyday reality, not just for her but for an increasing number of local officials across Germany.

The acrimony is felt in town halls and village streets, where mayors now find themselves the targets of threats and intimidation. The effect has been chilling.

Some have stopped speaking out. Many have quit, tried to arm themselves or taken on police protection. The risks have mounted to such an extent that some German towns are unable to field candidates for leadership at all.”

David Lindsay: This is shockingly bad news about Germany.  The rise of the the extreme right there, and the violence and killings, seem to be an unexpected reaction to Merkel’s accepting over a million refugees in 2015, without the support of many Germans who felt threatened or betrayed.

Opinion | France’s Challenge in Africa – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

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Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Credit…Michele Cattani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“PARIS — This is a war that escapes most radar screens. The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win.

That is the somber warning that the chief of staff of the French armed forces, Gen. François Lecointre, delivered on Nov. 27, a day after his troops suffered 13 casualties in a helicopter crash in Mali during combat operations. “We will never achieve final victory,” he told the public radio station France Inter. “Avoiding the worst must provide sufficient satisfaction for a soldier. Today, thanks to our constant action, we are ensuring that the worst is avoided.”

Welcome to the unforgiving, thankless fight against jihadis in the Sahel, an African region south of the Sahara as large as Europe, where 4,500 French troops were deployed in January 2013 to prevent the capital of Mali, Bamako, from falling to Al Qaeda. It is now the epicenter of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist-led insurgency. Two weeks ago, the French government decided to send 600 extra troops to the Sahel. Hardly a surge, but a clear sign that “avoiding the worst” is proving more and more difficult.

Bamako was saved, but since then Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. After killing more than 4,000 people last year and displacing more than a million, these groups are now threatening four coastal West African countries south of Burkina Faso, a state that, as the International Crisis Group warned recently, may provide “a perfect launching pad” for operations in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.”

Forests Rebounded in Europe. Then, With Climate Change, So Did Fires. – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

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Ms. Sengupta traveled to Catalonia to report this article.

 

 

TIVISSA, Spain — Forests are often hailed as a solution to climate change, as they were recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where business and political leaders announced an initiative to plant one trillion trees worldwide.

Even President Trump, without mentioning global warming, cited the effort Tuesday night in his State of the Union address.

But while forests are vital for swallowing up and storing carbon, currently absorbing 30 percent of planet-warming carbon dioxide, they are also extremely vulnerable in the age of climate disruptions.

In a hotter, drier, more flammable climate, like here in the Mediterranean region, forests can die slowly from drought or they can go up in flames almost instantly, releasing all the planet-warming carbon stored in their trunks and branches into the atmosphere.

That raises an increasingly urgent question: How best to manage woodlands in a world that humans have so profoundly altered? “We need to decide what will be the climate-change forest for the future,” is how Kirsten Thonicke, a fire ecologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, framed the challenge.

A forest revival in Europe is forcing that discussion now.

Today roughly 40 percent of the European Union’s Continent’s landmass is covered by trees, making it one of the most forest-rich regions in the world. It’s also ripe for wildfire.

Opinion | The Tragedy of Germany’s Energy Experiment – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

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Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock

“HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”

My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.

Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.

In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.”

Killer Slime, Dead Birds, an Expunged Map: The Dirty Secrets of European Farm Subsidies – The New York Times

“In the spring of 2017, a European Union working group of environmentalists, academics and lobbyists was having a technical discussion on green farming practices when a map appeared on an overhead screen. In an instant, the room froze.

A farm lobbyist objected. Officials murmured their disapproval.

The map juxtaposed pollution in northern Italy with the European Union subsidies paid to farmers in the region. The overlap was undeniable and invited a fundamental question: Is the European Union financing the very environmental problems it is trying to solve?

The map was expunged from the group’s final reports, those in attendance say. But using the European Union’s own economic models, The New York Times created an approximation that confirms what European officials did not want seen: The most heavily subsidized areas had the worst pollution.”

Overlapping E.U. subsidies with Italy’s nitrate pollution

E.U. farm subsidies                                                Nitrate pollution

More subsidies                                                     Higher pollution

 Pierre Philippe’s fight began when people and animals started dying on the beaches of northwestern France.

A man’s body was pulled from a pile of green slime. A rider was discovered unconscious beside his dead horse. A beach worker slipped into a coma, and a jogger fatally collapsed.

The reason seemed obvious to Dr. Philippe, an emergency room doctor. Every summer, algae coats the Brittany beaches with bright green slime. As it decomposes, it gives off hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that can kill in seconds.

Dr. Philippe tried for years to persuade government health officials to acknowledge the threat, or even discuss it. They refused. “If they recognize the problem, they also indirectly admit responsibility,” he said. “And they know that.”

That’s because talking about the algae meant talking about farming.”