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

By 

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.”

Opinion | The Politics of Exhaustion – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“On campuses 10 percent of students are able to intimidate the other 90 percent, who don’t want to say the wrong thing and get canceled. In Congress, the Trumpians are able to intimidate the members who realize what a problem he is. The people in the two big power blocs are not good at winning the war against each other, but they are really good at intimidating the moderates on their own side.

In this way, those in the exhausted camp perpetuate their own misery. They complain about the terrible choices each election cycle, but never organize enough or become imaginative enough to offer something they themselves might want.

In Britain they’ve mostly taken money out of politics, but they still had an election even worse and more polarized than our own. In the end, if Johnson, as expected, wins easily, it will be in part because exhausted voters will have swung to Trump/Johnson nationalist demagogy since the only alternative is a Corbyn/Sanders class war.

In the States, voters still have a chance to turn the emotional page, to elect a person who displays that you can be a progressive or you can be a conservative without turning politics into perpetual war. Pete Buttigieg is rising and Joe Biden’s support is resilient precisely because they are not exhausting.

The interesting question is whether, in the heat of battle, the exhausted voters can get over their fatigue, cynicism and timidity and take their own side in a fight.”

Opinion | Will Europe Ever Trust America Again? – By Ivan Krastev – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“VIENNA — In 1991, I arrived in Detroit for my first-ever visit to the United States. My hosts, from the now-defunct United States Information Agency, were determined to show me and the other Bulgarians in my group not only the American dream but also America’s underbelly. Before we could tour the city, we received instructions on how to comport ourselves in supposedly dangerous places. Our American hosts were clear that if we didn’t want to become victims, we shouldn’t behave like one. Walking in the middle of the street and looking around nervously in the hope of spotting a police officer would only increase the likelihood of getting mugged. Keep your bearings, they stressed.

Ever since President Trump’s election in 2016, we Europeans have been following that same advice when it comes to international politics. We are preoccupied with not allowing ourselves to look like a victim, in the hope that this will prevent us from being mugged in a world abandoned by its once-trusted sheriff.

As Mr. Trump has insulted international institutions and abandoned allies from Syria to the Korean Peninsula, policymakers on this side of the Atlantic have found themselves trying to walk a fine line: On the one hand, they want to hedge against Washington turning its back on Europe; on the other, they want to ensure that their hedging doesn’t push the Trump administration even farther away.

Consequently, European policies toward the United States have been oscillating between grandstanding about our ability to do everything on our own and panicked pretending that everything is as it used to be. See, for example, when President Emmanuel Macron of France recently proclaimed that NATO was experiencing “brain death” and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany quickly responded by insisting that “NATO remains vital to our security.”

Opinion | Boris Johnson, How Does It Feel? – By Susan McKay – The New York Times

By 

Ms. McKay is a writer in Ireland.

CreditCreditPhil Noble/Reuters

“DUBLIN — When Boris Johnson visited Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin last month as part of a last-minute scramble to reach some sort Brexit deal, the two leaders began their day with a media briefing on the steps of one of Dublin’s grandest buildings. In the Edwardian Baroque style, it was built by the British authorities while the Irish were intensifying their struggle for independence. “Fortuitously,” the Heritage Ireland website snarkily notes, “the complex was completed in 1922 and was available immediately to be occupied by the new Irish Free State government.” Rarely has the word “fortuitously” elided so much.

Mr. Johnson, shirt askew, hair a mess, shambled like a drugged bear to the podium and gripped it. Mr. Varadkar looked on, gym fit and poised in a sharp suit. The contrast was more than superficial. Britain has long since lost its empire — and this prime minister looks set to break up the United Kingdom itself. He had come to Dublin for talks about the vexed issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the United Kingdom. Mr. Johnson needed either to bully Ireland into abandoning the so-called backstop, which protects the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union’s single market, or to make Ireland look so intransigent that it could be blamed for pushing Britain into a no-deal Brexit.

Mr. Varadkar delivered a telling speech. He compared the tasks facing Mr. Johnson, who must negotiate the future of a Britain outside of the European Union, with the labors of Hercules. Ireland wished to be Britain’s “friend and ally, your Athena,” Mr. Varadkar said.

It was an elegantly delivered kick in the arse. Hercules’s labors were penitential — prone to fits of madness and having killed his family, he was about to continue on a murderous rampage when Athena, goddess of wisdom, saved him from his own folly by knocking him unconscious.”

Opinion | Ukraine’s Leader Has Jumped Into Trump’s Trap – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“For some Europeans, the most embarrassing revelation of the now very public phone conversation between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president on July 25 was not the attempt by Mr. Trump to interfere in the judiciary system of a foreign country for his own political benefit. Nothing the American president does could surprise any longer.

What they found particularly disappointing, instead, was the servility with which his young counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, sought to ingratiate himself with Mr. Trump, pretending that he had won the Ukrainian presidency by imitating him, claiming to have appointed a new prosecutor general who would be “100 percent my person,” and happily joining in the Euro-bashing that has become one of Mr. Trump’s trademarks.

Masks were falling off. So this popular maverick comedian turned real-life politician after playing one in a TV series, this promising reformer that President Emmanuel Macron of France had hosted at the Élysée even before he was elected, was in fact another spineless, unprepared leader jumping into President Trump’s every trap.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Macron have been wise enough not to comment on this pathetic turn of events. Privately, French diplomats insist that Paris still actively supports Mr. Zelensky — even more so in light of the American meltdown. What is at stake in Ukraine for the European Union is far too important, and the risk of seeing Mr. Trump’s dirty work derail laborious efforts to reform that post-Soviet country far too real.”

David Lindsay: Here is the perfect antidote to Rachel Maddow, who spent way to much time the other night on the Inspector General’s calling 8 house committees for an emergency meeting, to get rubbish about conspiracy theories put together by non other than Rudy Guiliani.

Here are the top two comments I endorsed:

P. Bourke

Excellent article. It helped me realize that in reading the transcript of Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky, it’s worth noting what was not in the transcript, and not just the criminality so clearly in evidence. There was not even the briefest discussion of Ukraine’s economic or military situation or any other item of substance, and this at a very fraught time in the history of the Ukraine, as well as in the US-Russian relationship. Such dereliction of duty by an American president should itself be cause for impeachment.

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Bruce Rozenblit commented 2 hours ago

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MO

This essay underscores the absolute essential nature of globalism and diplomacy. It reveals what happens if amateurs are placed in charge of highly specialized and professional administrative positions. When the Trumpist path is taken, everything falls apart. We are falling apart. The United Kingdom is falling apart. And now, Ukraine in falling apart. All of this ensuing chaos is to the benefit of Putin. Putin is waging a war of chaos and disfunction against the West. The more disorganized the West becomes (Brexit), the more turmoil inside our governments (Trump’s war on our institutions and public meritocracy), the more friction between allies (Trump’s ever expanding trade wars with our closest allies), the lesser the threat the West presents to him and the stronger Russia becomes. Trump, with his attempt to extort political assistance from Ukraine, plays right into Putin’s hand. Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is Putin’s puppet. The EU has been trying to pull Ukraine into the West’s sphere of influence and rule of law through increased trade. Trump is doing the complete opposite. He is using tariffs as weapon to isolate and turn all against all. This new trade war with the EU, which has just started, has the potential to be devastating, both economically and strategically. It will cost consumers plenty, reduce trade and slow down the global economy, which is already slowing down from tariffs on China. Putin couldn’t be happier.

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Babette’s Feast — The General’s Toast — Mercy and truth have met together – YouTube

Last night we watched the movie Babette”s Feast, based on a short story by Isak Dinesen. Extraordinary Movie. Very spiritual, but not necessarily a realistic story. A beautiful thought piece. Now I really want to know which part Elly Lindsay had in the theatrical version recently played in Dallas, The soldier, who becomes the heart broken suitor, becomes a successful general, and gives this toast at the end of the feast, while the woman who refused him 40 or so years earlier looks on:

“Mercy and truth have met together.

Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness…
believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes.
We do know fear.
But no.
Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when your eyes are opened.
And we come to realize…
that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence…
and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And, lo!
Everything we have chosen…
has been granted to us.
And everything…
we rejected…
has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
For mercy and truth are met together.
And righteousness and bliss…
shall kiss one another.”

++++++++++
Babette’s Feast (1987)
“Babettes gæstebud” (original title)
Director: Gabriel Axel
General Lorens Löwenhielm: Jarl Kulle
++++++++++
“Perhaps it is a desecration to take this scene out of context, but it is so wonderful in context that it shall be risked. The General has just enjoyed the rarest of meals in the most unlikely of places. He makes an after dinner speech that is more of a sermon and prayer.” – Youtube blogger named Straussian.

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Editorial | In Italy, a Sharp Turn Back to the Center – The New York Times

“Given that Italy has had more than five dozen governments in 73 years, the emergence of another unlikely and unstable coalition might look, in the phrase often attributed to Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again. Yet in the current wave of populism in Europe and around the world, the success of the Italian Parliament in pushing back against a right-wing firebrand bears a closer look.

The stage for the turnover was set in August, when Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right, anti-immigrant League party that for over a year had been in a ruling coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, decided to cash in on his popularity and ask the Italian electorate to hand him “full powers” in new elections.

Instead, the prime minister — a law professor named Giuseppe Conte, who had been pulled from obscurity last year to serve as a figurehead leader of that coalition government — delivered a potent speech in the Italian Senate upbraiding his former patron, Mr. Salvini, for “political opportunism” in “following his own interests and those of his party.”

Mr. Conte then cobbled together an improbable coalition of two parties more usually at each other’s throats, the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party. On Monday, the government — now known popularly as Conte II, with Mr. Salvini in snarling opposition — easily won a vote of confidence and handed Mr. Conte back the ceremonial bell of the prime minister that he had held in the previous coalition government.”

Opinion | Boris Johnson Is How Britain Ends – By James Butler – The New York Times

By James Butler

Mr. Butler is a British journalist.

“LONDON — Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.

That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well-practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.

And his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.

The state of the United Kingdom, a constitutional compact founded in 1922 and stretching back, in one form or another, for centuries, is severely strained. Though Brexit is primarily driven by English passions, two of the four territories in the Union — Northern Ireland and Scotland — voted to remain. Both present immediate problems for Mr. Johnson — and for the future of Britain.

In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country’s vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, insists Scotland will hold one if Brexit takes place. One of the most adroit politicians in Britain, Ms. Sturgeon knows that despite widespread misgivings about Brexit, the majority needed for independence does not currently exist. But recent polling suggests a Johnson government might tilt the scales in her favor. An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson’s rule.”

Opinion | Greece Is the Good News Story in Europe – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Greek resilience through crisis demonstrates that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen

Opinion Columnist

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a rally in Athens on Thursday.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

“ATHENS — If you’re looking for an optimistic story in Europe, try Greece. Yes, you read that right. Having lost a quarter of its economy in a devastating recession, Greece has turned the corner, its democracy intact, its extremist temptations defeated and its anti-Americanism defunct.

The landslide election on Sunday of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the dynamic leader of the center-right New Democracy party, marked the end of a chapter. Greece rejected Alexis Tsipras, the leftist leader who took the country to the brink of ruin in 2015 before discovering a pragmatic streak. It also voted the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn out of Parliament. At the height of the crisis, Golden Dawn had become the country’s third-largest party.

First into populism, Greece is now first out. For a country in free fall, the anchors of the European Union and NATO are not so negligible after all. Europe is not simply a story of growing nationalism and xenophobia. It’s a continent in violent flux, torn between liberal democratic and nativist currents.

Despite unemployment that reached almost 30 percent, a chaotic near-exit from the euro, huge bailouts to save it from bankruptcy, mandated austerity programs and a wave of desperate refugees from Syria, Greece stabilized itself. It’s a reminder that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.”