Opinion | A Cataclysm of Hunger, Disease and Illiteracy – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“We think of Covid-19 as killing primarily the elderly around the world, but in poor countries it is more cataclysmic than that.

It is killing children through malnutrition. It is leading more people to die from tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. It is forcing girls out of school and into child marriages. It is causing women to die in childbirth. It is setting back efforts to eradicate polio, fight malaria and reduce female genital mutilation. It is leading to lapses in vitamin A distribution that will cause more children to suffer blindness and die.

The U.N. Population Fund warns that Covid-19 may lead to an additional 13 million child marriages around the world and to some 47 million women being unable to get access to modern contraception.

In short, a pandemic of disease, illiteracy and extreme poverty is following on the heels of this coronavirus pandemic — and it is hitting children hardest.”

David Lindsay:   This column makes me uncomfortable in several dimensions. The following comment in the NYT covers the elephant in the room:

USA

11m ago
Times Pick

Rampant overpopulation sets the stage for poverty, malnutrition, disease spread, and societal breakdown. Mr. Kristof needs to do more than mention population control in passing. He needs to address the cultural and religious factors that prevent women and the fathers of their children from limiting the number of children they bring into the world, often with no means of providing them with food or shelter. The pandemic will eventually be brought under control. Overpopulation is a far more widespread, destructive, long-term catastrophe.

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Opinion | How Did the ‘Best-Prepared Country’ Become a Horror Story? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“What would America be like today if President Trump had acted decisively in January to tackle the coronavirus, as soon as he was briefed on the danger?

One opportunity for decisive action came Jan. 28, when his national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, told Trump that the coronavirus “will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.” Trump absorbed the warning, telling Bob Woodward days later how deadly and contagious the virus could be, according to Woodward’s new book, “Rage.”

Yet the president then misled the public by downplaying the virus, comparing it to the flu and saying that it would “go away.” He resisted masks, sidelined experts, held large rallies, denounced lockdowns and failed to get tests and protective equipment ready — and here we are, with Americans constituting 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of Covid-19 deaths.

There’s plenty of blame to be directed as well at local officials, nursing home managers and ordinary citizens — but Trump set the national agenda.

Suppose Trump in January — or even in February — had warned the public of the dangers, had ensured that accurate tests were widely distributed (Sierra Leone had tests available before the United States) and had built up a robust system of contact tracing (Congo has better contact tracing than the United States).

Suppose he had ramped up production of masks and empowered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead the pandemic response, instead of marginalizing its experts.

Suppose he had tried as relentlessly to battle the virus as he has to build his wall?

If testing and contact tracing had been done right, then we would have known where hot spots were and large-scale lockdowns and layoffs might have been unnecessary.

The United States would still have made mistakes. We focused too much on ventilators and not enough on other things that might have been more useful, like face masks, blood thinners and high-flow nasal cannulas. Because of mask shortages, health messaging about their importance was bungled. Governors and mayors dithered, and nursing homes weren’t adequately protected.

But many of our peer countries did better than we did not because they got everything right but because they got some things right — and then learned from mistakes.

Because of Covid-19, Trump called himself a wartime president, but he didn’t heed his generals and never ordered ammunition. In World War II, a Ford plant was configured to turn out one new B-24 bomber every hour, yet today we display none of that urgency even though Americans are dying from the virus at a faster pace than they fell in World War II.”

Opinion | ‘We’re No. 28! And Dropping!’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Johnathon Kelso for The New York Times

“This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.”

Opinion | The Lawbreakers Trump Loves – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Even as President Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination on the White House lawn, lawbreakers rampaged through the capital.

Would our law-and-order president leap off the podium and tackle them? He once said he would race unarmed into a building to tackle a school shooter. But sadly he ignored these blatant lawbreakers, presidential aides violating Hatch Act restrictions on political manipulation of government.

It’s one law he doesn’t want to uphold. Asked about the Hatch Act, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, scoffed, “Nobody outside of the beltway really cares.”

Inside the beltway, Trump and other speakers at the Republican National Convention conjure grave national threats from raging anarchists.

“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, and agitators, and criminals,” Trump warned in his acceptance speech.

The Republican convention included video glimpses of “Biden’s America,” with a scary scene of fire raging in the streets. But those streets turned out to be in Barcelona, Spain; it wasn’t “Biden’s America” or even America at all, just another in a stream of lies. (By the count of The Washington Post, Trump has uttered more than 20,000 false and misleading statements since taking office.)

Of course, even if it had been filmed in America this year, it wouldn’t have been Biden’s America, but Trump’s America. The real Biden’s America, the period when he was vice president, was a time of comparative calm, growing prosperity and improving health care.”

“. . . . “Right-wing attacks and plots account for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of right-wing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years,” the Center for Strategic & International Studies concluded after examining terror plots in the United States from 1994 to May of this year. “Right-wing extremists perpetrated two-thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between January 1 and May 8, 2020.” ”

“. . . . Even as Trump exaggerates threats from “anarchists,” there are plenty of legitimate threats to the public that he ignores. Climate change raises the risk of forest fires, drought, intense hurricanes and flooding. And the coronavirus is claiming American lives at the rate of more than one every 90 seconds — yet Trump simply pretends to have defeated the virus, defying the need for masks and social distancing.”

David Lindsay: One of the big improvements this summer, is that Nicolas Kristof woke up to the threat of climate change, and became in the last month, for the first time, a climate hawk. He is such a powerful writer.

Opinion | Fleeing the Trolls for the Grizzly Bears – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Adam Ellis Harper

“PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRAIL, Mont. — What’s a person to do in a crazy summer when our president endorses a candidate who claims the world is controlled by a “global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles,” when federal agents club a Navy veteran protesting peacefully, when the government delays postal services to impede voting (and thereby kills chicks sent in the mail)?

Take a hike.

For wilderness therapy, I came here to Montana to escape the hubbub and embrace the mountains, to sip from creeks, to sleep under the stars, to negotiate with honest interlocutors, like grizzly bears.

Over seven years, my daughter, Caroline, and I hiked the entire 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, running from Mexico to Canada on the West coast. So with that trail behind us, we’ve started another adventure — hiking the newest of America’s grand trails.

In 2009, President Obama signed legislation creating the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail — known informally as the Pacific Northwest Trail. It runs from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, hugging the Canadian border, but it sometimes exists more on paper than on the ground.

Some 1,200 miles long, the Pacific Northwest Trail was cobbled together from existing trails and forest roads, so every now and then you get to the end of a trail and the guidebook tells you: Bushwhack seven miles until you get to the next trail.

That’s what happened to us on a Montana mountain called Northwest Peak. We forged our own trail and cowboy camped that night on a high (and freezing) ridge above timberline — soothed at night by a spectacular sunset to our west, and awoken by an even more vivid palette of reds to the east.

We then hiked and crawled over boulders along a knife edge of a ridge, thousand-foot drops on each side. It was terrifying and exhilarating to see a pebble skitter from your feet and plunge down — forever. It was some of the toughest hiking I’ve ever done on any trail (partly because there wasn’t a trail), and also some of the most glorious. This is why the Pacific Northwest Trail is often called “America’s wildest trail.”

I backpack every summer because it’s wonderful family time, when none of us can be distracted by phones, emails or screens, when we share the camaraderie of blisters and bugs — and awe. My wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and Caroline’s boyfriend, Adam Ellis Harper, joined the journey this year.”

Opinion | Help Me Find Trump’s ‘Anarchists’ in Portland – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“PORTLAND, Ore. — I’ve been on the front lines of the protests here, searching for the “radical-left anarchists” who President Trump says are on Portland streets each evening.

I thought I’d found one: a man who for weeks leapt into the fray and has been shot four times with impact munitions yet keeps coming back. I figured he must be a crazed anarchist.

But no, he turned out to be Dr. Bryan Wolf, a radiologist who wears his white doctor’s jacket and carries a sign with a red cross and the words “humanitarian aid.” He pleads with federal forces not to shoot or gas protesters.

“Put your gun barrels down!” he cries out. “Why are you loading your grenade launchers? We’re just standing ——” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Kristof wrote: “I’m against all violent attacks on officers, and I worry that Trump’s provocations are succeeding in seeding violence — as we’ve already seen in Seattle, Oakland and elsewhere. Every time angry progressives burn a building down, they win votes for Trump.’ I agree with this.
The protestors lose when this happens, and Trump wins. The mayor should announce a curfew, and enforce it, so after a few hours of evening protest, all the law abiding citizens leave the scene peacefully, It is time to stop giving Trump the civil war he needs for re-election.

Opinion | In Portland’s So-Called War Zone, It’s the Troops Who Provide the Menace – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

“PORTLAND, Ore. — To watch Fox News is to learn from Sean Hannity that the “Rose City” of Portland is “like a war zone” that has been, in Tucker Carlson’s words, “destroyed by the mob.”

So I invite Hannity and Carlson to escape their bubbles and visit Portland, stroll along the Willamette River and enjoy a glass of local pinot noir. They’ll be safe — unless they venture at night into the two blocks beside the federal courthouse.

Citizens need to be vigilant there, for armed groups periodically storm the streets to attack peaceful visitors. I’m talking, of course, about the uninvited federal forces.

I’ve watched them fire round after round of tear gas, along with occasional rubber bullets or other projectiles. They even repeatedly tear-gassed Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, who has demanded that they go home, leaving him blinded and coughing on his own streets.

Credit…Nathan Howard/Getty Images

“They knocked the hell out of him,” President Trump boasted on Fox News. “That was the end of him.”

Trump is pretending that he is bringing law and order to chaotic streets, and now he has dispatched similar troops — what else can you call a militarized force like this but “troops”? — to Seattle, where that city’s mayor has also said they are unwanted. Yet if Trump is actually trying to establish order, he is stunningly incompetent. The ruthlessness of the federal forces has inflamed the protests, bringing huge throngs of Portlanders out to protect their city from those they see as jackbooted federal thugs.

“Their presence here escalates,” Kate Brown, Oregon’s governor, told me. “It throws gasoline on the fire.”

Brown noted that the federal troops may also be breaking the law. “We cannot have secret police abducting people into unmarked vehicles,” she said. “This is a democracy and not a dictatorship.”

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

The paradox is that Oregon is simultaneously begging for federal assistance to address a real threat — the coronavirus pandemic. Brown said she has been pleading for Covid-19 tests and for personal protective equipment, but the federal government has rebuffed the state.

“It’s appalling to me that they are using federal taxpayer dollars for political theater and making no effort to really keep our communities safe,” Brown said.

So let’s be real: Trump isn’t trying to quell violence in Portland. No, he’s provoking it to divert attention from 140,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States. Once again, he’s tear-gassing peaceful protesters to generate a photo op — and he’s doing this every night in downtown Portland. This is a reckless campaign tactic to bolster his own narrative as a law-and-order candidate, a replay of Richard Nixon’s successful 1968 campaign theme.

It is true that some protesters are violent. Some start small trash fires. Others paint graffiti, including “kill pigs” and “kill cops,” or hurl water bottles or firecrackers at federal agents. Some protesters point lasers at officers and in one case a man allegedly hit an agent with a hammer.

Such violence is wrong and plays into Trump’s narrative. Representative John Lewis, who died earlier this month, showed how much more powerful it is for changemakers to endure violence than to commit it.

But it’s also true that the vast majority of those in the crowds each evening are peaceful. They sing about racial justice, chant “Feds out now” and try to protect their city from violent intruders dispatched by Trump.

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

The protesters — including a “Wall of Moms” who turn out each night to lock arms and shield protesters — protect themselves with bicycle helmets and umbrellas, while suburbanites bring leaf blowers to dispel tear gas (this works surprisingly well). Medics attend to the injured, and cleanup crews collect litter.

“They have guns; I have an umbrella,” said a protester named Jackie — who added that she was fearful of the government and did not want her last name published. That’s common in dictatorships, but I find it ineffably sad to breathe tear gas in my beloved home state and to interview Americans with such fears of their own leaders.

On the streets, I have no fear of the protesters (except when they pull their face masks down to shout slogans, risking the spread of Covid-19), but it’s prudent to worry about the troops. In a few weeks, they:

  • fired “less lethal” munition at a peaceful protester named Donavan La Bella, fracturing his skull and requiring facial reconstruction surgery. Video shows that the shot was unprovoked.

  • clubbed a Navy veteran, Christopher J. David, as he tried to ask federal agents how they squared their actions with the Constitution.

  • allegedly sexually assaulted a lawyer who had been arrested after taking part in the “Wall of Moms.”

An iconic moment came when a woman known as Naked Athena confronted the troops while wearing only a hat and face mask. Her naked vulnerability as armed troops fired pepper balls at her feet underscored the absurdity of Trump’s narrative that he is “protecting” anything.

Beware. What you’re seeing in Portland may be coming to other cities. After all, Trump’s verdict on the troops: “In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job.” -30-

Nicholas Kristof supports the after dark protests more than I do. I want the protestors to all go home at sunset each evening, because of the danger that Trump can use these protests to put jack boots in multiple cities. See the piece earlier by Roger Cohen, about how the Germans watch this fascist behavior unfold with horror and deep concern.

Opinion | Facing the Coronavirus and Racial Injustice, America Still Has Hope – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“Just one in six Americans in a poll last month was “proud” of the state of the country, and about two out of three were actually “fearful” about it. So let me introduce a new thought: “hope.”

Yes, our nation is a mess, but overlapping catastrophes have also created conditions that may finally let us extricate ourselves from the mire. The grim awareness of national failures — on the coronavirus, racism, health care and jobs — may be a necessary prelude to fixing our country.

The last time our economy was this troubled, Herbert Hoover’s failures led to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election with a mandate to revitalize the nation. The result was the New Deal, Social Security, rural electrification, government jobs programs and a 35-year burst of inclusive growth that built the modern middle class and arguably made the United States the richest and most powerful country in the history of the world.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment
I am very critical of this piece by Nicholas Kristof, even though he is one of my favorite writers. It is rank with anthropocentricism. So much concern about poor humans. So little conccern about the fact that 7.6 billion of them are destroying the planet not only for humans, but especially for non humans, who are going extinct at 100 times more frequently now than is normal. We are losing species at a similar rate to when the dinosaurs died off, and we lost over 95% of the species of that era. That is why scientist have named this period we are living through, the sixth extinction. The die off that included the dinosaurs was the fifth extinction in the geological record. Kristof seems to be asleep on these grave matters. Too many hungry human babies is not the biggest problem in the world. Too many human babies is probably the biggiest problem facing the world, because of the carbon footprint of our current way of living in the developed world. The IPCC has reported that we have probably only 10 years left, to change our tragectory of pollution to one that will be sustainable.

Opinion | The Mistakes That Will Haunt Our Legacy – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Randall Hill/Reuters

“As we pull down controversial statues and reassess historical figures, I’ve been wondering what our great-grandchildren will find bewilderingly immoral about our own times — and about us.

Which of today’s heroes will be discredited? Which statues toppled? What will later generations see as our own ethical blind spots?

I believe that one will be our cruelty to animals. Modern society relies on factory farming to produce protein that is inexpensive and abundant. But it causes suffering to animals on an incalculable scale.

Over the last 200 years, the world has become far more sensitive to animal rights. In feudal Europe, a game consisted of nailing a cat to a post and head-butting it to death; now, growing numbers of states have passed animal protection laws, McDonald’s is moving to cage-free eggs and there are legal debates about whether certain mammals should have standing to sue in courts.”

“. . . .  A third area where I suspect our descendants will judge us harshly is climate change. Our generation’s denialism will lead to more extreme weather, more flooded homes, more heat waves — and resentment that early-21st-century humans could have been so selfish as to refuse to take small steps to reduce carbon emissions.

I raised this issue of our moral blind spots in my email newsletter the other day, and one reader, Brad Marston, a physics professor at Brown University, put it this way: “In 100 years our generation may be as poorly regarded as 19th-century racists are today (or worse), due to our failure to tackle climate change, leaving a damaged and possibly ruined planet to future generations.”

So I’m all for re-examining history and removing statues of Confederate generals. But just as important is our obligation to think deeply about our own moral myopia today and address it while there is still time.

Opinion | Refusing to Wear a Mask Is Like Driving Drunk – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“As the coronavirus rages out of control across much of the United States, Americans are acting curiously helpless.

If we had been this passive in 1776, we would still be part of Britain. Yet even as we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, we don’t seem willing to assert independence from a virus that in four months has killed more Americans than the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars did over 70 years.

Here’s the simplest of steps we could take: Wear a face mask.

In the United States, mask-wearing lags, particularly among men, compared with some other countries. A poll finds that many American men regard the wearing of face masks as “a sign of weakness,” and President Trump’s refusal to wear them has suggested that he perceives that masks are for wimps.

Trump may now be switching gears, for he told Fox Business on Wednesday that he’s “all for masks” and would wear one if he were “in a tight situation with people.” He shouldn’t waste time: He should tweet a photo of himself in a mask and call on supporters to wear masks as well. Refusing to cover one’s face is reckless, selfish behavior that imperils the economy and can kill or endanger innocent people.”