Opinion | Republicans, the Time Has Come – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

“To the Republican members of the United States Senate:

You have always told us that you believe in the distinctive greatness of the United States of America. “America is different,” as Senator Marco Rubio has said. Ben Sasse likes to say that “America is an idea” — a commitment to universal dignity over brute power.

You have also told us that you went into politics to serve a higher purpose. Well, your moment has arrived.

The president of the United States is betraying his oath of office in the most fundamental way, by using the presidency for personal gain at the country’s expense. He has corrupted our foreign policy with grubby attempts to help himself that his own White House staff immediately recognized as improper. He is telling the world that America does not, in fact, stand for any higher ideal. Can you for a moment imagine the icons of your party, like Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower, risking the security of a country threatened by Russia, for the sake of smearing a political rival?

President Trump must go, and you — only you — have the power to make it happen.

You can start to distance yourself from him slowly, if it will help bring along your political base. A couple of you — like Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who called Trump’s behavior “inappropriate,” and Mitt Romney of Utah, who used the word “troubling” — have begun to do so. But more of you should be moving in this direction, for the sake of the country and, ultimately, yourselves.”

Opinion | Something Special Is Happening in Rural America – By Sarah Smarsh – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Smarsh is the host of the podcast “The Homecomers” and the author of the memoir “Heartland.”

CreditCreditMojoeks/iStock, via Getty Images Plus

“WICHITA, Kan. — For more than a century following the Industrial Revolution, rural and small-town people left home to pursue survival in commercial meccas. According to the American story, those who thrived in urban centers “made it” — a capitalist triumph for the individual, a damaging loss for the place he left. We often refer to this as “brain drain” from the hinterlands, implying that those who stay lack the merit or ability to “get out.”

But that old notion is getting dusty.

The nation’s most populous cities, the bicoastal pillars of aspiration — New York City and Los Angeles — are experiencing population declines, most likely driven by unaffordability. Other metros are experiencing growth, to be sure, especially in the South and West. But there is an exodus afoot that suggests a national homecoming, across generations, to less bustling spaces. Last year, the Census Bureau found that while roughly 80 percent of us live in urban areas, rural life was the most wished for.

If happiness is what they seek, those folks are onto something. A 2018 study by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported that in spite of economic and health concerns, most rural Americans are pretty dang happy and hopeful. Forty percent of rural adults said their lives came out better than they expected. A majority said they were better off financially than their parents at the same age and thought their kids would likewise ascend. As for cultural woes, those among them under age 50, as well as people of color, showed notably higher acknowledgment of discrimination and commitment to social progress. All in all, it was a picture not of a dying place but one that is progressing.

The University of Minnesota Extension researcher Ben Winchester has cited a “brain gain” in rural America. Mr. Winchester found that from 2000 to 2010, most rural Minnesota counties gained early-career to midcareer residents with ample socioeconomic assets. A third of them are returning, while the rest are new recruits.”

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 | President Trump- Come to Willmar – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“. . .  That’s not what I’ve found. America is actually a checkerboard of towns and cities — some rising from the bottom up and others collapsing from the top down, ravaged by opioids, high unemployment among less-educated white males and a soaring suicide rate. I’ve been trying to understand why some communities rise and others fall — and so many of the answers can be found in Willmar.

The answers to three questions in particular make all the difference: 1) Is your town hungry for workers to fill open jobs? 2) Can your town embrace the new immigrants ready to do those jobs, immigrants who may come not just from Latin America, but also from nonwhite and non-Christian nations of Africa or Asia? And 3) Does your town have a critical mass of “leaders without authority”?”

Overlooked No More: Mabel Grammer- Whose Brown Baby Plan Found Homes for Hundreds – The New York Times

Quote

By Alexis Clark


“They were called “brown babies,” or “mischlingskinder,” a derogatory German term for mixed-race children. And sometimes they were just referred to as mutts.

They were born during the occupation years in Germany after World War II, the offspring of German women and African-American soldiers. Their fathers were usually transferred elsewhere and their mothers risked social repercussions by keeping them, so the babies were placed in orphanages.

But when Mabel Grammer, an African-American journalist, became aware of the orphaned children, she stepped in. She and her husband, an army chief warrant officer stationed in Mannheim, and later Karlsruhe, adopted 12 of them, and Grammer found homes for 500 others.”

via Overlooked No More: Mabel Grammer, Whose Brown Baby Plan Found Homes for Hundreds – The New York Times

Opinion | The Real State of the Union, in Charts – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Lindsay: David Leonhardt is my new go to guy for American politics. Here is a perfect example.

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 5, 2019, 174 c
“My fellow Americans, the state of our union is far weaker than it should be.

The economy’s growth isn’t benefiting most families very much. Life expectancy has been falling. The planet is warming. The rest of the world is less enamored of America than it has been in the past.

But I can offer you one major piece of good news: Our country’s urgent and growing problems have inspired more Americans to vote and to otherwise get involved in politics. And that sort of engagement is the best hope for restoring our country to its rightful strength.

Here, then, is the true state of the union, in charts:

The last few years — including 2018 — have brought some good economic news. Paychecks for most workers are rising faster than inflation. But the gains are still modest, and they don’t come close to erasing years in which pay gains trailed economic growth: (GDP has risen more than average wages. You must go to the NYT for the full chart.)

Inflation adjusted. Earnings are the median for full-time workers. G.D.P. rate for 2018 is prorated based on first three quarters.

John Donne. Meditation 17. [No man is an island… For whom the bell tolls, etc.]

Quote

No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;  any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

via John Donne. Meditation 17. [No man is an island… For whom the bell tolls, etc.]

Opinion | The Gift of Shared Grief – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Quote

By Margaret Renkl
Contributing Opinion Writer

Feb. 4, 2019,  87
Credit
William DeShazer for The New York Times

Image
CreditCreditWilliam DeShazer for The New York Times
NASHVILLE — When my mother died in 2012, she left behind a huge collection of memorabilia. Not just the usual love letters, family photographs and cherished recipe cards but also random items that almost no one else bothers to save. Parking tickets. Embossed cocktail napkins from the weddings of people I’ve never heard of. An Alabama Power bill from 1972. Things that meant something to her but whose meaning she never explained to me.

Among those chance pieces of paper, I found my own 1980 report card from our church’s Sunday school program. My teacher was Leo M. Hall, the father of two of my closest friends. Dr. Hall was a decorated medical school professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, but he also taught a high school religion class every Sunday afternoon during my teenage years. It was an unpaid act of service that I’m sure I didn’t recognize at the time for the true gift it was. How many religion students are taught by a scientist? How many high schoolers are taught by a college professor who is untroubled by skepticism or dissent? How many white Southerners of my generation grew up with a mentor who was a passionate advocate for civil rights?

I saved the report card, just as my mother had, and probably for the same reason: the teacher’s comments at the bottom of the page. In his final remarks of the school year, Dr. Hall had written: “Stimulates conversation — likes the controversial topic, accepts a challenge readily. Can be a bit abrasive with classmates but has improved greatly during the last three years. Deep spiritual life. Widely read. A delightful young woman who will do well in her mature days.”

I am well into my mature days now, and I don’t much remember the 18-year-old girl Dr. Hall is describing, but I believe this to be a fair assessment of my strengths and weaknesses at the time. (“Delightful” was, and still is, a stretch.)

via Opinion | The Gift of Shared Grief – The New York Times

Opinion | Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans- Strength Is in Unity – The New York Times

Quote

By Juan Guaidó
Mr. Guaidó is leading the effort to remove Nicolás Maduro from office.

Jan. 30, 2019,  369 c

CARACAS, Venezuela — On Jan. 23, 61 years after the vicious dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez was ousted, Venezuelans once again gathered for a day of democratic celebration.

Pérez Jiménez was fraudulently elected by a Constituent Assembly in 1953. His term of office was scheduled to expire in 1958. But rather than calling for free and transparent presidential elections, he was undemocratically re-elected after holding a plebiscite on his administration late in 1957. Following widespread protests and a rupture within the military establishment, the dictator left the country and Venezuela regained its freedom on Jan. 23, 1958.

Once again we face the challenge of restoring our democracy and rebuilding the country, this time amid a humanitarian crisis and the illegal retention of the presidency by Nicolás Maduro. There are severe medicine and food shortages, essential infrastructure and health systems have collapsed, a growing number of children are suffering from malnutrition, and previously eradicated illnesses have re-emerged.

We have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, which is aggravated by the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters. This tragedy has prompted the largest exodus in Latin American history, with three million Venezuelans now living abroad.

I would like to be clear about the situation in Venezuela: Mr. Maduro’s re-election on May 20, 2018, was illegitimate, as has since been acknowledged by a large part of the international community. His original six-year term was set to end on Jan. 10. By continuing to stay in office, Nicolás Maduro is usurping the presidency.

My ascension as interim president is based on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, according to which, if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state, power is vested in the president of the National Assembly until free and transparent elections take place. This is why the oath I took on Jan. 23 cannot be considered a “self-proclamation.” It was not of my own accord that I assumed the function of president that day, but in adherence to the Constitution.”

via Opinion | Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans, Strength Is in Unity – The New York Times

Opinion | The End of Europe? – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Quote

By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

Dec. 18, 2018,  573c


Yellow Vest protesters clashed with the police in Paris on Saturday.CreditCreditVeronique De Viguerie/Getty Images

PARIS — Ever since World War II, the liberal global order that has spread more freedom and prosperity around the world than at any other time in history has been held up by two pillars: the United States of America and the United Nations of Europe, now known as the European Union.

Both of these centers of free markets, free people and free ideas are being shaken today by rural and beyond-the-suburbs insurgencies of largely white working-poor and anxious middle classes, which have not generally benefited from the surges in globalization, immigration and technology that have lifted superstar cities like London, Paris and San Francisco and their multicultural populations.

Having just seen the shocking sight of Parisian stores boarded up right before Christmas to protect against rioting along the Champs-Élysées by some of France’s yellow-vested protesters; after being told in Rome a few days earlier that Italy, a founding member of the E.U., could conceivably shuck off both the E.U. and the euro one day under its new bizarre far-left/far-right governing coalition; after watching Britain become paralyzed over how to commit economic suicide by leaving the E.U.; and after watching President Trump actually cheer for the breakup of the E.U. rather than for its good health, it is obvious to me that we’re at a critical hinge of history.

via Opinion | The End of Europe? – The New York Times