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

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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.]

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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

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By Margaret Renkl
Contributing Opinion Writer

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

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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

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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

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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

Opinion | Conservatism’s Monstrous Endgame – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist,  Dec. 17, 2018, 1092c
Credit
Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The midterm elections were, to an important extent, a referendum on the Affordable Care Act; health care, not Donald Trump, dominated Democratic campaigning. And voters delivered a clear verdict: They want Obamacare’s achievements, the way it expanded coverage to roughly 20 million people who would otherwise have been uninsured, to be sustained.

But on Friday, Reed O’Connor, a partisan Republican judge known for “weaponizing” his judicial power, declared the A.C.A. as a whole — protection for pre-existing conditions, subsidies to help families afford coverage, and the Medicaid expansion — unconstitutional. Legal experts from both right and left ridiculed his reasoning and described his ruling as “raw political activism.” And that ruling probably won’t be sustained by higher courts.

But don’t be too sure that his sabotage will be overturned. O’Connor’s abuse of power may be unusually crude, but that sort of behavior is becoming increasingly common. And it’s not just health care, nor is it just the courts. What Nancy Pelosi called the “monstrous endgame” of the Republican assault on health care is just the leading edge of an attack on multiple fronts, as the G.O.P. tries to overturn the will of the voters and undermine democracy in general.

For while we may congratulate ourselves on the strength of our political institutions, in the end institutions consist of people and fulfill their roles only as long as the people in them respect their intended purpose. Rule of law depends not just on what is written down, but also on the behavior of those who interpret and enforce that rule.”

As Slums Teeter in Marseille- a Poverty Crisis Turns Deadly – By Adam Nossiter – The New York Times

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By Adam Nossiter
Nov. 19, 2018,     9 comments
“MARSEILLE, France — The red-helmeted marine firefighter was firm. “Right,” he told the anxious families gathered around him, “we’re closing up the building.”

Bewildered and frightened, they climbed the darkened, rickety staircase of their building on the Rue Jean Roque, past the chunks of missing plaster and thick lines of cracks, some big enough to put an arm into. On the firefighter’s orders, they gathered their belongings and then left, for the last time.

Their decrepit five-story apartment building, long ignored by city officials, was now deemed unsafe. Marseille city leaders, on the defensive after ignoring expert warnings, were racing to respond to a public outcry after two buildings collapsed this month, killing eight people.

Nervous officials have since evacuated 1,054 people, and counting, from 111 crumbling apartments in the heart of the ancient and dingy Mediterranean port. But a 2015 report written for France’s minister of housing found that 40,000 dwellings in Marseille were unsafe — which is 10 percent of all unsafe buildings in France, and affects 100,000 of the city’s inhabitants.”

via As Slums Teeter in Marseille, a Poverty Crisis Turns Deadly – The New York Times

Opinion | James Comey: Let’s Vote to Uphold Our Nation’s Values – The New York Times

“I’ve been traveling around the United States for six months speaking about ethical leadership. Nearly every place I go, I hear some version of this question: “Are we going to be O.K.?” What the questioner means is, given the current leadership of our country and the ugly undercurrent on which it thrives, is America as we know it going to survive? Yes, is the answer I give, without hesitation. We will recover. How long that takes is up to us, but I am optimistic.

History shows us that America’s progress in fulfilling our aspirations is an upward sloping line. Yes, our present has always fallen short of our values. After all, we were born in original sin — our nation’s founders held inspiring truths to be self-evident while keeping human beings as slaves. But our history is one of continuous progress.

Unfortunately, that line marking our progress is not a solid one. We make progress, then we regress, then we make progress again. The upward jag is always larger than the retreat, which is why the line has a positive slope upward across 242 years. But our line is jagged.

In his new book, “The Soul of America,” the historian Jon Meacham reminds us that the years after the end of World War I were a period of stunning progress for our country. Women got the right to vote. Blacks moved into the growing industrial economy. Catholics and Jews flooded in as immigrants. But that change brought reaction. In the 1920s, the Klan was reborn. Millions of Americans joined the K.K.K., including 16 United States senators, 11 governors and dozens of members of the House of Representatives. Tens of thousands of Klansmen in white robes marched on the National Mall in Washington. Immigration was severely restricted. Then the Klan fever broke in the late 1920s and we resumed our upward progress. That’s the story of America.”

David Lindsay: Good piece. One commenter wrote, Good message, wrong messenger. I would say it differently. I have not forgiven James Comey for screwing Hillary Clinton in the last election. Since ‘m ready to indict him, I am impressed that with such eloquence, he is begging for forgiveness, or at least, a second chance. He writes well, but I remember he drives a crooked nail and put his thumb on the last, very important, election.