Brian Riedl | Biden’s Promises on Social Security and Medicare Have No Basis in Reality – The New York Times

Mr. Riedl is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

“In his State of the Union speech this month, President Biden pledged to block any reductions in scheduled Social Security and Medicare benefits. He also promised that any tax increases would be limited to families that earn more than $400,000 — roughly the top-earning 2 percent of American families.

Together, these promises are almost certainly economically impossible.

Over the next three decades, the Social Security system is scheduled to pay benefits $21 trillion greater than its trust fund will collect in payroll taxes and related revenues. The Medicare system is projected to run a $48 trillion shortfall. These deficits are projected to, in turn, produce $47 trillion in interest payments to the national debt. That is a combined shortfall of $116 trillion, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office. (To inflation-adjust these figures, trim by roughly one-third.)”

Peter Coy | Do Handouts Work? – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“Josephy Amosi Kamanga, who lives in Malawi, couldn’t afford to pay the examination fee for his eldest child, so she dropped out of school two years ago. She later got pregnant and is living at home. The fee that changed his daughter’s life? Just $4.98.

That story comes from GiveDirectly Inc., an American charity that offers a simple proposition: Give poor people cash, with no strings attached, and good things will tend to happen. It certainly did to Kamanga and his family. GiveDirectly gave him $51.75 a month for a year. That enabled him to reopen a shop that sells soap, drinks, body lotion, sugar, eggs and cooking oil, and to buy a secondhand phone to operate the business. With the profits from the grocery he covered school expenses for three other children. He told a GiveDirectly interviewer that the news he’d been selected to receive the money “brought joy in my heart.” “

Day 2: The Secret Power of the 8-Minute Phone Call – The New York Times

Jan. 2, 2023, 9:21 p.m. ET

“I just had an eight-minute call with my good friend Tina, whom I’ve known for over three decades. I could never seem to connect with her (she has a very demanding job) until I sent her a text last week proposing an eight-minute phone call.

That seems weird, she wrote back.

Come on, I wheedled. You can do itThe president of the United States could probably do eight minutes! I promise not to go long. Name a time.

At the appointed hour, I gave her a ring. In short order, we talked about our mothers’ health, made birthday plans, gossiped about a friend who abruptly quit his job and moved to a tiny Mexican town, traded book recommendations and explored the possibility of an afterlife (verdict: we’re not sure). Intently focused, we knocked out subject after subject, before Tina announced that our eight minutes were up — and besides, she had arrived at the dry cleaner’s.

I hung up, smiling and humming a little tune. I had missed her, and didn’t realize it until I heard her voice. I was also surprised by how much ground we covered without the call feeling rushed. Our connection was brief, but it was real.”

Michal Leibowitz | ‘I Didn’t Feel Like Going, but I’m Glad I Did’: My Motto of the Moment – The New York Times

Ms. Leibowitz is an editorial assistant in Opinion.

“One recent snowy Saturday morning, I coaxed myself out of bed, into semiformal attire and through the door to synagogue. It was the latest in a series of attempts to force myself to, well, do stuff, the kind of stuff that takes me out of my one-bedroom apartment and into human society.

During the service, I stood when everyone else stood, sat when everyone else sat, sang when everyone else sang. I made awkward small talk with my seat neighbor and high-tailed it home before the socializing began in earnest. But once I was safely ensconced on my couch and my frozen feet were slowly turning back to pink, I found I was glad I had gone.

It’s the way I’ve felt almost every time in recent months that I’ve compelled myself to get out of the house. It’s how I felt after I dragged myself to badly soundtracked group fitness classes, several cheesy parties and one lovely weekend retreat, at which I contracted a mild case of Covid. Going out and interacting with people again feels as if it’s going to be difficult — and it often is, at least a little — but I am always glad I did it.

Early in the pandemic, I was one of the millions of Americans who adopted new services, digital platforms and habits in an effort to be safely apart: Instacart instead of in-store grocery shopping, OverDrive instead of library trips, streaming workouts instead of the local gym. These services were helpful (sometimes essential) during the worst months, connecting vulnerable sick and elderly people with necessities, hurting restaurants with hungry customers, bored patrons with e-books.”

David Brooks | America Is Falling Apart at the Seams – The New York Times – And my response

Opinion Columnist

“In June a statistic floated across my desk that startled me. In 2020, the number of miles Americans drove fell 13 percent because of the pandemic, but the number of traffic deaths rose 7 percent.

I couldn’t figure it out. Why would Americans be driving so much more recklessly during the pandemic? But then in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths were up 18.4 percent even over 2020. Contributing factors, according to the agency, included driving under the influence, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Why are so many Americans driving irresponsibly?

While gloomy numbers like these were rattling around in my brain, a Substack article from Matthew Yglesias hit my inbox this week. It was titled, “All Kinds of Bad Behavior Is on the Rise.” Not only is reckless driving on the rise, Yglesias pointed out, but the number of altercations on airplanes has exploded, the murder rate is surging in cities, drug overdoses are increasing, Americans are drinking more, nurses say patients are getting more abusive, and so on and so on.”

“. . . But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.

What the hell is going on? The short answer: I don’t know. I also don’t know what’s causing the high rates of depression, suicide and loneliness that dogged Americans even before the pandemic and that are the sad flip side of all the hostility and recklessness I’ve just described.

We can round up the usual suspects: social media, rotten politics. When President Donald Trump signaled it was OK to hate marginalized groups, a lot of people were bound to see that as permission.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you David Brooks for another thoughtful and challenging column. You do have a blind spot, or malfunction, like the EVSE I use to charge up my two electric cars, or one electric car, and a Prius Prime, which is only electric for 25 miles in the summer. To fix the EVSE, when some widget seizes up, the manufacturer said, turn off the breaker, and hit the unit with a rubber mallet really hard. And it worked. I wonder if a rubber mallet would unstick you. I’d like to add to your thoughtful short list of the usual suspects, climate change and the sixth extinction, and the world overpopulation which are the cause of both. My adult daughter says she might not have any children because of these environmental crises. My adult son son says nothing I do for mitigation matters, since we have probably already passed the tipping point, and human life on the planet is probably doomed. I write about this stuff, with weird dark thoughts intruding on my brain, when awake and asleep. One sick thought, is that the pandemic has failed, because it hasn’t killed enough people. I admit this is a dark and ugly thought, but so is driving thousands of non human species into extinction, which is real, and going on this century, and accelerating. Are we committing an unforgiveable sin against other forms of life?
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net
In addition,  one irony of this sin of human overpopulation and consumption, and of our poisoning the water, the air, the land, and the atmosphere, is that according to the late scientist Edward O Wilson, if we kill off over 50% of the world’s other species, which is where we are headed, the human species will probably not survive. During the 5th and last great extinction in the geological record, when the dinosaurs died off, so did probably about 95% of the world’s other species at that time.

Liza Featherstone | Josh Hawley and the Republican Obsession With Manliness – The New York Times

Ms. Featherstone is a journalist who writes frequently about the politics of gender. She has a 15-year-old son.

“Senator Josh Hawley is worried about men. In a recent speech at the National Conservatism Conference, he blamed the left for their mental health problems, joblessness, obsession with video games and hours spent watching pornography. “The crisis of American men,” he said, “is a crisis for the American republic.”

The liberal reaction was flippant. A CNN analysis mocked the speech, contrasting the “decline of masculinity” with real issues like the pandemic and inflation. The ReidOut Blog on MSNBC’s website declared, “Josh Hawley’s crusade against video games and porn is hilariously empty.” But the contempt and mockery his speech received was, at least in part, misplaced.

Mr. Hawley is not alone in sensing that masculinity is a popular cause; around the world, male politicians are tapping into social anxieties about its apparent decline, for their own ideological ends. The Chinese government, for instance, has declared a “masculinity crisis,” and it is responding by cracking down on gaming during school days and by investing in gym teachers and school sports.

There can be a homophobic and fascistic component to such calls: China has also barred “sissy” men from appearing on TV; in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that masks are “for fairies”; and Mr. Hawley, in his speech, fueled anti-transgender prejudice by alluding to a bogus “war on women’s sports.” Nothing justifies this hateful nonsense. But Mr. Hawley, for all his winking bigotry, is tapping into something real — a widespread, politically potent anxiety about young men that is already helping the right.”

Claire Bond Potter | The Shadow of Ronald Reagan Is Costing Us Dearly – The New York Times

Ms. Potter is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research.

“With Build Back Better, President Biden has attempted to revive a New Deal ethic that entwines human and physical infrastructure. No one likes taxes, but building a nation where Americans know that their families are safe and cared for is popular across party lines. It shouldn’t have been a hard sell.

But here we are. The reconciliation package has shrunk to about $2 trillion. And something else is gone: a chance to change the American narrative of what good government does. The legislation was once billed as a plan for sweeping once-in-a-generation social change, but aspects of it that warranted that hyperbole, like dental and vision coverage for Medicare recipients and free community college, have disappeared. Paid family and medical leave have been sharply reduced.

Other industrialized nations provide a far more robust safety net than the one we have and even the one Mr. Biden proposed. Yet Republicans and at least one Democrat insist that such social welfare spending endangers the nation’s fiscal and moral health.

How did we get to a point that doing less for Americans is a virtue, and comprehensive social welfare a privilege?”

SIFT (The Four Moves) | Hapgood – Mike Caufield

“How can students get better at sorting truth from fiction from everything in between? At applying their attention to the things that matter? At amplifying better treatments of issues, and avoiding clickbait?

Since 2017, we’ve been teaching students with something called the Four Moves.

Our solution is to give students and others a short list of things to do when looking at a source, and hook each of those things to one or two highly effective web techniques. We call the “things to do” moves and there are four of them:

The four moves: Stop, Investigate the source, find better coverage, trace the original context.


The first move is the simplest. STOP reminds you of two things.

First, when you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP. Ask yourself whether you know the website or source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the website is. If you don’t have that information, use the other moves to get a sense of what you’re looking at. Don’t read it or share media until you know what it is.

Second, after you begin to use the other moves it can be easy to go down a rabbit hole, going off on tangents only distantly related to your original task. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in your fact-checking efforts, STOP and take a second to remember your purpose. If you just want to repost, read an interesting story, or get a high-level explanation of a concept, it’s probably good enough to find out whether the publication is reputable. If you are doing deep research of your own, you may want to chase down individual claims in a newspaper article and independently verify them.

Please keep in mind that both sorts of investigations are equally useful. Quick and shallow investigations will form most of what we do on the web. We get quicker with the simple stuff in part so we can spend more time on the stuff that matters to us. But in either case, stopping periodically and reevaluating our reaction or search strategy is key. . . . . ”

Source: SIFT (The Four Moves) | Hapgood

Opinion | Should Daylight Saving Time End? – The New York Times

Today on “The Argument,” everyone hates daylight saving time, or do they?

As you will likely learn on November 7th when your oven clock is suddenly wrong — or maybe that’s just me — clocks in most of the United States will fall back an hour, plunging us into darkness for the next four months until we change them back again. It’s a never-ending cycle, much like time itself. I’m Jane Coaston. Personally, I find the clock switches pretty annoying. It’s disorienting. And I know it can be a nightmare for my friends who are parents. But what didn’t I know? Daylight saving is a wildly contentious issue with some truly high stakes. Also, yes, it’s saving without the S. You learn something new every day. It’s getting senators Marco Rubio and Ed Markey to actually agree on something, the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill to make daylight saving time permanent, which, by the way, 19 states already have on tap. Today, our guests represent opposite sides of this debate. First off, a neuroscientist in favor of permanent standard time.

Joseph Takahashi. . . . “

Nicholas Kristof | Lessons for America From a Weird Portland – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Imagespace/Alamy Live News


“PORTLAND, Ore. — As an Oregonian, I’ve always been proud of this picture-postcard metropolis, so I’ve been pained to see it portrayed as a war zone or dying city, and doubly pained when a local businessman recently recounted to me his effort to recruit an executive from out of state.

The executive came for a visit — and, when she saw today’s Portland, with its homeless camps and boarded-up shops downtown, declined the job.

I think that executive erred: Whatever the scars from big protests that began last summer against racial injustice, this city has strong fundamentals and is resilient. But the travails here are real and offer lessons for the rest of the country about the uses and abuses of progressivism.

Last summer President Donald Trump inflamed the crisis in Portland by sending in unneeded federal troops to deal with mostly peaceful protests. That aggravated the upheaval, provoked months of rioting and empowered fringe groups, and perhaps it also obscured the need to stand resolutely against violence by local troublemakers on both left and right. There was too much deference to people sowing chaos under the banner of social justice, perhaps for fear of seeming unprogressive, and after the feds left, the city never tried hard enough to pivot to re-establish order.

Just this week, there was new rioting in Portland after a white police officer in Minnesota shot and killed a Black man, Daunte Wright. Portlanders have reason to protest peacefully — the police arrest African-Americans in the city at four times the rate of whites, one study found — but violence doesn’t serve any cause other than the election of Republicans.

The local slogan is “Keep Portland Weird,” but businesses boarded up to protect against rioters suggest not weirdness but melancholy. A beautiful elk statue that had presided in a park for 120 years had to be removed after its base was vandalized by protesters. Activists have defied the law and taken over a building known as the Red House, frightening neighbors.

Underscoring the concern for law and order, this year Portland is on track to reach 100 homicides, far exceeding the record of 70 set in 1987.  . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT |NYT Comment:

Thank you Nicholas Kristof. Empty headed young progressive radicals are attempting to dismantle town government right here in Hamden CT. These idealistic idiots on the left are doing damage in many parts of the country. Their behaviour is so insidious, it is hard to describe or counter. Your op-ed is a great description of the damage done by well meaning liberals, who are essentally intellectually lazy.