Opinion | I Was the Homeland Security Adviser to Trump. We’re Being Hacked. – The New York Times

Mr. Bossert was the homeland security adviser to President Trump and deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush.

Credit…Illustration by Frank Augugliaro; flag: Wolfgang Deuter/Getty Images

“At the worst possible time, when the United States is at its most vulnerable — during a presidential transition and a devastating public health crisis — the networks of the federal government and much of corporate America are compromised by a foreign nation. We need to understand the scale and significance of what is happening.

Last week, the cybersecurity firm FireEye said it had been hacked and that its clients, which include the United States government, had been placed at risk. This week, we learned that SolarWinds, a publicly traded company that provides software to tens of thousands of government and corporate customers, was also hacked.

The attackers gained access to SolarWinds software before updates of that software were made available to its customers. Unsuspecting customers then downloaded a corrupted version of the software, which included a hidden back door that gave hackers access to the victim’s network.”

Arctic’s Shift to a Warmer Climate Is ‘Well Underway, Scientists Warn – By Henry Fountain – The New York Times

“The Arctic continued its unwavering shift toward a new climate in 2020, as the effects of near-record warming surged across the region, shrinking ice and snow cover and fueling extreme wildfires, scientists said Tuesday in an annual assessment of the region.

Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska and one of the editors of the assessment, said it “describes an Arctic region that continues along a path that is warmer, less frozen and biologically changed in ways that were scarcely imaginable even a generation ago.”

“Nearly everything in the Arctic, from ice and snow to human activity, is changing so quickly that there is no reason to think that in 30 years much of anything will be as it is today,” he said.

While the whole planet is warming because of emissions of heat-trapping gases through burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, the Arctic is heating up more than twice as quickly as other regions. That warming has cascading effects elsewhere, raising sea levels, influencing ocean circulation and, scientists increasingly suggest, playing a role in extreme weather.”

She Stalked Her Daughter’s Killers Across Mexico, One by One – By Azam Ahmed – The New York Times

“SAN FERNANDO, Mexico — Miriam Rodríguez clutched a pistol in her purse as she ran past the morning crowds on the bridge to Texas. She stopped every few minutes to catch her breath and study the photo of her next target: the florist.

She had been hunting him for a year, stalking him online, interrogating the criminals he worked with, even befriending unwitting relatives for tips on his whereabouts. Now she finally had one — a widow called to tell her that he was peddling flowers on the border.

Ever since 2014, she had been tracking the people responsible for the kidnapping and murder of her 20-year-old daughter, Karen. Half of them were already in prison, not because the authorities had cracked the case, but because she had pursued them on her own, with a meticulous abandon.

She cut her hair, dyed it and disguised herself as a pollster, a health worker and an election official to get their names and addresses. She invented excuses to meet their families, unsuspecting grandmothers and cousins who gave her details, however small. She wrote everything down and stuffed it into her black computer bag, building her investigation and tracking them down, one by one.”

David Lindsay:  Thank you for an excellent piece of journalism and reporting. I hope this story gets turned into a movie, and it stops before the angry mother, Miriam Rodríguez,  is murdered. It should stop with her last successful arrest, and reveal her murder in before the credits.

Opinion | Trump Lost. Bolsonaro Can’t Get Over It. – By Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is clearly not ready to mourn the departure of his American counterpart.
Credit…Adriano Machado/Reuters

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — My country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has still not recognized Joe Biden as the winner of America’s presidential election.

In his silence, he stands alongside other world leaders such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “I’m holding back a little more,” Mr. Bolsonaro said recently, adding that there was “a lot of fraud” in the election.

It’s an understandable response, as he seems to have a problem accepting facts. Just think about it: This is a guy who still claims hydroxychloroquine is the cure for Covid-19. He maintains that the pandemic is overblown. He asserts that his government has simply eradicated corruption and that Brazil never had a military dictatorship. He says that the Amazon is not burning at all.

But there’s more to the refusal than Mr. Bolsonaro’s now commonplace bizarreness. As one of President Trump’s fiercest allies on the global stage, Mr. Bolsonaro is clearly not ready to mourn the departure of his fellow leader. He’s in denial.

Opinion | Biden Wants America to Lead the World. It Shouldn’t. – by Peter Beinart – The New York Times

David Lindsay:   I didn’t like the beginning of this piece, but it got better and better. Obama announced that on his watch, the US would not lead the world, but lead from behind. Biden is sounding very eager to return to world leadership, and it doesn’t sound right, and raises a few red flags. Peter Beinart calls for solidarity and team work, rather than follow the leader. It would be a nice rebranding of Lead from behind.

“Biden Wants America to Lead the World. It Shouldn’t.

“. . .   Mr. Biden has offered two justifications for why America deserves this privileged role. The first is hereditary: “For 70 years,” he wrote in Foreign Affairs, “the United States, under Democratic and Republican presidents, played a leading role in writing the rules” that “advance collective security and prosperity.” In other words, America should lead the world now because it has done so effectively in the past.

Between 1945 and 1989, according to Dov H. Levin’s book “Meddling in the Ballot Box,” the United States interfered in foreign elections 63 times. So Mr. Biden’s cheery history of American Cold War leadership leaves a lot out. But even if you romanticize the post-World War II era, it is long gone.

Seventy years ago, as James Goldgeier and Bruce W. Jentleson recently noted, the United States accounted for roughly half of the world’s gross domestic product. It now accounts for just over one-seventh. Collectively, the European Union’s G.D.P., adjusted for purchasing power parity, is almost as large as the United States’. China’s is already larger, and the coronavirus pandemic is likely to only widen the gap. The phrase “leadership” assumes a power hierarchy that, at least economically, no longer exists.

Mr. Biden’s second justification is moral. As he wrote in 2017, “other nations follow our lead because they know that America does not simply protect its own interests, but tries to advance the aspirations of all.” But it’s hard to survey America’s behavior in recent decades and glean some special commitment to global welfare. According to a study by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, America’s post-9/11 wars have displaced 37 million people. And even before Donald Trump entered the White House, the United States had refused to ratify international treaties that ban land minescluster bombs and nuclear tests, regulate the global sale of armsprotect the oceans, enable prosecution of genocide and war crimes, and safeguard the rights of womenchildren and people with disabilities. Most countries on earth have ratified all or nearly all of these agreements. No other nation has spurned every single one.

Mr. Trump has added to this litany of noncompliance by withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, the World Health Organization, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Treaty on Open Skies and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This isn’t the record of a country that has earned the right to global leadership. It’s the record of a country that should work on global membership first.”  . . . .

“. . . .  It’s not ordinary Americans who believe the United States must “sit at the head of the table,” as Mr. Biden said last week. It is foreign-policy elites, who often slander public opposition to American primacy as isolationism. But there is a dissident foreign-policy tradition, often championed by those at the forefront of America’s domestic struggles for justice. In his 1967 speech opposing the Vietnam War, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the United States government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Such a government, he insisted, should not pretend “it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them.” Rather than seeking to dominate the world, Dr. King argued, the United States should show “solidarity” with it: first, by curbing its own contributions to global misery and second, by joining with others to battle “poverty, insecurity and injustice.”

The Biden team should make solidarity — not leadership — its watchword for approaching the world. In so doing, it would acknowledge that while the United States can do much to help other nations, its first obligation — especially after the horrors of the Trump era — is to stop doing harm.”

Opinion | A Return to Decency – by Roger Cohen – The New York Times

“. . . .  This Biden makeover is all well and good, but the world has moved on, and the quest for the status quo ante cannot be the new president’s compass. Mr. Trump’s belligerence and Brexit have galvanized Europe in the direction of what Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has called “strategic autonomy.” For the first time, Germany has allowed the federalization of European debt, allowing the union to borrow like a government, an important step toward a stronger, more integrated Europe. It’s time for a “New Deal” between Europe and the United States that acknowledges European emancipation and shifting American priorities, while cementing an alliance of values and often overlapping interests.

Europe’s evolution has been evident in relations with China, which used to be purely commercial. Now, the expansionist China of President Xi Jinping is seen as a systemic rival.

The European Union has been critical of China’s human rights record, imposing sanctions in response to its repression in Hong Kong, and is rightly skeptical of Chinese boasts about its superior response to the pandemic. Still, European nations want to work with China. One of the major challenges for the West as the Biden administration takes office will be finding the sweet spot that confronts Mr. Xi’s China with firmness while avoiding outright confrontation.”

Opinion | Living in Nova Scotia’s Covid-Free World – The New York Times

By 

Credit…Paul Atwood for The New York Times

HALIFAX, Canada — This morning, my children went to school — school, in an old brick building, where they lined up to go in the scuffed front doors. I went to work out at the gym, the real gym, where I huffed and puffed in a sweaty group class. And a few days ago, my partner and I hosted a dinner party, gathering eight friends around the dining room table for a boisterous night that went too late. Remember those?

Where I’m living, we gather without fear. Life is unfolding much as it did a year ago. This magical, virus-free world is just one long day’s drive away from the Empire State Building — in a parallel dimension called Nova Scotia.

This is one of the four Atlantic provinces that cling to the coast of Canada, north and east of Maine. In Canada, these are typically known as “have-not provinces,” economically depressed areas dependent on cash transfers from wealthier provinces to the West.

Opinion | After Trump, Will International Relations and Trade Ever Be the Same? – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“There are, I suppose, some people who still imagine that if and when Donald Trump leaves office we’ll see a rebirth of civility and cooperation in U.S. politics. They are, of course, hopelessly naïve. America in the 2020s will remain a deeply polarized nation, rife with crazy conspiracy theories and, quite possibly, plagued by right-wing terrorism.

But that won’t be Trump’s legacy. The truth is that we were already well down that road before he came along. And on the other side, if the Democrats win big, I expect to see many of Trump’s substantive policies reversed, and then some. Environmental protection and the social safety net will probably end up substantially stronger, taxes on the rich substantially higher, than they were under Barack Obama.

Trump’s lasting legacy, I suspect, will come in international affairs. For almost 70 years America played a special role in the world, one that no nation had ever played before. We’ve now lost that role, and I don’t see how we can ever get it back.

You see, American dominance represented a new form of superpower hegemony.

Our government’s behavior was by no means saintly; we did some terrible things, supporting dictators and undermining democracies from Iran to Chile. And sometimes it seemed as if one of our main goals was to make the world safe for multinational corporations.

But we weren’t a crude exploiter, pillaging other countries for our own gain. The Pax Americana arguably dated from the enactment of the Marshall Plan in 1948; that is, from the moment when a conquering nation chose to help its defeated foes rebuild rather than demanding that they pay tribute.

And we were a country that kept its word.

Image,  Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

To take the area I know best, the United States took the lead in creating a rules-based system for international trade. The rules were designed to fit American ideas about how the world should work, placing limits on the ability of governments to intervene in markets. But once the rules were in place, we followed them ourselves. When the World Trade Organization ruled against the United States, as it did for example in the case of George W. Bush’s steel tariffs, the U.S. government accepted that judgment.

We also stood by our allies. We might have trade or other disputes with Germany or South Korea, but nobody considered the possibility that America would stand aside if either country was invaded.

Trump changed all that.

What, for example, is the point of a rules-based trading system when the system’s creator and erstwhile guardian imposes tariffs based on transparently bad-faith arguments — such as the claim that imports of aluminum from Canada (!) threaten national security?

How useful is America as an ally when the president suggests that he might not defend European nations because, in his judgment, they don’t spend enough on NATO?

Is America still the leader of the free world when top officials seem friendlier to nations like Hungary, where democracy has effectively collapsed — or even to murderous autocracies like Saudi Arabia — than to longstanding democratic allies?

Now, if Trump is defeated, a Biden administration will probably do its best to restore America’s traditional role in the world. We’ll start following trade rules; we’ll rejoin the Paris climate accord and rescind plans to withdraw from the World Health Organization. We’ll assure our allies that we have their backs, and rebuild alliances with other democracies.

But even with the best will in the world, this egg can’t be unscrambled. No matter how good a global citizen America becomes in the next few years, everyone will remember that we’re a country that elected someone like Donald Trump, and could do it again. It will take decades if not generations to regain the lost trust.

The effects may, at first, be subtle. Other countries probably won’t rush to confront a Biden administration. There might even be a sort of global honeymoon, as the world breathes a sigh of relief.

But the loss of trust in America will gradually have a corrosive effect. A trade expert once said to me that the great danger, if America turns protectionist, wouldn’t be retaliation, it would be emulation: If we ignore the rules, other countries will follow our example. The same will be true on other fronts. There will be more economic and military bullying of small countries by their larger neighbors. There will be more blatant election-rigging in nominally democratic nations.

In other words, even if Trump goes, the world will become a more dangerous, less fair place than it was, because everyone will wonder and worry whether the United States has become the kind of country where such things can happen again.”

I’m ready now to write about my recent posts, especially this one by Paul Krugman, and his comments section at the Times is closed. Most of the comments criticize Krugman, and see no good in US leadership. I agree with most of what Krugman says, especially about the importance of our leadership in foreighn trade rule setting, but I am more optimistic than Krugman about our ability to win back our allies. Our allies still need us, and we now know we need them more than ever. We can not afford to be the world’s policeman, and we have proven that we aren’t that good at it. But we have a huge role to play in leading the world towards a war on green house gas emmissions, and on dumping plastics and chemicals in our oceans and bodies of fresh water. I have many wishes for the new year, all of which include a Biden for President, working with a Democratic Senate and House. Just how we remove Bolsonaro from power in Brazil, and begin to protect the Amazon rainforest, is one of many details that depend on the outcome of tomorrow’s little election.

Opinion | After Trump, Will International Relations and Trade Ever Be the Same? – The New York Times

“There are, I suppose, some people who still imagine that if and when Donald Trump leaves office we’ll see a rebirth of civility and cooperation in U.S. politics. They are, of course, hopelessly naïve. America in the 2020s will remain a deeply polarized nation, rife with crazy conspiracy theories and, quite possibly, plagued by right-wing terrorism.

But that won’t be Trump’s legacy. The truth is that we were already well down that road before he came along. And on the other side, if the Democrats win big, I expect to see many of Trump’s substantive policies reversed, and then some. Environmental protection and the social safety net will probably end up substantially stronger, taxes on the rich substantially higher, than they were under Barack Obama.

Trump’s lasting legacy, I suspect, will come in international affairs. For almost 70 years America played a special role in the world, one that no nation had ever played before. We’ve now lost that role, and I don’t see how we can ever get it back.

You see, American dominance represented a new form of superpower hegemony.

Our government’s behavior was by no means saintly; we did some terrible things, supporting dictators and undermining democracies from Iran to Chile. And sometimes it seemed as if one of our main goals was to make the world safe for multinational corporations.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
I love Paul Krugman, and consider him one of my greatest teachers. I have to disagree with him here though. I might be guilty of naïve optimism, but I can’t help but put more weight on the remark of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, that in the US, the pendulum always swings one way, but then it swings back the other way. I also agree with Martin Luther King, that progress is slow and uneven, but the arc over centuries is forward and upwards. This won’t be true, of course, if we do not stop our population growth world wide, beyond what the planet can sustain. The future wars over limited resources will reverse all the gains of the last 600+ years, since the Black Death of 1348,

Opinion | John Kerry: China’s Chance to Save Antarctic Sealife – By John F. Kerry – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Kerry served as U.S. secretary of state from 2013 to 2017.

Credit…Liu Shiping/Xinhua, via Getty Images

“Even as the United States and China confront deep disagreements, there is a global challenge that simply won’t wait for the resolution of our differences: climate change.

While some have decided that we are entering a new Cold War with China, we can still cooperate on critical mutual interests. After all, even at the height of 20th-century tensions, the Americans and the Soviets negotiated arms control agreements, which were in the interests of both countries.

Climate change, like nuclear proliferation, is a challenge of our own making — and one to which we hold the solution. We have an opportunity this month to make clear that great power rivalries aside, geopolitics must end at the water’s edge — at the icy bottom of our planet in the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the entire continent of Antarctica.

The first post-World War II arms limitation agreement — the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 at the height of the Cold War — banned military activities, created a nuclear-free space, set aside territorial claims and declared the continent a global commons dedicated to peace and science. Now we have the opportunity to extend that global commons from the land to the sea.”