Opinion | We Owe Haiti a Debt We Can’t Repay – The New York Times

” . . . . President Jefferson, mindful of the desires of his Southern political base, adopted a hostile stance toward St. Domingue. The stage was set for isolation of the tiny island nation, a choice that had enormous consequences for its development.Napoleon brought a new challenge to St. Domingue when he decided in 1802 to reassert control over French colonies in the Americas. He sent a fleet to the island to accomplish the task. The residents fought back and, with the help of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries yellow fever, repelled the invaders. This victory was fateful not only for the residents of St. Domingue, who went on to form an independent republic that they renamed Haiti, but also for the course of American history.Napoleon, as part of his plan to re-establish the French empire in the Caribbean, was hoping to use the territory of Louisiana as a supply station for the island colonies. Once the Haitians had shattered his dream, Napoleon saw no reason to hold on to the territory. He was eager to sell it, and President Jefferson was equally eager to buy.The purchase doubled the size of the United States, which obtained 530 million acres for $15 million. If not for the French defeat at the hands of the Haitians, the sale may not have come off, leaving the United States possibly forever divided by a huge swath of French-controlled land or forced into armed conflict with the French over it. Of course, what the United States really bought from France was the right to contend with the various Indigenous people who had their own claims to the land.” . . .

The Fisherwomen, Chevron and the Leaking Pipe – The New York Times

“GBARAMATU, Nigeria — When the tide rose under the rickety wooden house-on-stilts of Onitsha Joseph, a fisherwoman who lives above the twisting rivers of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, it brought a slick of crude oil.

Before long, she saw dead fish floating on oil inches thick, and fishing — her livelihood — became impossible. The fumes were so strong at one point that Ms. Joseph fainted. She was rushed to the hospital on a speedboat.

At first, she had no idea where it was coming from. Then, out with some other fisherwomen one day in February, she said they spotted something bubbling up to the river’s surface. Ms. Joseph steered her oil-blackened canoe closer.

Far below her snaked a pipe. The American oil giant Chevron laid that pipe 46 years before, according to many neighbors of Ms. Joseph who were there at the time, and now, they said, it was leaking.

So began a battle between Chevron and hundreds of fisherwomen in the Niger Delta. Chevron denies that oil was spilling from its pipes. But the women insisted that this was just another instance of oil companies refusing to take responsibility, and decided to take the fight to the oil company’s doors.”

‘Moana’: Disney’s delightful tropical adventure sets sail | Soren Andersen – The Seattle Times

Movie review of “Moana”: Disney’s tale of female empowerment is told in rousing fashion, with humor and passion and grace. Rating: 4 stars out of 4.

“Moana” is a joy.

A feast for the eyes. From Disney, it represents a pinnacle of CG animation. Its colors are incredibly vivid. The screen is bathed in bright cerulean hues of the limitless ocean sparkling in the sun and the lush greenery of tropical-island paradises.

A delight for the ears. Songs by “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer Opetaia Foa‘i and Grammy-winner Mark Mancina are at a “Lion King” level of excellence. The picture’s “We Know the Way” is an anthemic ode to exploration and self-discovery that has the hallmarks of an instant classic.”

Source: ‘Moana’: Disney’s delightful tropical adventure sets sail | The Seattle Times

David Brooks | The American Identity Crisis – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

For most of the past century, human dignity had a friend — the United States of America. We are a deeply flawed and error-prone nation, like any other, but America helped defeat fascism and communism and helped set the context for European peace, Asian prosperity and the spread of democracy.

 

Then came Iraq and Afghanistan, and America lost faith in itself and its global role — like a pitcher who has been shelled and no longer has confidence in his own stuff. On the left, many now reject the idea that America can be or is a global champion of democracy, and they find phrases like “the indispensable nation” or the “last best hope of the earth” ridiculous. On the right the wall-building caucus has given up on the idea that the rest of the world is even worth engaging.

Many people around the world have always resisted America’s self-appointed role as democracy’s champion. But they have also been rightly appalled when America sits back and allows genocide to engulf places like Rwanda or allows dangerous regimes to threaten the world order.

The Afghans are the latest witnesses to this reality. The American bungles in Afghanistan have been well documented. We’ve spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of our people. But the two-decade strategy of taking the fight to the terrorists, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, has meant that global terrorism is no longer seen as a major concern in daily American life. Over the past few years, a small force of American troops has helped prevent some of the worst people on earth from taking over a nation of more than 38 million — with relatively few American casualties. In 1999, no Afghan girls attended secondary school. Within four years, 6 percent were enrolled, and as of 2017 the figure had climbed to nearly 40 percent.

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

This is a complicated essay by David Brooks, and I’m afraid he might have more good points than bad ones, but he fails to convince this reader, becasue of the dearth of real facts and knowledge of Afganistan. His first major mistake, was leaving out Vietnam in the first paragraph. He says we are keeping the Taliban at bay with little cost and almost no casualties, but what exactly are the numbers over the last five years. We already spent over a trillion dollars in Afganistan, because we wasted $2 trillion in Iraq, in a war that was a tragic mistake. I am knowledgeable now in the history of Vietnam, and our dive into that civil war was also an unmitigated disaster, based on a complete lack of appreciation for Vietnamese history and culture. What real experts in Afganistan’s history and culture think that there is any force in Afghanistan strong enough to stand up to the Taliban, without a lot more treasure by the US. The Taliban appear to be the most determined, and disciplined in this war, just like the Vietnames communists under Ho Chi Minh were. If that is not a fair comparison, who can explain in detail, why the forces we have supported have any chance with light support against the Taliban. Our side appears to be better at corruption and graft, than at fighting the Taliban.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs mostly at InconvenientNews.Net.

Fiona Hill reflects on ‘terrible spectacle’ of Trump-Putin summit ahead of Biden’s meeting with Russian President – CNNPolitics

“(CNN)Fiona Hill, once then-President Donald Trump’s top Russia adviser, said Tuesday evening that she was so alarmed during Trump’s 2018 press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that she had looked for a fire alarm to pull and considered faking a medical emergency.

“I just thought, let’s cut this off and try to end it. I couldn’t come up with anything that just wouldn’t add to the terrible spectacle,” Hill told CNN’s Don Lemon on “Don Lemon Tonight.”
Her reflection on the controversial press conference — wherein Trump declined to support the US government’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election — comes on the eve of President Joe Biden’s highly anticipated summit with Putin, an event Hill has helped the President prepare for.
Biden has spent the past week consulting fellow leaders, national security aides and political advisers, reading through extensive preparation materials and thinking about what exactly he will say to the Russian President when they meet on Wednesday.”

Source: Fiona Hill reflects on ‘terrible spectacle’ of Trump-Putin summit ahead of Biden’s meeting with Russian President – CNNPolitics

Peter Beinart | In Biden’s Foreign Policy, What Is ‘Rules-Based Order?’ – The New York Times

Mr. Beinart is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on American foreign policy.

“Anyone who slogs through the diplomatic verbiage generated last week by President Biden’s inaugural overseas trip will notice one phrase again and again: “rules-based.” It appears twice in Mr. Biden’s joint statement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, four times each in the communiqués the United States issued with the governments of the Group of 7 and the European Union, and six times in the manifesto produced by NATO.

That’s no surprise: “Rules-based order” (or sometimes, “rules-based system”) is among the Biden administration’s favorite terms. It has become what “free world” was during the Cold War. Especially among Democrats, it’s the slogan that explains what America is fighting to defend.

Too bad. Because the “rules-based order” is a decoy. It’s a way of sidestepping the question Democrats should be asking: Why isn’t America defending international law?”

Opinion | Brazil’s Covid Inquiry Reveals Bolsonaro’s Mismanagement – The New York Times

Ms. Barbara is a contributing opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It’s not often that a congressional inquiry can lift your spirits. But the Brazilian Senate’s investigation into the government’s management of the pandemic, which began on April 27 and has riveted my attention for weeks, does just that.

As the pandemic continues to rage through the country, claiming around 2,000 lives a day, the inquiry offers the chance to hold President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to account. (Sort of.) It’s also a great distraction from grim reality. Livestreamed online and broadcast by TV Senado, the inquiry is a weirdly fascinating display of evasion, ineptitude and outright lies.

Here’s one example of the kind of intrigue on offer. In March last year, as the pandemic was unfurling, a social media campaign called “Brazil Can’t Stop” was launched by the president’s communications unit. Urging people not to change their routines, the campaign claimed that “coronavirus deaths among adults and young people are rare.” The heavily criticized campaign was eventually banned by a federal judge, and largely forgotten.

Then the plot thickened. The government’s former communications director, Fabio Wajngarten, told the inquiry that he didn’t know “for sure” who had been responsible for the campaign. Later, stumbling over his words, he seemed to remember that his department had developed the campaign — in the spirit of experimentation, of course — which was then launched without authorization. A senator called for the arrest of Mr. Wajngarten, who threw a contemplative, almost poetic glance to the horizon. The camera even tried to zoom in. It was wild.

That’s just one episode; no wonder the inquiry holds the attention of many Brazilians. So far, we have been treated to the testimonies of three former health ministers — one of them had major issues with his mask, inspiring countless memes — as well as the head of Brazil’s federal health regulator, the former foreign minister, the former communications director and the regional manager of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The upshot of their accounts is obvious, yet still totally outrageous: President Jair Bolsonaro apparently intended to lead the country to herd immunity by natural infection, whatever the consequences. That means — assuming a fatality rate of around 1 percent and taking 70 percent infection as a tentative threshold for herd immunity — that Mr. Bolsonaro effectively planned for at least 1.4 million deaths in Brazil. From his perspective, the 450,000 Brazilians already killed by Covid-19 must look like a job not even half-done.  .. . .”

Dick Cheney’s Biggest Lie – Newsweek

BY 

Updated | The CIA officer sitting across from me at the Silver Diner in McLean, Virginia, seemed nothing like Hollywood’s portrayal of an intelligence agent. It wasn’t so much his appearance—bearded, bald, with glasses and a brown plaid shirt—that belied Ben Bonk’s occupation. Rather, it was the tears in his eyes.

“Maybe if they hadn’t deceived me, I could have done something,” he told me. “Maybe I could have stopped the Iraq War.”

Bonk, a former deputy director of the agency’s Counterterrorist Center and an officer responsible for intelligence on Iraq in the year leading up to the U.S. invasion in 2003, spoke with me on background in June 2010 about events leading to the disastrous war. He died eight months later. Under our agreement, everything he told me is now on the record.

And Bonk’s statements—about deceptions that prevented solid intelligence on Iraq from reaching President George W. Bush, as well as other information kept from the public during the buildup to war—are once again in the news as candidates for the Republican presidential nomination fumble with questions about whether that invasion was a mistake. This has been asked of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio, each time with a qualifier: “Given what we know now…”

But with that parenthetical, reporters are perpetuating one of the greatest falsehoods in history. The real question should be: “Given what we knew then…” Bush hawks knew there was no good intelligence establishing that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). And in what could easily be interpreted as near-treason, they never told the president about the weakness of the intelligence, several former high-ranking officials from the administration have told me.

Source: Dick Cheney’s Biggest Lie

The Iraq War and WMDs: An intelligence failure or White House spin? – The Washington Post

“The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow. There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed ‘Bush lied. People died.’ This accusation itself is a lie. It’s time to put it to rest.”

— Former Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer, in a Twitter thread, March 19, 2019

“Sixteen years after the Iraq War started, the White House press spokesman at the time sought to rebut a claim he called a “liberal myth” — that George W. Bush lied about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction to launch the invasion. (Never mind that the current Republican president also has made this claim, saying in 2016: “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction; there were none.”)  . . . . “

Source: The Iraq War and WMDs: An intelligence failure or White House spin? – The Washington Post

Bret Stephens | Abandoning Afghanistan Is a Historic Mistake – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

“I once boarded a flight from Dubai to Kabul alongside a team of Afghan soccer players — teenage girls in red uniforms, chatting and laughing much as they might have anywhere else in the world. I thought of those players again after President Biden announced plans for America’s complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I hope they have the means to get out before the Taliban take over again, as sooner or later will most likely happen.

The United States did not go into Afghanistan after 9/11 to improve the status of women. We did so anyway. Millions of girls, whom the Taliban had forbidden to get any kind of education, went to school. Some of them — not nearly enough, but impressive considering where they started from and the challenges they faced — became doctors, entrepreneurs, members of Parliament. A few got to watch their daughters play soccer under the protective shield of Pax Americana.

Those women are now being abandoned. So is every Afghan who struggled to make the country a more humane, hospitable, ethnically and socially tolerant place — some by taking immense personal risks to help U.S. troops, diplomats and aid workers do their jobs. As George Packer writes in The Atlantic, there are some 17,000 such Afghans waiting for the wheels of U.S. bureaucracy to turn so they can get their visas.  . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Bret Setphens for trying, but no thank you. In researching our fiasco in Vietnam, I discovered the writing of Sun Tzu, who wrote “the Art of War,” about the wisdom accued from about 300 years of civil war in ancient China. He collected a list of important ideas, which included: Never invade another country unless it is an emergency, and then, get in and get out, or the cost of the occupation will be more than any gain you achieved initially. He also wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself, and, as correctly quoted in the movie “Wall Street,” don’t go into a fight unless you already know you will win. The Chinese are delighted that we waisted 2 trillion dollars in this hopeless occupation, and they would love to see us double our losses. We need to put gigantic sums into our infrastructure, and human capital, and research and developent. I admit that when David Brooks suggested last Friday on the News Hour, that we should maintain a small force as a long term deterent, I knew that that was the only viable argument. But while 500 hundred was enough in nothern Syria, 2500 wasn’t apparently enough in Afgahistan. It will be up the Afghan people to fight or change the Taliban.

David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

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