Stephen Wertheim | America Is Not ‘Back.’ And Americans Should Not Want It to Be. – The New York Times

Mr. Wertheim is a historian of American foreign policy and the director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank.

Credit…David Tulis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

” “America is back,” President Biden has declared in every major foreign policy speech he has given since taking office. He means to restore what he sees as the essence of global leadership — the United States joining with allies to “fight for our shared values” — that his predecessor defiled. Back, then, is America’s quest to order the world in the name of democracy, human rights and the American way.

After four years of Donald Trump, the impulse to return to familiar habits is understandable. But those habits, especially the moralization of one country’s armed dominance, have proved destructive. What matters is whether the Biden administration will actually make America — No. 1 in armed force and arms dealing — less violent in the world. In that regard, Mr. Biden’s larger vision, of the United States dividing the globe into subordinate allies and multiplying adversaries, and shouldering the burdens toward both, remains troubling, no matter how high-minded his rhetoric or diplomatic his actions.

Mr. Biden has signaled some improvement so far. He has cut off Washington’s support for “offensive operations” in Yemen and related arms sales to Saudi Arabia, reversing the awful policy initiated by President Barack Obama and intensified by President Trump. He has taken steps toward re-entering the nuclear agreement with Iran, essential for avoiding future wars.” . . .

By Maeve Higgins | Joe Biden, the Irishman – The New York Times

Ms. Higgins is a contributing opinion writer who regularly writes about immigration and life in New York City.

Credit…Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In November, a BBC reporter shouted a question at President-elect Joe Biden. He responded, “The BBC? I’m Irish” before flashing a huge smile and disappearing through a doorway. The clip went viral and Ireland went wild.

President Biden’s Irishness is important to him: He likes to quote Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats, and borrowed James Joyce’s words as he bid farewell to Delaware the night before his inauguration. An Irish violinist played Irish hymns at the mass before the event. Back in the old country, people are keen to claim him, too. His ancestral family are mini-celebrities there — his third cousin, a plumber named Joe Blewitt, emblazoned his work van with the words “Joe Biden for the White House, Joe Blewitt for your house.” Frankly, the whole thing is adorable. What I want to know is, how deep does it go?” . . .

It’s gratifying to see, certainly. But what my Irishness leads me to is the old Ireland, the truly dark and terrifying place that Mr. Biden’s forefathers fled from. Who is their equivalent now? And can the president see them for what they are and act accordingly?

The parallels between Ireland in the 1800s, when Mr. Biden’s forefathers left, and, say, Syria or South Sudan today are horribly apt. The Syrian people, brave and revolutionary, simply needed a fair system of government and, later, a safe place to recover and restart their lives. But Americans have looked away. The South Sudanese, reeling from brutal colonization, continue to struggle through ethnic division and civil war. Surely too in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, there are poets and musicians who dream of the rhyme of hope and history, if only we stopped to listen.

The early signs are promising. During his campaign, Mr. Biden promised to lift the cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 125,000. But so much more is needed from America — just as it was in the 19th century, when roughly one in two people born in Ireland emigrated. Patrick Blewitt, Mr. Biden’s great-great grandfather, left a famine-stricken land in 1850, becoming one of the 1.8 million Irish people to arrive in America between 1845 and 1855. His parents and siblings soon followed. Another million Irish people did not make it, staying behind to die of starvation or sickness.” . . .

Lovely piece by Maeve Higgins.  She would have us taken as many refugees as is possible without delineation. I can’t agree with her.  Biden is doing enough, to allow in 125,000 a year. Part of taking care of the planet, is reducing population growth. We need to stop illegal immigration, allow for guest workers after amending the constitutional amendment that makes their children all citizens, and work towards a generous Marshall like plan to help our neighbors to the south curb their population growth, and rebuild their economies, and in some places, their governments. Legalizing all addictive drugs, would help reduce the negative effects of the $50 Billion a year illegal drug trade, that destabilizes governments, while empowering drug gangs.

Regarding Syria and the middle east, we can return to strengthening our allies, if there are any left, after Trump betrayed them, and let the Turks, the Russians, and the  Bashar al-Assad regime slaughter them. 

Marie Kondo Talks About Tidying Up in 2021 and Her New Product Launch – The New York Times

It was perhaps inevitable that Marie Kondo, the one-time Shinto shrine maiden turned tidiness guru and media powerhouse, would expand her organizing business into products.

Yet her first embrace of consumerism more than a year ago roiled the internet, which cried foul as she began selling an array of minimalist objects — housewares, decorative items and organizing supplies — that included pink suede slippers, a boar-bristle broom set and, most notably, a tuning fork presented as a “reset” tool, the ping of which one imagined was the actual sound of “sparking joy,” Ms. Kondo’s trademark phrase.

It was a spare (ish) collection, however. Her latest foray is expansive: 100 organizing objects in a collaboration with — wait for it — the Container Store.

This is the second blockbuster alliance between the retailer and what we might call organizing media. Last year the Container Store partnered with the Home Edit, the Tennessee-based company responsible for Khloé Kardashian’s hair extension closet — an Instagram sensation the writer Amanda FitzSimons likened to an art installation about late-stage capitalism. If Ms. Kondo’s ethos of aspirational organization leans toward emotional and moral clarity — a transformative act, as she often points out — the Home Edit, which uses the colors of the rainbow as its organizing principle, is the equivalent of flashing a logo. (“Conscientious luxury” is how Pam Danziger, a marketing expert, would define both efforts, a trend on point for 2021.)

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NY Times Comment:
Someone who knows me, asked me to read her little book on tidying up the house. It was good advice, and I resolved to try harder. One of her neat ideas, hold up each individual x, a book in the library, a record or CD, and ask, does this item give me joy? If it doesn’t, give it up. She obviously isn’t a writer and historian with archival instincts. Yet, I know that the internet has made most of my archives obsolete. What really keeps me from cleaning up? I’d rather read the NY Times and its competitors and blog about the world going to hell in a handbasket. Also, deep down inside, I know that the easiest way to really clean up, is to die, and the ones who follow will less anguish than I over my multitude of collections.

By Toby Levy | The Holocaust Stole My Youth. Covid-19 Is Stealing My Last Years – The New York Times

Ms. Levy is a retired accountant and a volunteer docent for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

“These days, I’m a little bored.

The boardwalk is my lifesaver. I’m two blocks from the boardwalk. I can walk to Coney Island if I want to. I go alone. I have some friends here. We used to play canasta once a week. But when Covid arrived, my daughter insisted, “You can’t sit in one room!” So I talk on the phone. I read. The grandkids call in by Zoom. I also do a little bit of Zoom lecturing for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

I keep very busy, and it helps me a lot. I am trying not to give up. But what is getting me down is that I am losing a year. And this bothers me terribly. I’m 87 years old, and I lost almost a full year.

I’m doing everything I can to stay connected, to make an impact. So even now, amid Covid, I tell my story to schools and to audiences the museum organizes for me, by Zoom.

Here’s what I say: I was born in 1933 in a small town called Chodorow, now Khodoriv, about 30 minutes by car from Lvov, now Lviv, in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. We lived in the center of town in my grandfather’s house. The Russians occupied the town from 1939 to 1941, then the Germans from 1941 to 1944. My father was well liked in town by Jews and non-Jews. One day in early 1942, one of the guys came to him and said, “Moshe, it’s going to be a big killing. Better find a hiding place.” So my father built a place to hide in the cellar. My grandfather didn’t want to go. He was shot in the kitchen; we heard it.”

Brexit’s Silver Lining for Europe – The New York Times

“PARIS — It is done at last. On Jan. 1, with the Brexit transition period over, Britain will no longer be part of the European Union’s single market and customs union. The departure will be ordered, thanks to a last-minute deal running to more than 1,200 pages, but still painful to both sides. A great loss will be consummated.

Loss for the European Union of one of its biggest member states, a major economy, a robust military and the tradition, albeit faltering, of British liberalism at a time when Hungary and Poland have veered toward nationalism.

Loss for Britain of diplomatic heft in a world of renewed great power rivalry; of some future economic growth; of clarity over European access for its big financial services industry; and of countless opportunities to study, live, work and dream across the continent.

The national cry of “take back control” that fired the Brexit vote in an outburst of anti-immigrant fervor and random grievances withered into four and a half years of painful negotiation pitting a minnow against a mammoth. Posturing encountered reality. The British economy is less than one-fifth the size of the bloc’s. President Trump is leaving office, and with him goes any hope of a rapid offsetting British-American trade agreement.

“Brexit is an act of mutual weakening,” Michel Barnier, the chief European Union negotiator, told the French daily Le Figaro.

But the weakening is uneven. Britain is closer to fracture. The possibility has increased that Scotland and Northern Ireland will opt to leave the United Kingdom and, by different means, rejoin the European Union. The bloc, by contrast, has in some ways been galvanized by the trauma of Brexit. It has overcome longstanding obstacles, lifted its ambitions and reignited the Franco-German motor of closer union.

“Brexit i not good news for anyone, but it has unquestionably contributed to a reconsolidation of Europe, which demonstrated its unity throughout the negotiations,” François Delattre, the secretary-general of the French foreign ministry, said.

The European Union — prodded by Brexit, facing the coronavirus pandemic, and confronting the hostility of Mr. Trump — has done things previously unimaginable. It has taken steps in a quasi-federal direction that Britain always opposed.

Germany abandoned a tenacious policy of austerity. The federalization of European debt, long taboo for the Germans, became possible. The European Union can now borrow as a government does — a step toward sovereign stature and a means to finance the $918 billion pandemic recovery fund that a British presence would probably have blocked.

“Brexit made Angela Merkel willing to abandon positions that had been sacred,” said Karl Kaiser, a former head of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “There has long been a debate about widening or deepening the European Union. Well, it has deepened.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT

Thank you Roger Cohen, your reporting is like Visa and Mastercard, priceless. I am thinking of a second story to organize. Was Brexit possibly the brainchild or Vladimir Putin of Russia, or did the Russians really help push the Brexit vote into victory? It appears that the only real winner of Brexit, is Russia. I read that the largest google search the UK after the historic and tragic vote was, “What is Brexit?” Is it true that the cheapest and least professional newspapers, especially Rupert Murdoch’s, pushed the Brexit division along, in a publishing war, for who could sell the most scandal mongering tabloids, and did the main stream papers make the mistake of competing with some of their own junk. What a colossal mess. It has been a fabulous four years for Putin. Maybe Time Magazine missed a beat this week, when they named Biden and Harris as Person of the Year, when the big winner of 2020 was Vladimir Putin.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.

25 Days That Changed the World: How Covid-19 Slipped China’s Grasp – The New York Times

Chris BuckleyDavid D. KirkpatrickAmy Qin and 


“The most famous doctor in China was on an urgent mission.

Celebrated as the hero who helped uncover the SARS epidemic 17 years ago, Dr. Zhong Nanshan, now 84, was under orders to rush to Wuhan, a city in central China, and investigate a strange new coronavirus. His assistant photographed the doctor on the night train, eyes closed in thought, an image that would later rocket around China and burnish Dr. Zhong’s reputation as the nation’s medic riding to the rescue.

China’s official history now portrays Dr. Zhong’s trip as the cinematic turning point in an ultimately triumphant war against Covid-19, when he discovered the virus was spreading dangerously and sped to Beijing to sound the alarm. Four days later, on Jan. 23, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, sealed off Wuhan.

That lockdown was the first decisive step in saving China. But in a pandemic that has since claimed more than 1.7 million lives, it came too late to prevent the virus from spilling into the rest of the world.

The first alarm had actually sounded 25 days earlier, exactly a year ago, last Dec. 30. Even before then, Chinese doctors and scientists had been pushing for answers, yet officials in Wuhan and Beijing concealed the extent of infections or refused to act on warnings.”

A German Terrorist Suspect With a Refugee Disguise: The Tale of Franco A. – The New York Times

“OFFENBACH, Germany — At the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, a bearded man in sweatpants walked into a police station. His pockets were empty except for an old cellphone and a few foreign coins.

In broken English, he presented himself as a Syrian refugee. He said he had crossed half the continent by foot and lost his papers along the way. The officers photographed and fingerprinted him. Over the next year, he would get shelter and an asylum hearing, and would qualify for monthly benefits.

His name, he offered, was David Benjamin.

In reality, he was a lieutenant in the German Army. He had darkened his face and hands with his mother’s makeup and applied shoe shine to his beard. Instead of walking across Europe, he had walked 10 minutes from his childhood home in the western city of Offenbach.”

Opinion | The Afghan War Is Over. Did Anyone Notice? – By Elliot Ackerman – The New York Times

Mr. Ackerman is a former Marine and intelligence officer who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

“I first read “The Iliad” in high school. The translation my teacher handed out had a single photograph on the cover: American G.I.s on D-Day storming out of a landing craft onto Omaha Beach.

The subtext of this pairing wasn’t obvious to me, as a teenager. The rage of Achilles, the death of Hector and all those Greeks in their “black-hulled ships” seemed to have little to do with the Second World War.

Many years later, after having fought in two wars of my own, that image has come to resonate in a new way. If “The Iliad” served as an ur-text for the shape the ancient Greeks assumed their wars to take (Alexander the Great, for example, is said to have slept with a copy beneath his pillow when on campaign), then World War II has served a similar function in our society, framing our expectations of war, becoming our American Iliad. We still expect to be the good guys; we expect there to be a beginning, a middle and an end; and we expect that the war is over when the troops come home.

But that final expectation — that a war is only over when all the troops come home — has never really held true, not in World War II, and not today.”

Scotland Is 1st Nation to Make Period Products Free – The New York Times

“LONDON — Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products freely available to all who need them, after final approval was given to a landmark piece of legislation in Parliament on Tuesday.

The measures are intended to end “period poverty” — or the circumstances, and in some cases, prohibitive expense that have left many without access to sanitary products when they need them.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, posted on Twitter shortly after the vote on Tuesday evening that she was “proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation” which she called an “important policy for women and girls.”

A draft bill received initial approval in Parliament in February, and the measure was officially passed on Tuesday, with lawmakers voting unanimously in its favor.”

Opinion | 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Getty Images

“HAMBURG, Germany — It may well be that Germans have a special inclination to panic at specters from the past, and I admit that this alarmism annoys me at times. Yet watching President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign since Election Day, I can’t help but see a parallel to one of the most dreadful episodes from Germany’s history.

One hundred years ago, amid the implosions of Imperial Germany, powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to arguably the most potent and disastrous political lie of the 20th century — the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation. That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter. Among a sizable number of Germans, it stirred resentment, humiliation and anger. And the one figure who knew best how to exploit their frustration was Adolf Hitler.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not about comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler, which would be absurd. But the Dolchstosslegende provides a warning. It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Trump’s irrational claim that the election was “rigged” as a laughable last convulsion of his reign or a cynical bid to heighten the market value for the TV personality he might once again intend to become, especially as he appears to be giving up on his effort to overturn the election result.”

David Lindsay:
What do Jochen Bittner and my sister Elly Lindsay have in common. It is at least an interest in history. I graduated from high school in three years complicated by anti Vietnam war activities and drugs. My parents supported me in a gap year, where I lived in Cambridge MA with my sister Elly. I worked as a volunteer stage carpenter and electrician at the Harvard Loeb Drama Center, while Elly finished her senior year at Radcliff College at Harvard. Elly was the president of the Harvard Dramat at the Loeb Theater, and acting in shows, while studying history and literature. She was particularly proud of one of her major papers for the history department, where she examined how Germany fell into fascism, and she wrote in her conclusions, that Americans would not have been immune to the forces at work in Germany. We could in similar circumstances, be just as horrible as the Germans were in World War II.
Bret Stephens wrote about Dolchstosslegende in a piece I posted last week. This piece adds a great deal to the discussion, or better put, to the warning. Trump insisting that the election was stolen, is dangerous. Republicans of any patriotic worth, should quickly disavow it.