Thomas L. Friedman | Putin to Ukraine: ‘Marry Me or I’ll Kill You’ – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Why is Vladimir Putin threatening to take another bite out of Ukraine, after devouring Crimea in 2014? That is not an easy question to answer because Putin is a one-man psychodrama, with a giant inferiority complex toward America that leaves him always stalking the world with a chip on his shoulder so big it’s amazing he can fit through any door.

Let’s see: Putin is a modern-day Peter the Great out to restore the glory of Mother Russia. He’s a retired K.G.B. agent who simply refuses to come in from the cold and still sees the C.I.A. under every rock and behind every opponent. He’s America’s ex-boyfriend-from-hell, who refuses to let us ignore him and date other countries, like China — because he always measures his status in the world in relation to us. And he’s a politician trying to make sure he wins (or rigs) Russia’s 2024 election — and becomes president for life — because when you’ve siphoned off as many rubles as Putin has, you can never be sure that your successor won’t lock you up and take them all. For him, it’s rule or die.

Somewhere in the balance of all of those identities and neuroses is the answer to what Putin intends to do with Ukraine.

If I were a cynic, I’d just tell him to go ahead and take Kyiv because it would become his Kabul, his Afghanistan — but the human costs would be intolerable. Short of that, I’d be very clear: If he wants to come down from the tree in which he’s lodged himself, he’s going to have to jump or build his own ladder. He has completely contrived this crisis, so there should be no give on our part. China is watching — and Taiwan is sweating — everything we do in reaction to Vlad right now.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment”
Draft 2, fixing typos.
Why am I a hawk on this? I was against the war in Vietnam as a 16 year old, and that position changed my life deeply. NATO should send troops and aircraft to the Ukraine, but the Europeans lost so many in two world wars, that they don’t have the heart to sacrifice their youth. Can’t blame them. I am reminded of the Tolkien books and movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, and in book two, the people of the horse retreat to a fortress, where the forces of Saruman are sure to destroy them. Then the elves come to their aid, even though elves are immortal, until slain in battle. Their sacrifice was part of the almost miraculous saving of middle earth. It feels similar, but I’m not sure it is as easy as the fantasy I refer to. But the fantasy was also about WW II. If we stop Putin, or take him out, will we save middle earth? I’m afraid we should try, but assassination would be so much more sophisticated, say the great strategists like Sun Tsu. The other shoulder has a smart spirit saying, let Putin take Ukraine, it will help bleed him to death. But I am a creature of the 21st century. It will make terrible TV. And there is a small chance it will prop up the monster, rather than topple him. If its true that the GNP of Russia is between that of Florida and New York, NATO should have no trouble turning the rube into ruble.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Margaret Renkl | America’s Ugliest Confederate Statue Is Gone. Racism Isn’t. – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/opinion/confederate-monuments-tennessee-nathan-forrest.html

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — God knows I didn’t visit the Tennessee State Museum last week to pay my respects to the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, but while I was there I figured I might as well take a look. It’s been quite a year for the Confederate general, slave trader and grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

In June, Forrest’s remains were disinterred from their burial site in Memphis and transported across the state to the new National Confederate Museum in Columbia, Tenn. The transfer was the result of years of activists’ efforts to rid largely Black Memphis — where Martin Luther King Jr., of course, was assassinated — of any remnants of Forrest’s legacy there.

“It’s like a burden has been lifted,” Van D. Turner, a Shelby County commissioner, told The Associated Press. “It just gives us breath.”

The next month, the giant bust of Forrest was removed from the Tennessee State Capitol, where it has been generating controversy since it was installed in 1978. It was reinstalled in the Tennessee State Museum in a small temporary gallery adjacent to a permanent exhibition about Tennessee’s role in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Forrest’s role as a slave trader and Ku Klux Klan leader, among other depredations, is clearly explained in the permanent exhibition, and this historical context is very different from the place of honor the bust occupied in the Capitol. Visitors to the Tennessee State Museum, learn exactly who Nathan Bedford Forrest really was and exactly which evil he fought to preserve.

Ezra Klein | This Presidency Isn’t Turning Out as Planned – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. His Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, was Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Reserve. The director of Biden’s National Economic Council, Brian Deese, was deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council. His chief of staff, Ron Klain, was his chief of staff for the first two years of the Obama administration and then Obama’s top Ebola adviser. And so on.

The familiar names and faces can obscure how different the new administration, in practice, has become. The problems Biden is facing are an almost perfect inversion of the problems Obama faced. The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply.”

Brilliant. Many valid points, despite the comments, which have some truth too. Maybe the Republicans threw the banana peels, but Biden chose to slip on them all.

Margaret Renkl | This Winter, Snow Can Help Us Learn to Stop – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — It was 78 degrees here on New Year’s Day, a record high for Nashville, and I broke into a sweat just packing for a weekend on the Cumberland Plateau. “Did you remember to bring your coat?” my husband asked when I got into the car.

It was not an unreasonable question, despite the heat. I hadn’t packed my coat when we left for the Cumberland Plateau last month. It was warm that day, too. In fact, it had been so warm for so long that the cherry laurels were already in bud. Who thinks to pack a coat when cherry laurels are in bud?

But the next day the temperature dropped to 45, and there I was, stranded in the woods with no coat nor even so much as a sweater. Apparently, this is how winter works now. Daffodils out of the ground, Lenten roses in full bloom two months out of time, and then wham.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  Jan. 10,  NYT Comment:

Hi Margaret,

Thank you for another lovely post about snow and the changes in the weather. I am sharing with friends and neighbors a new 2021 video from climate scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI).

This is important information, not usually so well described. Here is the link to: “Earth Emergency: Feedback Loops” available at PBS for the next 3 weeks or so. https://www.pbs.org/show/earth-emergency/ Go to the PBS site, and the right video says it is for 52 minutes and 24s or seconds.

Here is a link to access separately the 5 original shorts from a year ago, that make up the full length video, through my blog post at InconvenientNews.Net. https://inconvenientnews.wordpress.com/2022/01/01/climate-emergency-feedback-loops/ The responsible group at WHOI is the Woodwell Climate Research Center, can be found at: https://www.woodwellclimate.org/?event=national-premiere-of-earth-emergency-on-pbs I hope to write a column on this, but while my head is high, my platform is small.

David Lindsay

5 Recommended

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
x
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.

Paul Krugman | Bitcoin, Inflation and the Misguided Fear of Government Money Creation – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I had some fun yesterday with a tweet by Josh Mandel, the would-be MAGA senator from Ohio, who has declared his allegiance to fundamental American values: God, family and Bitcoin. I didn’t have space to go on about some of the things he has said about Bitcoin, which really is at the center of his campaign. But I was struck in particular by this tweet from October, in which he appears to assert that fiat money (dollars aren’t backed by anything except their official role as legal tender, and dollars can be created at the discretion of appointed officials at the Fed) is a crucial enabler of inflationary spending:

Mockery aside, is there any truth to that assertion? Has the U.S. government relied on the printing press to cover deficits and thereby fed inflation?”

This column is well worth finishing, and the reward is at the end.

Krugman recomends a cover band

doing the Beatles song Taxman.

Frank Bruni | How the Capitol Riot Led to a Broken America – The New York Times

” “Things feel broken.”

Those weren’t the first three words in a recent article in The Times by Sarah Lyall about our pandemic-frazzled nerves. They weren’t the fanciest. But they seemed to me the truest — or, rather, the truth of our moment distilled to its essence. This country isn’t working, not the way it’s supposed to.

Oh, it’s functioning, with a mammoth economy (which distributes wealth much too unevenly), an intricate transportation network (about to improve, thanks to infrastructure legislation) and the historically swift and heroically expansive delivery of vaccines to Americans rooted firmly enough in truth to accept them.

But in terms of our democratic ideals? Our stated values? Our basic contentment?

We’re a mess, and the pandemic mainly exposed and accelerated an ugliness already there. Would the violence at the U.S. Capitol a year ago today have happened in the absence of Covid closures and fears? Maybe not then. But we were headed there before the first cough.

The anniversary of the Jan. 6 rioting has rightly focused attention on the intensifying efforts to undermine our democracy, but it should also prompt us to contemplate the degradation of the country’s civic spirit and the foulness of its mood.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Bruni, you are still great, but you are so anthropocentric.
(There might be an issue larger than how we feel about ourselves and our democracy.)
From my song, Talking Climate Change Blues, “The folks a BusinessWeek saw the damage was horrid, They put on their cover, its climate change stupid. All around the world, the oceans are rising, while the coral reefs are slowly dying, Wake up my friends, the Scientist cry, World temperature is rising and its no lie.”

Thomas Friedman | How to Stop Trump and Prevent Another Jan. 6 – The New York Times

“. . . .  I love that phrase — unexpected truths. We have launched a space telescope that can peer far into the universe to discover — with joy — unexpected truths.

Alas, though, my joy is tempered by those two other stories, by the fact that here on Earth, in America, one of our two national parties and its media allies have chosen instead to celebrate and propagate alternative facts.

This struggle between those seeking unexpected truths — which is what made us great as a nation — and those worshiping alternative facts — which will destroy us as a nation — is THE story on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurgency, and for the coming year. Many people, particularly in the American business community, are vastly underestimating the danger to our constitutional order if this struggle ends badly.

If the majority of G.O.P. lawmakers continue to bow to the most politically pernicious “alternative fact” — that the 2020 election was a fraud that justifies empowering Republican legislatures to override the will of voters and remove Republican and Democratic election supervisors who helped save our democracy last time by calling the election fairly — then America isn’t just in trouble. It is headed for what scientists call “an extinction-level event.”

Only it won’t be a comet hurtling past the Webb telescope from deep space that destroys our democracy, as in the new movie “Don’t Look Up.”

No, no — it will be an unraveling from the ground up, as our country, for the first time, is unable to carry out a peaceful transfer of power to a legitimately elected president. Because if Donald Trump and his flock are able in 2024 to execute a procedural coup like they attempted on Jan. 6, 2021, Democrats will not just say, “Ah shucks, we’ll try harder next time.” They will take to the streets.

Right now, though, too many Republicans are telling themselves and the rest of us: “Don’t look up! Don’t pay attention to what is unfolding in plain sight with Trump & Company. Trump won’t be the G.O.P.’s candidate in 2024.”

Who will save us?

God bless Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two Republican House members participating on the Jan. 6 investigation committee. But they are not enough. Kinzinger is retiring and the G.O.P. leadership, on Trump’s orders, is trying to launch Cheney into deep space.

I think our last best hope is the leadership of the U.S. business community, specifically the Business Roundtable, led by General Motors C.E.O. Mary Barra, and the Business Council, led by Microsoft C.E.O. Satya Nadella. Together those two groups represent the roughly 200 most powerful companies in America, with 20 million employees. Although formally nonpartisan, they lean center-right — but the old center-right, the one that believed in the rule of law, free markets, majority rule, science and the sanctity of our elections and constitutional processes.

Collectively, they are the only responsible force left with real leverage on Trump and the Republican lawmakers doing his bidding. They need to persuade their members — now — not to donate a penny more to any local, state or national candidate who has voted to dismantle the police or dismantle the Constitution.”

David Lindsay Jr: Great column, Thomas Friedman, thank you. While there are a few good comments, most criticize Friedman, since all rich business people are evil and authoritarian.  I’m sure that Friedman is right, and they are wrong. My father was a wall street lawyer, who worked for major multinationals like Mobil Oil, but his passion was to study Abraham Lincoln and the civil war. The Lindsay brothers were committed to the civil rights movement, and a democracy of law as well as order. My father once explained to me that big corporations were not all evil, especially in a democracy, because if the government were to turn bad, and become authoritarian, the only force in the country strong enough to stand up to the government, are the big corporations. They are like a ballast, in my own words, that keep this ship from tilting too far to the left or the right. I hope he was right.

 Republicans for Democracy – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

Republicans for Democracy

Liz Cheney opposes most abortions and most gun control. She favors tax cuts for the wealthy and expanded drilling for oil. The right-wing Family Research Council has given her voting record a perfect score. Her political hero is her hawkish father, who was the architect of the second Iraq War.

This description may remind you why you loathe Cheney or have long admired her. Either way, it helps explain why she has become such an important figure for the future of American democracy.

Today is the first anniversary of the violent attack on the Capitol, by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters who were trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election. The mob smashed windows and threatened the vice president and members of Congress. Seven people died as a result of the attack, including three police officers.

The Jan. 6 attack was part of a larger anti-democracy movement in the U.S. In the year since, the movement — which is closely aligned with the Republican Party — has changed some laws and ousted election officials, with the aim of overturning future results. The movement’s supporters justify these actions with lies about voter fraud

Encouraged by Trump, other Republican politicians and conservative media stars, the anti-democratic movement is following a playbook used by authoritarians in other countries, both recently and historically. The movement is trying to use existing democratic laws — on vote counting and election certification, for example — to unravel democracy.

“We are in a terrible situation in which one of two major parties is no longer committed to playing by democratic rules,” Steven Levitsky — a political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die” with his Harvard colleague Daniel Ziblatt — told me. “No other established Western democracy faces such a threat today, not this acutely anyway.”

(Related: “I fear for our democracy,” former President Jimmy Carter writes in Times Opinion.)

The experience of other countries does offer some lessons about how to defeat anti-democratic movements. The most successful approach involves building coalitions of people who disagree, often vehemently, on many issues but who all believe in democracy.”

Paul Krugman | 2021’s Overlooked Economic Recovery – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Grumpy New Year! There probably weren’t many Americans who started 2022 feeling celebratory. We’re going through yet another Covid wave, which is scary and wearying even though Omicron appears to pose a relatively low risk of serious illness if you’re fully vaccinated. Holiday travel was a mess, with the combination of the pandemic and severe weather causing thousands of flight cancellations.

Yet there’s a good chance that once time has passed and we’ve had a chance to regain perspective, we’ll consider 2021 to have been a very good year, at least in some ways. In particular, although nobody seemed to notice, it was a year of spectacular economic recovery — and one in which many dire warnings failed to come true.

Let me give you some background. Here’s the U.S. unemployment rate since 1979, the beginning of a nasty double-dip recession that was, at the time, the worst slump to hit America since the 1930s:”

Credit…FRED”