“I hate that I believe the sentence I’m about to write. It undermines much of what I spend my life trying to do. But there is nothing more overrated in politics — and perhaps in life — than the power of persuasion.
It is nearly impossible to convince people of what they don’t want to believe. Decades of work in psychology attest to this truth, as does most everything in our politics and most of our everyday experience. Think of your own conversations with your family or your colleagues. How often have you really persuaded someone to abandon a strongly held belief or preference? Persuasion is by no means impossible or unimportant, but on electric topics, it is a marginal phenomenon.
Which brings me to the difficult choice we face on coronavirus vaccinations. The conventional wisdom is that there is some argument, yet unmade and perhaps undiscovered, that will change the minds of the roughly 30 percent of American adults who haven’t gotten at least one dose. There probably isn’t. The unvaccinated often hold their views strongly, and many are making considered, cost-benefit calculations given how they weigh the risks of the virus, and the information sources they trust to inform them of those risks. For all the exhortations to respect their concerns, there is a deep condescension in believing that we’re smart enough to discover or invent some appeal they haven’t yet heard.
If policymakers want to change their minds, they have to change their calculations by raising the costs of remaining unvaccinated, the benefits of getting vaccinated, or both. If they can’t do that, or won’t, the vaccination effort will most likely remain stuck — at least until a variant wreaks sufficient carnage to change the calculus.”
Ezra Klein is professionally delicate. The comments are far more direct and forceful. Time for sticks. No vaccination, no more access to public events, no more access to government services and payments, no more health or life insurance. Carrots don’t work, but sticks do.
Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.
“NASHVILLE — I spent my entire childhood playing in the woods and meadows of rural Alabama. The world back then was lush and green: cooled by creeks, carpeted by pine needles, attended by birdsong. In those days there were nearly three billion more birds in North America than there are today, and my young days played out beneath the sound of their music.
The staggering loss of birds — nearly a third of them since 1970 — is due to human behavior: to climate change, to deforestation and ecosystem fragmentation, to insecticides and free-roaming pets, to light pollution in our skies and microplastics in our waterways, to glass-encased skyscrapers protruding into migratory flyways, among other choices that favor our own convenience over the lives of our wild neighbors.
I can’t help but wonder how much of the blame lies, too, in indifference, our failure even to notice what we’ve lost. Birds can be secretive creatures, staying high in the treetops or deep in the underbrush. Even those in plain sight often move startlingly quickly, appearing as hardly more than a flash of color, a blur of wings. Except for the background sound of birdsong, many people are never aware of how many birds — or how few — they share the world with.
Apps like iNaturalist from National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences help to close that gap, functioning as both electronic field guides and vast data-collection devices. They learn as we learn, improving with every photo and map pin we upload, helping experts understand a planet undergoing profound change. But what of the vast number of birds we never see, those we only hear? To offer that feature — one that accurately and consistently recognizes birds by sound alone — would be the birding equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.”
She describes just such an app. “Last month, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released an updated version of its Merlin Bird ID app, which allows users to identify birds by song.”
It feels like we are living through the first vertiginous 15 minutes of a disaster movie, maybe one called “The Day After Tomorrow Was Yesterday.”
Heat waves are getting hotter. Forests are ablaze. Floods are obliterating. An iceberg nearly half the size of Puerto Rico broke off from Antarctica.
Florida’s fleurs du mal, algal blooms known as red tide, have become more toxic because of pollution and climate change. They are responsible for killing 600 tons of marine life, leaving beaches strewn with reeking dead fish.
It’s Mad Max apocalyptic. Crazy storms that used to hit every century now seem quotidian, overwhelming systems that cannot withstand such a battering.
As Angela Merkel and President Biden touted a climate and energy partnership on her recent visit here, nature mocked them. While the two leaders had dinner, rains submerged huge swaths of Germany, including medieval towns.”
“I yield to no one when it comes to cynicism about politicians who see tax cuts for the rich as the answer to every problem. Indeed, the claim that tax cuts can perform magic is a prime case of a zombie idea — an idea kept alive, despite overwhelming evidence against it, because its survival serves the interests of wealthy donors.
Yet even I was caught by surprise when Republicans negotiating over a possible infrastructure bill ruled out paying for it in part by giving the Internal Revenue Service more resources to go after tax evasion.
This is a big deal. The Treasury Department believes that there is a “tax gap,” taxes owed but not paid, of more than $500 billion every year; some estimates put the number much higher. And the Biden administration proposes giving the I.R.S. enough resources to reduce this gap as a way to help pay for investment in America’s future.
But if the administration goes this route, it will apparently do so with little, if any, Republican support.”
“Dolly Parton Tried. But Tennessee Is Squandering a Miracle.
July 19, 2021, 793 comments, By Margaret Renkl, NYT:
” . . . The anticipation of happiness seemed truly ecumenical. Liberals, conservatives, politically indifferent people — everyone I knew was watching for their vaccine priority number to come up. We were signing up for leftover doses that might be available at the end of the day. We were heading out of town to get vaccinated in rural counties where health officials were moving more quickly through the vaccine priority rankings. The empty vaccine lines should have told us something was happening in those counties, something besides the fact that fewer people lived there.
Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, understood what was going on. Mr. Lee is vaccinated, but he refused to be photographed getting the shot — the Covid shot, that is: He did post a photo of himself getting a flu shot last November. “Getting a flu shot is more important than ever this year,” his Twitter post read. “I got mine to help protect my granddaughters as we prepare to celebrate their first birthday.” Not a word about protecting children from the deadliest pandemic in a hundred years.
None of this was surprising. Mr. Lee is not a leader who actually leads so much as a politician who reads the room. From the beginning, white people in rural Tennessee have been so skeptical of this vaccine that last month state officials returned an allotment of three million doses to the federal stockpile. “We’re sort of grinding to a halt,” the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, told News Channel 5 in Nashville. “The people who want it have gotten it.” “
“. . . The planet is growing more crowded, bringing people into closer contact with diverse animal and human populations. At the same time, the health risks associated with climate change are ratcheting upward. But just as protection against communicable diseases becomes increasingly urgent, conservative media outlets are sowing doubt and delusion in the Republican base, and feckless elected officials are following suit. Like Mr. Lee, his licked finger held aloft in the wind of rural white discontent, other Republican leaders in the South take their lifesaving vaccines in private and give lip service to perverse notions of “freedom” in their public statements.” . . .
Campaign funding from the national oligarchs is what sets legislative agendas across the red states, so I can understand why these penny-ante politicians are working so hard to limit tax-funded safety nets. I can even understand why they’re so hell bent on killing public education. It clearly benefits the wealthy for taxes to be low or nonexistent and for poor people to be incurious and compliant. But how can it possibly benefit the oligarchs to risk the lives of the very people who keep electing their toadies to statehouses in the first place? I just don’t get it.” . . .
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.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.
“I spent the weekend reading a book I wasn’t entirely comfortable being seen with in public. Andreas Malm’s “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is only slightly inaptly named. You won’t find, anywhere inside, instructions on sabotaging energy infrastructure. A truer title would be “Why to Blow Up a Pipeline.” On this, Malm’s case is straightforward: Because nothing else has worked.
Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments. Citing a 2019 study in the journal Nature, Malm observes that, measuring by capacity, 49 percent of the fossil-fuel-burning energy infrastructure now in operation was installed after 2004. Add in the expected emissions from projects in some stage of the planning process and we are most of the way toward warming the world by 2 degrees Celsius — a prospect scientists consider terrifying and most world governments have repeatedly pledged to avoid. Some hoped that the pandemic would alter the world’s course, but it hasn’t. Oil consumption is hurtling back to precrisis levels, and demand for coal, the dirtiest of the fuels, is rising.”
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.
“Should responsibility for the rampant polarization that characterizes American politics today be laid at the feet of liberals or conservatives? I posed that question to my friend Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and a columnist at The Wall Street Journal.
He emailed me his reply:
It is fair to say that the proponents of cultural change have been mostly on offense since Brown v. the Board of Education, while the defenders of the status quo have been on defense.
Once the conflict enters the political arena, though, other factors come into play, Galston argues:
Intensity makes a huge difference, and on many of the cultural issues, including guns and immigration, the right is more intense than the left.”
David Lindsay: Good piece, and good comments. Here are two I really liked.
Jacob Hacker has the essence of it: “It strains credulity to argue that Democrats have been pushing culture-war issues more than Republicans. It’s mostly Republican elites who have accentuated these issues to attract more and more working-class white voters even as they pursue a plutocratic economic agenda that’s unpopular among those voters.” The culture war is a mostly manufactured and manipulated divisiveness, handy to distract the populace from the wholesale economic looting of the country by the 1%. And though its roots in modern times go back to Joe McCarthy’s demagoguery, it really got fed by the onset of Reaganism and the Reagan Restoration (of the plutocracy). Reagan’s right-wing business patrons were very happy to utilize his fearmongering and racebaiting B-actor’s shtick in their seizure of power over the last half-century (while witless or craven “Democratic” neoliberals either stood down or acted complicitly).
I’m less concerned about whether Democrats have moved further to the left than Republicans have to the right (though the idea is laughable to me when we have no livable minimum wage, no universal healthcare and no universal childcare). What concerns me more is that the right is moving further away from the truth. The fountain of lies issuing from the ex-president, members of Congress and Fox News personalities has no parallel anywhere else on the political spectrum and is paralyzing our ability to cope with present and looming crises.
“NASHVILLE — Back when my children were small, I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of things. Diapers. Pacifiers. Booster seats. Storybooks. Action figures. Legos, hobbling anyone foolish enough to go barefoot in the dark. It dawned on me once that the whole house could burn to the ground and I would feel no great regret. As long as my family was safe, I could stand on the curb and watch the flames leaping into the night sky.
My childhood home was worse. My mother blamed us kids and our endless projects, but she was the one who couldn’t part with anything. Dad did his best to keep the clutter to manageable levels, but after he died, nothing ever seemed to leave that house. The attic got so full that Mom would climb to the top of the steps and heave anything she wanted to save as far back as she could throw it.
When she left Alabama and moved to the rental house across the street from us, she brought along everything she deemed necessary for her new life, including 37 coffee mugs, an entire bookcase swollen with fabric remnants, and countless back issues of Southern Living. She fought to keep them all, and she won every fight.”
“. . . At 79, Bernie Sanders is a man on a mission, laser-focused on a list that represents trillions of dollars in government spending that he deems essential. When I stray into other subjects, the senator jabs his finger at his piece of paper or waves it in my face, like Van Helsing warding off Dracula with a cross.
“Maureen, let me just tell you what we’re trying to do here,” he says. “We’re working on what I think is the most consequential piece of legislation for working families since the 1930s.”
Sanders, long a wilderness prophet in Washington, a man who wrote a memoir bragging about being an outsider, admits that it is strange to be a key member of The Establishment. As the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the democratic socialist is now pulling the levers in the control room.
He has changed the whole debate in the nation’s capital. He is the guy trying to yank his party back to its working-class roots and steer President Biden in a bolder, more progressive direction.
Mirabile dictu: A president and senator who are both pushing 80, men who were underestimated and dismissed for years in Democratic circles, are now teaming up to transform the country. It’s the Bernie and Joe show.
Sanders passionately believes that the only way to undo the damage done by Donald Trump and Trumpism is by showing that government can deliver, that good policy can overcome dangerous conspiracy theories and lies.” . . .
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
So many comments about how Bernie is or might be a saint. There is some truth to this notion, but he never got my vote for saint or president. I do not forget that he withheld his support from Hillary Clinton, after she beat him in the primary, and was partly responsible for the election of Donald Trump. For that, he has blood on his hands. Sanders has been a shoddy act compared to the greats, like Abraham Lincoln. Biden is more in the Lincoln mold, knowing that you can not get too far away from the majority of the public, or they will not follow you. Unlike Bernie, these other two leaders have a record of accomplishment. Bernie does deserve a lot of credit for popularizing his positions, and pushing them into the mainstream of American politics. It’s fine to love and respect him, without putting him on a pedestal or failing to note his shortcomings.