Charles M. Blow | The Fear of Nuclear War Looms – The New York Times

   Opinion Columnist

“I grew up during the Cold War, when, in elementary school, we still participated in bomb drills. A bell would ring or horn would blow and we would duck and cover, or in some teachers’ classrooms, just put our heads down on our desks.

From the videos of utter destruction caused by nuclear weapons, I couldn’t see how any of these drills would be helpful (apparently duck and cover did offer some protection). I simply assumed it would be better to be resting when I died than not.

Although we lived in a small Louisiana town, in the middle of nowhere really, we were about 30 minutes away from Barksdale Air Force Base, where President George W. Bush would, years later, take refuge after the attacks on 9/11. As children, it felt like we were in the military arena, particularly every time the jets overhead latticed the skies with contrails or produced a sonic boom.

Even people of modest means in the area built bomb shelters. Armageddon was in the air.

America and the Soviet Union were locked in the doctrine of mutually assured destruction: There were so many nuclear weapons that if one side used them to launch an attack, we were told the other would immediately respond, prompting the annihilation of both countries and possibly the world.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Excellent essay Charles Blow. Thank you. Nevertheless, I’m left disjointed. On the headline, “An Age of Existential Uncertainty,” I thought with excitement, Oh, Charles is going to write about the climate crisis and species extinction. Everything Charles Blow does write about seems to be factual and true. We are back in a nuclear stalemate with Russia, wondering about a nuclear winter. Frozen in fear.
But rather that cringe in fright, while Putin destroys the Ukraine, then who know which countries after it, we should call his bluff, and send in all the weapons the Ukrainians need, and even a few technicians, to make sure they work properly. There is no honor in sitting out the annihilation of a friendly democracy. The climate crisis could well end our civilization anyway, if we aren’t expeditious in the decade we have started, in curbing our carbon pollution footprint. Check out the new report from last week by the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
InconvenientNews.net

Charles Blow | What Is Our Moral Obligation in Ukraine? – The New York Times

“In June of 1998, Clinton declared a national emergency under the pretense that the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, with respect to Kosovo, were threatening to “destabilize countries of the region and to disrupt progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina in implementing the Dayton peace agreement, and therefore constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

NATO intervened, ended the war and brought an end to most of the immediate suffering.

This poses the question: When does America have a moral obligation to intervene — particularly for humanitarian reasons — in conflict? And which factors contribute to the choices we make?

America and NATO have a clear geopolitical interest in Ukraine: President Vladimir Putin of Russia cannot be allowed to get away with such unprovoked, naked aggression. What kind of precedent would that set? And who’s to say that he would stop there?

But when the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke via video to Congress on Wednesday, part of the appeal he was making was a moral one, an appeal to the American belief in and commitment to the very idea of democracy.

He said:

Peace in your country does not depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong does not mean big. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world. For human rights, for freedom, for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes, not when it is wanted by someone else, by your neighbor. Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future.

The question is how far is America compelled to go. President Biden signed off on $13.6 billion in aid on Tuesday and announced on Wednesday that $800 million in military assistance would be sent to Ukraine as part of that funding. These are not trivial amounts. Furthermore, America and its allies have imposed stiff economic sanctions on Russia. The sanctions could contribute to inflation, which means that Americans may pay even more than what the administration is pledging in direct assistance.

I say that the United States must supply military aid and should supply humanitarian aid. But I also say that we must be more consistent in determining who deserves outpourings of our humanitarian impulses.

Human suffering is human suffering. It has been a constant in the story of mankind. Sometimes it overlaps with our national interests, and sometimes it does not. But our sense of morality must remain constant, and in it we must find a place for equity.”  -38-

David Lindsay: I think NATO should treat Ukraine like a member, and go to war to save the country. Here are some comments I endorse:

Rob
Kansas City11h ago

Our moral obligation to Ukraine is absolute. Together with the UK we GUARANTEED Ukraine’s safety, security, and territorial integrity when we persuaded it to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the former Soviet Union. We have entirely reneged on that commitment (as we have on commitments to other people and countries in danger, like Iraqis and Afghans who helped U.S. troops while we were involved there) and America’s word has become worthless. Just another indicator of America’s decline and fall.

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Gary V
Oakland, CA11h ago

Charles Blow, in my view of the world it is very clear. When a free peoples are attacked by a neighbor, whether internal as in Rwanda, Sudan or external like in Bosnia, Kosovo and now in Ukraine ( I leave out a lot of other conflicts) and possibly in the future Taiwan, the leaders of the free world without slicing and dicing “strategic interests” or “they are not a NATO country” should intervene. What is the purpose of life if we cannot help people who want freedom from oppression, dictatorship and autocracy? will we, as individuals do our best to stop a neighbor from killing his family? if yes, what is the difference in nation states from preventing this in a nationwide basis. We cannot hide from our responsibility.

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E

We made many promises to Ukraine. Foremost; that we would protect them if they got rid of their nuclear arsenal. We have a clear moral obligation in Ukraine.

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Charles M. Blow | The Democrats Are in Danger of a Midterm Rout – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The Democrats are staring down real danger.

They just aren’t getting enough done. They aren’t moving quickly enough on President Biden’s major campaign promises.

The warning signs are all around.

Democrats are still wrangling over their infrastructure and social spending bills. And the longer the fight drags on, the uglier it looks. Washington watchers are right — to a degree — to say that this is simply the way that large legislation is worked through. It’s a slog.

In the end, I believe that the Democrats will have no choice but to pass something, no matter the size, because the consequence of failure is suicide. Democrats must go into the midterms with something that they can call a win, with something that at least inches closer to the transformations Biden has promised.

But the budget isn’t the only issue.

There is still a crisis at the border.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Hi Charles, you made some good points, but you basically lost me. I don’t think Manchin and Sinema are the biggest problem, even if they are too far right for me. I see the left wing of the party as the ones responsible for endangering Biden’s presidency and legacy. Are you in that group, who who wouldn’t let the the wonderful, bipartisan infrastructure bill sail through congress, after supported by both parties in the Senate. It isn’t enough to be right, you have to also have the votes in the right places.
I agree with Bret Stephens, who wrote today: “More to the point, I’m a fan of anything that gives Biden a bipartisan legislative win that will be popular with middle-of-the-road voters and arrest the decline in his poll numbers. On that front, I was struck by a fascinating column by our colleague Ezra Klein, based on his interviews with the superstar data analyst David Shor. The long-and-short of it, as Ezra paraphrases Shor, is that “Democrats are sleepwalking into catastrophe.” Shor thinks the Senate will soon slip out of Democratic hands, largely because the party has lost touch with both its white and nonwhite working-class voters. Many Democratic strategists think the way to shore up the Democratic majority is by offering statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., but I think that would just further alienate the very voters Dems need to win back.”
Climate change is an existential threat. We can’t afford to blow our leadership in congress.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Charles M. Blow | Rage Is the Only Language I Have Left – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Josh Galemore/Arizona Daily Star, via Associated Press

“One of the first times I wrote about the police killing of an unarmed Black man was when Michael Brown was gunned down in the summer of 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was a Black teenager accused of an infraction in a convenience store just before his life was taken. Last summer, six years on, I wrote about George Floyd, a large Black man accused of an infraction in a convenience store, this time in Minneapolis.

Both men were killed in the street in broad daylight. Brown was shot. An officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. In both cases there were multiple community witnesses to the killings. In both cases there was a massive outcry. In both cases the men were accused of contributing to, or causing, their own deaths, in part because they had illegal drugs in their systems.

Between those two killings there has been a depressing number of others. In January of 2015, The Washington Post began maintaining a database of all known fatal shootings by the police in America. Every year, the police shot and killed roughly 1,000 people. But, as The Post points out, Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than white Americans, and the data revealed that unarmed Black people account for about 40 percent of the unarmed Americans killed by the police, despite making up only about 13 percent of the American population.

Something is horrifyingly wrong. And yet, the killings keep happening. Brown and Floyd are not even the bookends. There were many before them, and there will be many after.   . . . “

Charles M. Blow | ‘Awful but Lawful’ – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

465 comments.
 
Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
 

“Along with many others, I have long argued that the reason so few police officers are ever charged in their killings of unarmed Black people (and few of those charged are ever convicted) is that our legal system has effectively rendered those killings legal. This is the case regardless of how horrendous the killings are or how much evidence, including video, makes clear what took place.

The defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd raised this very concept Wednesday when questioning Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department use-of-force expert who was a witness for the prosecution.

Eric Nelson, an attorney for Chauvin, asked if Sergeant Stiger had ever had anything to do with a training called “awful but lawful, or lawful but awful.” He said that he had. Nelson continued his questioning: “The general concept is that sometimes the use of force, it looks really bad, right, and sometimes it may be so, it may be caught on video, right, and it looks bad, right?”

Sergeant Stiger responds, “yes.”

Nelson then says, “But, it is still lawful.”

The officer concludes, “Yes, based on that department’s policies or based on that state’s law.” “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Charles Blow. It seems that awful should not be lawful. You stop someone for the equivalent of jay walking, and then, if they try to run, you execute them with your gun. How do we make awful unlawful?

Opinion | Obama’s Curious Cautiousness – By Charles M. Blow – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matt Slocum/Associated Press

“Barack Obama continues his rather strange mission to confront and correct young liberal activists. It is an odd post-presidential note: A man who is beloved and admired on the left is using his cultural currency as a corrective against those who are on a quest for change.

Wednesday morning on Peter Hamby’s Snapchat show, “Good Luck America,” Obama said this:

“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘Defund the police,’ but, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.”

It was not the first time Obama had taken aim at these young activists. Last year he also took a swipe at wokeness and “call-out culture,” saying, among other things: “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”

That speech got him an amen from Ann Coulter, who tweeted: “Good for Obama. (Not sarcastic!)”

These chastisements by Obama delineate the difference between the politician and the activist.”

I’m afraid this is one Charles Blow’s worst columns ever. I quit it early, and went to the comments, and found my response in the top comment, which I endorse:

Socrates
Verona, N.J.Dec. 3

If you want progressive change, and the majority does, you have to be message smartly….not recklessly. America has a self-destructive conservative, regressive streak that requires surgical precision to combat. America also has the best right-wing industrial propaganda complex in the world. Because of these two factors, political messaging and words are critical. The words ‘defund the police’ were a catastrophic choice that helped sink the progressive cause. If people had just stuck to the words ‘police reform’, which is what most Americans want, Democrats would have had a much stronger election result nationwide. The word ‘socialism’ and the use of it by some Democrats was also catastrophic to the Democratic cause. It’s a word that few Americans understand, that is frequently misused, that most Americans are triggered and frightened by and that America’s political right has successfully scared Americans with since the McCarthy era. Republicans built a large part of their 2020 campaign strategy successfully pillorying ‘socialism’ and ‘defund the police’. Democrats need to choose their words better and outmaneuver the right’s industrial propaganda campaign. And incremental success is a world better than progressive perfectionism that tends to result in things like Donald Trump’s 2016 election thanks to the catastrophic progressive votes cast for Jill Stein. Obama’s right. Stay a little to the left, and avoid right-wing catastrophe, and make slow, steady progress.

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Opinion | Third Term of the Obama Presidency – By Charles M. Blow – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Barack Obama — his policies and his posture — just won a third term.

Joe Biden will be president because of his close association with Barack Obama, because he espoused many of the same centrist policies and positioning and because of public nostalgia for the normalcy and decency the Obama years provided.

Biden is a restoration president-elect, elected to right the ship and save the system. He is not so much a change agent as a reversion agent. He is elected to Make America Able to Sleep Again.

He doesn’t see his mission as shaking things up, but calming things down.

But, just as was the case with Obama, many of the people who made Biden’s win possible are far to the left of him. As Biden told a Miami television station last month: “I’m the guy that ran against socialists, OK. I’m the guy that’s the moderate. Remember, you guys were all talking, you’d interview me and say, ‘Well, you’re a moderate, how can you win the nomination?’ It’s who I am.” But progressives are not likely to be as silent now as they were during the Obama years.

Obama faced intense, often unfair, resistance from the right on every front, so many who wanted to push him in a more progressive direction held their criticism or limited it for fear of adding to the damage being done to him by his conservative opposition.

But many progressives emerged from that unhappy or downright angry. They are not likely to repeat what many consider a mistake.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NY Times Comment:
I’m sorry, you couldn’t be much farther off Mr. Blow. We had a chance for a 2nd blue wave, and we blew it. The left wing of the Democratic party has possibly damaged our only chance to mitigate climate change in the next 10 years. The far left has to modify their rhetoric of democratic socialism, and their unrealistic pleas for defund the police. Their refusal to look coldly at where the bulk of the country is, nearly cost us four more years of Trump, who was and is still working to end the democracy, as well as speed up the rape of the planet. Choosing language that Rupert Murdoch and his media empire can’t exploit is not just smart, it is a necessary sacrifice. AOC has so polluted the term Green New Deal with democratic socialist ideas, none of which I disagree with, that the term is now a danger to our political success in fighting climate change. Now we need to call it something else. We need a giant jobs program focused on efficient and sustainable development. And we need serious police reform, including reforms to make bad apples accountable. And a better safety net, could mean that the police are not always required to handle calls for the mentally sick.

Opinion | Destructive Power of Despair – by Charles Blow – The New York Times

by Charles Blow:

“. . .  Indeed, America is not only the progenitor of this type of violence, but it sadly responds most to violence. That’s when people pay attention, that’s when the ears perk up, that’s when the news crews come.

During the Civil Rights Movement, the protesters practiced nonviolence, but they were regularly met with violence, and it was that violence that spurred action.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed after the violence against protesters was broadcast on TV, four little girls were killed in the bombing of Birmingham, Ala.’s 16th Street Baptist Church and the killing of Medgar Evers in 1963. The Civil Rights Act of 1968, popularly known as the Fair Housing Act, was passed after Martin Luther King was assassinated and rioting swept the country.

If America wants peace it must be responsive in peacetime. You can’t demonize an athlete who peacefully takes a knee to protest against police brutality, labeling him a “son of a bitch,” as President Trump did, and then pine for peaceful protests now.

It seems that no form of protest has been effective in this fight for justice. It seems that what the public and the power structure want is a continuation of the status quo. They want stillness and passivity. They want obedience. They want your suffering to be silent, your trauma to be tranquil.

That won’t happen.

Some of the people now breaking things and burning things and looting things are ironically participating in a storied American tradition. There has long been a penchant for destruction in this country, an insatiable bloodlust, that the country conveniently likes to forget.”

David Lindsay: I am devastated by the murder of George Floyd, and the culture which produces such police behavior. I also have no patience for looters. I want them stopped. Charles Blow has at least made me think harder about my hardened heart, as he exlains why one might sympathize with them. Here is a comment I liked

J. Grant

Pacifica, CA
Times Pick

Here in the Bay Area of California, what’s particularly distressing is that the rage felt by Africans Americans over George Floyd’s death is causing (in places like Oakland) the looting and burning of many businesses owned by African Americans. It’s one thing to convey anger against our nation’s racially-biased policIng by demonstrating, but why hurt some of the very same people who are being victimized through random acts of violence?

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Opinion | They Acquitted Trump. Make Them Pay! – by Charles Blow – The New York Times

“This has long since stopped being solely about Trump. This is about the whole of the Republican Party. Indeed, there is no longer a Republican Party. There is now only the Party of Trump. He is them; they are him.

Sure, most Republican senators are safe this cycle, but some are most definitely vulnerable. That vulnerability must be capitalized upon. They have to go. These are senators like Susan Collins of Maine, David Perdue of Georgia, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona.”

Opinion | My Journey to Radical Environmentalism – By Charles M. Blow – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“I can’t quite remember the moment when I became radicalized about protecting the environment and the planet, but it happened last year. That’s late in life, I know. At 49 years old, it is very possible and even likely that I have more years behind me than in front of me, but that is when it happened.

Before that, I didn’t do more than was required by law.

I have lived in New York City since 1994. Mandatory recycling was phased in citywide by 1997. So, I recycled what was required.

Five years ago, when my last two children went away to college, I got rid of my car, but not for environmental reasons. I just didn’t need it anymore, and it was expensive to maintain.

But something happened to me last year.

Maybe it was Greta Thunberg’s advocacy, and hearing her impassioned United Nations speech in which she blasted world leaders, saying:

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying; entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” “

David Lindsay: I read this piece with delight. I wrote a comment that started: Welcome Charles Blow, welcome.

Here are the two most liked comments I approved:

Daniel Smith
Leverett, MA
Times Pick

I’m very glad to see that Charles Blow, someone I respect a great deal, has discovered the environment. But the environmentalism he describes is in no way radical. It is not radical in the popular sense of embracing major change and it is not radical in the classical sense of going to the roots of a problem. (On both of those counts, a good example of radical environmentalism would be the Green New Deal, which is notably absent here.) We are not going to be saved by changing individual consumption or by proselytizing–this has been the mantra for decades and it has failed miserably–but only by organized and massive political activism that changes the way our society as a whole governs itself. The problem is systemic and social, and the solution must occur at that level also. This is certainly Greta Thunberg’s message, and also the message of virtually every expert you can find on social change and social movements. So I hope Charles will keep us posted (and soon!) on how his environmentalism evolves in a truly radical dimension.

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John Williams commented January 8

John Williams
Petrolia, CA

“I think that the only way to prevent the radical alteration of our planet is to commit to a radical alteration of our own behavior.” Yup, that’s what the Green New Deal is about. As an old man who learned the basic physics of global warming i 1970, and who watched economic inequality grow obscenely over the second half of his life, I say it is about time.

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