Thomas L. Friedman | The ‘Mean Greens’ Are Forcing Exxon to Clean Up Its Act – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Since the 1990s, the wisest oil-producing countries and companies have regularly reminded themselves of the oil patch adage that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; it ended because we invented bronze tools. When we did, stone tools became worthless — even though there were still plenty on the ground.

And so it will be with oil: The petroleum age will end because we invent superior technology that coexists harmoniously with nature. When we do, there will be plenty of oil left in the ground.

So be careful, wise producers tell themselves, don’t bet the vitality of your company, community or country on the assumption that oil will be like Maxwell House Coffee — “Good to the last drop” — and pumped from every last well. Remember Kodak? It underestimated the speed at which digital photography would make film obsolete. It didn’t go well for Kodak or Kodachrome.

Alas, though, not every oil company got the memo.

One that most glaringly did not is the one that in 2013 was the biggest public company in the world! It’s ExxonMobil. Today, it is no longer the biggest. As a result of its head-in-the-oil-sands-drill-baby-drill-we-are-still-not-at-peak-oil business model, Exxon lost over $20 billion last year, suffered a credit rating downgrade, might have to borrow billions just to pay its dividend, has seen its share price over the last decade produce a minus-30 percent return and was booted from the Dow Jones industrial average.  . . . “

Thomas Friedman | On Israel-Palestine, Biden Must Revive a Two-State Solution – The New York Times

“. . .  Therefore, I hope that when the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, he conveys a very clear message: “From this day forward, we will be treating the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as a Palestinian state in the making, and we will be taking a series of diplomatic steps to concretize Palestinian statehood in order to preserve the viability of a two-state solution. We respect both of your concerns, but we are determined to move forward because the preservation of a two-state solution now is not only about your national security interests; it is about our national security interests in the Middle East. And it is about the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party. So we all need to get this right.’’

For starters, Biden should reshape U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian relations by opening a diplomatic mission to the P.A. — as the nascent Palestinian state government — near its headquarters in Ramallah. At the same time, he should invite the P.A. to send a diplomatic representative to Washington as the would-be ambassador of a future Palestinian state.    . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Thomas Friedman. Sounds like a plan, and it just might, help starve the beast, which would be Hamas for the Palestinians, and Netanyahu and the right wing pro settler parties of Israel. I support these proposals as reasonable ideas, though I do not think the US should pay for it all. We no longer need the oil of the middle east. What we need is to focus ourselves and the world on combatting climate change and the sixth extinction, which are threats to all humans and non humans alike. World popuation grew from 2 to 7.8 billion in the last 90 years. All our foreign aid should be part of a larger war on overpopulation and climate changing pollution from fossil fuels.

Thomas L. Friedman | For Trump, Hamas and Bibi, It Is Always Jan. 6 – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“There are many ways to understand what is happening today between Hamas and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, but I prefer to think about it like this: They are each having their own Jan. 6 moment.

Just as a mob was unleashed by President Donald Trump to ransack our Capitol on Jan. 6 in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results and prevent a healing unifier from becoming president, so Bibi and Hamas each exploited or nurtured their own mobs to prevent an unprecedented national unity government from emerging in Israel — a cabinet that for the first time would have included Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab Muslims together.

Like Trump, both Bibi and Hamas have kept power by inspiring and riding waves of hostility to “the other.” They turn to this tactic anytime they are in political trouble. Indeed, they each have been the other’s most valuable partner in that tactic ever since Netanyahu was first elected prime minister in 1996 — on the back of a wave of Hamas suicide bombings.

No, Hamas and Bibi don’t talk. They don’t need to. They each understand what the other needs to stay in power and consciously or unconsciously behave in ways to ensure that they deliver it.

Thomas L. Friedman | Israelis, Palestinians and Their Neighbors Worry: Is This the Big One? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Let’s see, what happens when TikTok meets Palestinian grievances about right-wing Israeli land grabs in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem? And then you add the holiest Muslim night of prayer in Jerusalem into the mix? Then toss in the most emotional Israeli holiday in Jerusalem? And a power play by Hamas to assume leadership of the Palestinian cause? And, finally, a political vacuum in which the Palestinian Authority is incapable of holding new elections and Israel is so divided it can’t stop having elections?

What happens is the explosion of violence around Jerusalem on Monday that quickly spread to the Gaza front, and has people asking: Is this the big one? Is this the start of the next Palestinian uprising?

The Israeli government, the surrounding Arab nations and the Palestinian Authority all desperately want the answer to be “no” — Israel because it would find little support from a left-leaning White House, let alone the rest of the world, for a big crackdown on Palestinians; the Arab governments because most of them want to do business with Israeli tech-makers, not get mired defending Palestinian rock-throwers; and the Palestinian leadership because it would expose just how little it controls the Palestinian street anymore.

But unlike the Intifadas that began in 1987 and 2000, when Israel had someone to call to try to turn it off, there is no Palestinian on the other end of the phone this time — or, if there is, he’s a 15-year-old on his smartphone, swiping orders and inspiration from TikTok, the video app often used by young Palestinians to challenge and encourage one another to confront Israelis.  . . . “

Thomas L. Friedman | Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.

We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly.

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.”

“. . . There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now. And the more one G.O.P. lawmaker after another signs on to Trump’s Big Lie, the more it gives the party license at the state level to promote voter suppression laws that ensure that it cannot lose ever again. . . . .”

Thomas L. Friedman | We Need a High Wall With a Big Gate on the Southern Border – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Rafal Milach/Magnum Photos

“After reading as much as I can about the latest surge in illegal immigration along our southern border, I’m still not clear how much is seasonal, how much is triggered by President Biden’s announcement that he was halting construction of Donald Trump’s border wall and reviewing Trump’s asylum policies, and how much is just the lure of jobs in a rapidly vaccinating United States.

But this latest flood of illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers — more than 170,000 apprehended in March alone, including thousands of children, mostly fleeing chaos in Central America — only reinforces my view that the right border policy is a high wall with a big gate.

I wish we could take in everyone suffering in the world and give each a shot at the American dream, but we can’t while maintaining our own social cohesion, which is already fraying badly enough. So, making immigration policy today requires a tough-minded balance between hardheartedness and compassion.

If we just emphasize the high wall, and wear cruelty as a badge of honor, as Trump did, we lose out on the huge benefits of immigration. But if all we do is focus, as many on the left do, on the evils of a wall and ignore the principles of a big gate — that would-be immigrants and asylum-seekers need to get in line, ring our doorbell and enter legally, and those who don’t should be quickly evicted — we will also lose out on the huge benefits of immigration.

Why? Because so many Americans will think that the border is open and out of control that they will elect leaders who will choke off all immigration, which is the lifeblood of our country. Have no doubt, a seemingly out-of-control border would be a godsend for the Trump G.O.P. — an emotional club even more evocative than the mantra “Defund the police” with which to beat Democratic candidates in the midterms.

Already, a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 57 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the border.”   . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Bravo and thank you Thomas Friedman. I strongly second this opinion piece. Joe Biden is doing a great job on many fronts. Since I think climate change is an existential threat, Joe Biden gets my support for taking this giant threat seriously. But I, like most Americans, want to end illegal immigration, and see a regulated immigration system that serves the needs and desires of the country. Biden will be handing the government back to the Republican party of Trump, and the anti-science modern versions of the know nothings and white supremacists set back by Abraham Lincoln. I expect Friedman understands that his high wall, is really a hardened wall, which isn’t always a physical wall at all. There are plenty of technologies and policy choices to harden the border, without the environmental degredation of a physical wall. I would add to his list of ideas, that we amend the 14th amendment to do away with automatic citizenship for even illegals and tourists born here. We need to expand our guest worker program, so that guest workers are not exploited by rapacious employers. We need to clean up this poitical hot potato of illegal immigration, so we can focus on the host of other problems that threaten the United States and the world.

Thomas L. Friedman | The Biden Boom – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“After our presidential election I wrote that what had just happened felt to me as if Lady Liberty had been crossing Fifth Avenue when out of nowhere a crazy guy driving a bus ran a red light. Thankfully, “Lady Liberty leapt out of the way barely in time, and she’s now sitting on the curb, her heart pounding, just glad to be alive.” But she knows just how narrowly she escaped.

I hoped that once Joe Biden took charge my anxiety over how close we came to losing our democracy would soon fade. It hasn’t.

Just listen to Donald Trump or Senator Ron Johnson or Fox News whitewashing the ransacking of the Capitol as a Republican white boys’ picnic that just got a little rowdy. Just listen to Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell trying to escape a lawsuit by arguing that no serious person would have believed her claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines had helped to perpetrate a stolen election. Just watch Georgia’s legislature pass a measure supposedly designed to prevent the very fraud that Powell now says never happened by creating obstacles for Black voters — even making it a crime for anyone to serve water to someone waiting hours in a voting line.

Yes, that crazy bus driver is still out there and Lady Liberty is still in danger of being run over.” . .

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Thomas Friedman for making this day a good one. You had so many good paragraphs, here are my favorites: “What would Trump do if he presided over such a boom? HE’D PUT HIS NAME ON IT. That’s what Biden should do. If it comes, call it the “Biden Boom” — and celebrate entrepreneurs, capitalists, job creators, farmers and all those who work with their hands. Make clear that they all have a home in the Democratic Party, not just left-wing educated elites. That’s how you win the midterms. . .

. . . Then, once these green technologies are affordable, said Harvey, “you stimulate the private sector to make them steadily cheaper and more efficient by having the government set improved performance standards every year” — like California recently did, requiring the end of internal combustion engines in cars by 2035, and the way Obama did in 2012, when he required U.S. automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025.”

A few commenters were upset about your call for a dash of Reagan. Let me try and explain to them, Reagan had a long list of faults as well as strengths. He was a brilliant marketer, even if of mostly right-wing ideas. He increased military spending, which I was against, but it contributed to the bankrupting of the Soviet Union and it’s collapse.

Sun Tzu wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself. I heartily support Friedman’s points, especially, borrow a page from Trump, the media maestro, and call your work the Biden Boom. Don’t follow Obama, who famously forgot to win elections.

Thomas L. Friedman | One Year Later, We Still Have No Plan to Prevent the Next Pandemic – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Imagine that in December 2019 country X had a nuclear accident — a missile test gone awry. It resulted in a small nuclear explosion that sent a cloud of radioactivity around the world, causing 2.66 million deaths, plus trillions of dollars in health care costs and lost commerce that nearly triggered a global depression. What do you think we’d be talking about today?

We’d be discussing a new global regime of nuclear weapons safety protocols to try to make sure it never happened again.

Well, we just had the natural world equivalent of such a nuclear accident. It is widely suspected that a pathogen in a bat jumped to another animal to a human in China and then hopped onto the globalization express, causing extraordinary suffering and trillions of dollars in damage. And this happened after several decades of other pandemics set off by unhealthy human interactions with wildlife — with bats or civets in the case of Ebola and SARS-CoV-1 and most likely chimps in the case of H.I.V.

As we have just hit the one-year mark since the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen that causes Covid-19 — a pandemic, it’s appropriate to ask what smart collective action are we pursuing to prevent this from ever happening again.” . . .

Friedman talks about many aspects of the problem, but especially the need to ban wet markets like those in China, that were the probable source of this pandemic. We also have to ban the buying and selling of wild animals for restaurant food. Deforestation is a major cause for the bringing of wild animal viruses into proximity with humans, and might kill us off.
He ends with:

“As Russ Mittermeier, chief conservation officer for Global Wildlife Conservation, remarked to me: “We marvel when a spacecraft lands on Mars to search for minute traces of life that may or may not exist.” At the same time here on earth, “we continue to destroy and degrade amazingly diverse ecosystems, like tropical forests and coral reefs,” that sustain and enrich us.

Halting that practice is the only truly sustainable vaccine against the next pandemic. In other words, it’s time that we stop looking for intelligent life on Mars and start manifesting it here on planet earth.”   -30-

Thomas L. Friedman | Israel, the U.A.E. and a New Middle East – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Luca Locatelli/Institute

“I was Googling around the other day for a factoid: how many Israelis had visited the United Arab Emirates since the signing of their normalization agreement, known as the Abraham Accords. Answer: more than 130,000.

Jumping Jehoshaphat, Batman! In the middle of a global pandemic, at least 130,000 Israeli tourists and investors have flown to Dubai and Abu Dhabi since commercial air travel was established in mid-October!

I believed from the start that the openings between Israel and the U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — forged by Jared Kushner and Donald Trump — could be game-changing. We are still in the early phase, though, and having lived through the shotgun marriage and divorce of Israelis and Lebanese Christians in the 1980s, I will wait a bit before sending wedding gifts.”

“. . . Today, “there are three powerful non-Arab actors in the region — Iran, Turkey and Israel — and they have each constructed their own regional axis,” argues Itamar Rabinovich, the Israeli Middle East historian, who just co-wrote “Syrian Requiem,” a smart history of the Syrian civil war. Those three axes, Rabinovich explains, are Turkey with Qatar and their proxy Hamas; Iran with Syria and Iran’s proxies running Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen; and Israel with the U.A.E., Bahrain and tacitly Saudi Arabia and Oman.

It’s the interactions of these three axes, says Rabinovich, that are really driving Middle East politics today. And because the U.A.E.-Israel axis brings together the most successful Arab state with the most successful non-Arab state, it’s radiating a lot of energy.” . . .

Thomas Friedman | Can You Believe This Is Happening in America? – The New York Times

” . . . What’s going on? Well, in the case of Texas and Mars, the basic answers are simple. Texas is the poster child for what happens when you turn everything into politics — including science, Mother Nature and energy — and try to maximize short-term profits over long-term resilience in an era of extreme weather. The Mars landing is the poster child for letting science guide us and inspire audacious goals and the long-term investments to achieve them.

The Mars mind-set used to be more our norm. The Texas mind-set has replaced it in way too many cases. Going forward, if we want more Mars landings and fewer Texas collapses — what’s happening to people there is truly heartbreaking — we need to take a cold, hard look at what produced each.

The essence of Texas thinking was expressed by Gov. Greg Abbott in the first big interview he gave to explain why the state’s electricity grid failed during a record freeze. He told Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. … Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. … It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”

The combined dishonesty and boneheadedness of those few sentences was breathtaking. The truth? Texas radically deregulated its energy market in ways that encouraged every producer to generate the most energy at the least cost with the least resilience — and to ignore the long-term trend toward more extreme weather.” . . . .