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.

Thomas Friedman | Trump’s Iran Policy Has Become a Disaster for the U.S. and Israel – The New York Times

“The judges have voted and the results are in: President Donald Trump’s decision to tear up the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 — a decision urged on by his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu — was one of the dumbest, most poorly thought out and counterproductive U.S. national security decisions of the post-Cold War era.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Moshe Ya’alon was the Israeli defense minister when the nuclear agreement was signed, and he strongly opposed it. But at a conference last week, he said, according to a summary by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “as bad as that deal was, Trump’s decision to withdraw from it — with Netanyahu’s encouragement — was even worse.” Ya’alon called it “the main mistake of the last decade” in Iran policy.

Two days later, Lt. General Gadi Eisenkot, Israel’s top military commander when Trump withdrew from the deal, offered a similar sentiment, which Haaretz reported as “a net negative for Israel: It released Iran from all restrictions, and brought its nuclear program to a much more advanced position.”

It sure has. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported that Iran has amassed a stock of enriched uranium hexafluoride that independent nuclear experts calculate is sufficient to produce weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear bomb in as little as three weeks.”

Thomas L. Friedman | The Climate Summit Has Me Very Energized, and Very Afraid – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I spent last week talking to all sorts of people gathered for the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, and it left me with profoundly mixed emotions.

Having been to most of the climate summits since Bali in 2007, I can tell you this one had a very different feel. I was awed by the energy of all the youth on the streets demanding that we rise to the challenge of global warming and by some of the amazing new technological and market fixes being proposed by innovators and investors. This was not the old days — everyone waiting for the deals cut by the priesthood of climate diplomats huddled behind closed doors. This was the many talking to the many — and I am buoyed by that.”

Thomas Friedman | Biden and Climate Change Have Reshaped the Middle East – The New York Times

“So, I just have one question: Should I point out how President Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is already reshaping Middle East politics — mostly for the better? Or should I wait a few months and not take seriously yet what one Gulf diplomat drolly said to me of the recent festival of Arab-Arab and Arab-Iranian reconciliations: “Love is in the air.”

What the heck, let’s go for it now.

Because something is in the air that is powerfully resetting the pieces on the Middle East chess board — pieces that had been frozen in place for years. The biggest force shifting them was Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and tell the region: “You’re home alone. If you’re looking for us, we’ll be in the Straits of Taiwan. Write often. Send oil. Bye.”

But a second factor is intensifying the pressure of America’s leaving: Mother Nature, manifesting herself in heat waves, droughts, demographic stresses, long-term falling oil prices and rising Covid-19 cases.

Indeed, I’d argue that we are firmly in a transition from a Middle East shaped by great powers to a Middle East shaped by Mother Nature. And this shift will force every leader to focus more on building ecological resilience to gain legitimacy instead of gaining it through resistance to enemies near and far. We are just at the start of this paradigm shift from resistance to resilience, as this region starts to become too hot, too populated and too water-starved to sustain any quality of life.”

Thomas L. Friedman | A Scary Energy Winter Is Coming. Don’t Blame the Greens. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Every so often the tectonic geopolitical plates that hold up the world economy suddenly shift in ways that can rattle and destabilize everything on the surface. That’s happening right now in the energy sphere.

Several forces are coming together that could make Vladimir Putin the king of Europe, enable Iran to thumb its nose at America and build an atomic bomb, and disrupt European power markets enough that the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Glasgow could suffer blackouts owing to too little clean energy.

Yes, this is a big one.

Natural gas and coal prices in Europe and Asia just hit their highest levels on record, oil prices in America hit a seven-year high and U.S. gasoline prices are up $1 a gallon from last year. If this winter is as bad as some experts predict — with some in the poor and middle classes unable to heat their homes — I fear we’ll see a populist backlash to the whole climate/green movement. You can already smell that coming in Britain. . . .

. . . .  Sadly, in an overreaction to the Fukushima nuclear accident, Germany decided in 2011 to phase out all of its nuclear power by 2022 — nuclear power stations that in the year 2000 generated 29.5 percent of Germany’s power generation mix. All of that has to be replaced by wind, solar, hydro and natural gas, and there is just not enough now.

As Bill Gates points out in his smart book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” the only way to reach our climate targets is to shift production of all the big heavy industries, like steel, cement and automobiles, as well as how we heat our homes and power our cars, to electricity generated from clean energy. Safe and affordable nuclear power has to be part of our mix because, Gates argues, “it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Thomas Friedman, for this entire essay. I read Bill Gate’s book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” and I recommend to to all Americans who can read. For the others, there is already an audio book. Gates has a team of scientists that have reinvented a new nuclear power plant that cannot explode or melt down, and runs on old nuclear waste. What is holding them up, is that no one will let them build the first one. I nominate Connecticut to step up and be first. Gate’s book doesn’t go into his nuclear plant work. My reference for that is a documentary on Netflix called, Inside Bill’s Brain, part three.
David lives in Connecticut, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Thomas Friedman | Do Democrats Have the Courage of Liz Cheney? – The New York Times

“. . . Just listen to Cheney. Addressing her fellow Republicans on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, she noted that when they abet Trump’s delegitimization of the last election, “in the face of rulings of the courts, in the face of recounts, in the face of everything that’s gone on to demonstrate that there was not fraud … we are contributing to the undermining of our system. And it’s a really serious and dangerous moment because of that.”

This is Code Red. And that leads me to the Democrats in Congress.

I have only one question for them: Are you ready to risk a lot less than Liz Cheney did to do what is necessary right now — from your side — to save our democracy?

Because, when one party in our two-party system completely goes rogue, it falls on the other party to act. Democrats have to do three things at the same time: advance their agenda, protect the integrity of our elections and prevent this unprincipled Trump-cult version of the G.O.P. from ever gaining national power again.

It is a tall order and a wholly unfair burden in many ways. But if Cheney is ready to risk everything to stop Trump, then Democrats — both moderates and progressives — must rise to this moment and forge the majorities needed in the Senate and House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill (now scheduled for a Thursday vote in the House), a voting rights bill and as much of the Build Back Better legislation as moderate and progressives can agree on.  . . . “

Thomas L. Friedman | On Afghanistan and the Taliban, Biden Could Still Be Right – The New York Times

(DL: When he is good, he is great)

“For years, U.S. officials used a shorthand phrase to describe America’s mission in Afghanistan. It always bothered me: We are there to train the Afghan Army to fight for their own government.

That turned out to be shorthand for everything that was wrong with our mission — the idea that Afghans didn’t know how to fight and just one more course in counterinsurgency would do the trick. Really? Thinking you need to train Afghans how to fight is like thinking you need to train Pacific Islanders how to fish. Afghan men know how to fight. They’ve been fighting one another, the British, the Soviets or the Americans for a long, long time.

It was never about the way our Afghan allies fought. It was always about their will to fight for the corrupt pro-American, pro-Western governments we helped stand up in Kabul. And from the beginning, the smaller Taliban forces — which no superpower was training — had the stronger will, as well as the advantage of being seen as fighting for the tenets of Afghan nationalism: independence from the foreigner and the preservation of fundamentalist Islam as the basis of religion, culture, law and politics. In oft-occupied countries like Afghanistan, many people will actually prefer their own people as rulers (however awful) over foreigners (however well intentioned).

“We learn again from Afghanistan that although America can stop bad things from happening abroad, it cannot make good things happen. That has to come from within a country,” said Michael Mandelbaum, a U.S. foreign policy expert and the author of “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era.” “

Thomas L. Friedman | Want to Get Trump Re-elected? Dismantle the Police. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Like everyone else, I look forward to a summer of reconnecting with family and friends and relishing a good ole Fourth of July barbecue — unmasked! But I will be doing so with a pit in my stomach, because just beneath the surface calm in America, volcanic forces are gathering that could blow the lid off our democracy. We are living in a fool’s paradise. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Three recent news stories have me terrified:

First are the unfolding reports about how Donald Trump’s Justice Department secretly seized the personal data of journalists and Democrats in Congress from phone and tech companies while investigating leaks, and even secured Trump’s own White House counsel’s data. Now imagine what would happen if Trump was re-elected in 2024 by his cultlike following and he didn’t have to worry about facing voters again? He’d be out of control.”

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Bravo Thomas Friedman. When you are good, you’re great. You end, “This is political dynamite for Democrats. The Trump-cult G.O.P. will pound them on this policing issue. Biden needs to keep rallying his party tightly around his right answer: transformed policing and sufficient policing — not defunding the police. Because if people feel forced to choose security over democracy — concerns about stealing outside their door over stealing an election — beware: Way too many will choose Trump and his cult.” I couldn’t take fault with anything in your piece, but I worry that unarmed old progressives like myself would be sorry partners in a civil war. While I enjoyed the top comments, they didn’t ever address directly your essay or its multiple points. It makes me wonder if the NYT comments section, which I love, should add a new category, On Topic, next to, Reader Picks, and NYT Picks, that would steer some of us to comments that actually address the essay that provides the forum, but is often ignored, or replied to only obliquely. While this might be a silly idea, or way to much work, maybe there is a solution. I will start rereading the NYT Picks, to see if they have a quiet bias towards this desire I have, to see writers address the essay at hand. Friedman is right to warn us of how dire this Defund the Police language will be to the future of our democracy. Here in Hamden CT, there are young radicalized progressive no nothings that spout Defund the Police, hurting Democrats.

Thomas L. Friedman | The Best Anyone Can Hope For With Iran Is Pretty Bad – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Since Iran and the U.S. held more talks this week to try to revive their nuclear deal, with some progress reported, I want to share my views on this subject: I supported the original deal negotiated by Barack Obama in 2015. I did not support Donald Trump’s tearing it up in 2018, but when he did I hoped that he’d leverage the economic pain he inflicted to persuade Iran to improve the deal. Trump failed at that, leaving Iran free to get closer than ever to a bomb. I support Joe Biden trying to revive the deal. And I support Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage Iran’s ability to ever build a nuclear weapon — no matter what the deal.

If that sounds contradictory, it’s because, well, it just sounds that way. There is a unifying thread running through it all: Dealing effectively with Iran’s Islamic regime — in a way that permanently eliminates its malign behavior — is impossible.” . . . 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
First response. I’m a bit lost. I like Tom Friedman’s brutal honesty, but I despise the Syrian Shiite regime of Assad. The Iranians will probably run out of water in the next 50 years, according to a major Virgina military think tank, so we could just wait out this group of old mullahs. What else could we do? Maybe, apologize to the Iranians for overthowing their leftist democracy 70 years ago, and essentially let them have the nuclear bomb they crave. Offer Israel nuclear protection. If Iran or one of its neighbors destroys Israel, with one lousy nuke, we will destroy the attacker, with as many nukes as it takes to destroy their goverment. Another idea, take out Assad, and destroy his regime, and put in its place our allies, the Sunnis to the north he has been fighting in that brual civil war. Maybe instead, we have to recongnize our inability to manage these foreign interventions well, and focus on our own, serious domestic problems. But supporting the butcher Assad doesn’t excite me. Destroying him, we might accidentally destroy the Russians fighting in Syria, sending a message to Putin about our feelings towards unlimited cyber ransomware attacks. Whatever we do, or don’t do, follow Sun Tsu’s dictum, if you are not smart enough or patient enough to avoid war, get in and get out, do not stick around. Patience might be best.

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.  . . . “