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.” . . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“What do the left-wing San Francisco Board of Education, Donald Trump’s right-wing G.O.P. and all the deer that hang out in my neighborhood have in common? So much more than you’d think. And the future of American democracy rides on understanding why.

Let me start with the deer. The reason they are so comfortable lollygagging through our yards and multiplying like rabbits is that they know from experience that they have no predators — no hunters, no mountain lions out here in suburban Maryland. So, they do all sorts of stupid stuff, like walk into the middle of the road and get hit by cars, rub the bark off tree trunks and eat all our flowers.

Well, those deer are like the San Francisco Board of Education when it recently decided — in a self-parody of political correctness — to prioritize renaming 44 public schools that had been named for people who, it argued, had exhibited racist behaviors in their lifetimes, including Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere and Senator Dianne Feinstein. They put this task ahead of getting kids back into those schools, which have been shut for the pandemic.

Such nonsense happens because, like my deer, San Francisco’s school board has no political predators. Liberal Democrats dominate politics there, so there’s no serious threat from a conservative alternative.

That is a lot like Trump and his followers, whose attachment to him has become so cultlike that every other Republican leader knows that challenging Trump is potential political suicide. The result: He, too, has no serious predators (I don’t count a waffling Mitch McConnell). This reality, plus Trump’s warped character, made him so reckless that he believed that he could shoot a whole branch of the U.S. government in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and his base would stick with him. And he was right!

My deer and San Francisco’s school board are local problems. The fact that one of our two national parties would stick with a leader who dispatched a mob to ransack the Capitol in hopes of overturning our last election is an acute national problem — a cancer, in fact. And like any cancer, the required treatment is going to be painful for the patient.

For me, that starts with getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate, granting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood (they each have more U.S. citizens than Wyoming) and passing a new Voting Rights Act that forbids voter suppression. While that may sound hyperpartisan, it’s the necessary, but not sufficient, remedy for America to regain its political health.” . . .

Thomas Friedman | Cyberspace Plus Trump Almost Killed Our Democracy. Can Europe Save Us? – The New York Times

To clean up the fake news on the internet, we should quickly get rid of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
“It stipulated that internet/cyberspace companies, which at the time were mostly crude search engines and aggregator sites . . . could not be held liable for defamatory or false posts by people using their platforms, the way The New York Times or CBS could be. ” Tom Friedman writes that Europe is leading the way.

. . . .  ” Shoshana Zuboff named this business model “surveillance capitalism,” and in a Times Op-Ed a year ago she detailed how these sites morphed from “bulletin boards” to “hyper-velocity global bloodstreams into which anyone may introduce a dangerous virus without a vaccine.”

Alas, our lawmakers were either too gridlocked, too bought off or too tempted to use these platforms themselves to produce serious legislation. And the platforms said, “Don’t blame us — regulate us.” But they all also used their vast lobbying powers to resist that.

The result? “While the Chinese have designed and deployed digital technologies to advance their system of authoritarian rule, the West has remained compromised and ambivalent,” Zuboff wrote last month in this paper. “This failure has left a void where democracy should be, and the dangerous result has been a two-decade drift toward private systems of surveillance and behavioral control outside the constraints of democratic governance.”

opean Union, which is already wary of the huge power of these big U.S. companies, has already forced search engines like Google to grant E.U. citizens the right to delete unfavorable or inaccurate online material about them from searches and is more sensitive to the dangers of fringe parties, will use its clout as the world’s largest trading bloc to show us how to democratically project our values into cyberspace.

A few weeks ago, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, released an open letter that pulled no punches. She noted that she had watched on television “as the angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. I found those images deeply unsettling. … This is what happens when messages spread by online platforms and social media become a threat to democracy.”

She noted that in December the E.U. leadership had proposed to the European Parliament a Digital Services Act and a Digital Market Act to make sure that “what is unlawful in the analogue world is in the future also unlawful online … We also want the platforms to provide transparency regarding how their algorithms work. … We also want clear requirements for internet firms to accept responsibility for the way in which they distribute, promote and remove content” and to mitigate the systemic risk they can pose.” . . .

Thomas Friedman | Made in the U.S.A.: Socialism for the Rich. Capitalism for the Rest. – The New York Times

“. . . There has been so much focus in recent years on the downsides of rapid globalization and “neoliberal free-market groupthink” — influencing both Democrats and Republicans — that we’ve ignored another, more powerful consensus that has taken hold on both parties: That we are in a new era of permanently low interest rates, so deficits don’t matter as long as you can service them, and so the role of government in developed countries can keep expanding — which it has with steadily larger bailouts, persistent deficit spending, mounting government debts and increasingly easy money out of Central Banks to finance it all.

This new consensus has a name: “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest,” argues Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, author of “The Ten Rules of Successful Nations” and one of my favorite contrarian economic thinkers.

“Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest” — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s — happens, Sharma explained in a phone interview, when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. Meanwhile, mediocre productivity in the real economy has limited opportunity, choice and income gains for the poor and middle class alike.” . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | President Donald J. Trump: The End – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Folks, we just survived something really crazy awful: four years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a network without integrity, each pumping out conspiracy theories without truth, brought directly to our brains by social networks without ethics — all heated up by a pandemic without mercy.

It’s amazing that our whole system didn’t blow, because the country really had become like a giant overheated steam engine. What we saw in the Capitol last week were the bolts and hinges starting to come loose. The departure of Donald J. Trump from the White House and the depletion of his enablers’ power in the Senate aren’t happening a second too soon.

Nor is Joe Biden’s inauguration, but he has his work cut out for him. Because we haven’t even begun to fully comprehend how much damage Trump, armed with Twitter and Facebook and leveraging the bully pulpit of the presidency and the cowardice of so many who knew better, has done to our nation’s public life, institutions and cognitive immunity.

This was a terrible, terrible experiment.

It’s not that Trump never did anything good. It’s that it was nowhere near worth the price of leaving our nation more divided, more sick — and with more people marinated in conspiracy theories — than at any time in modern history. We need to be simultaneously reunited, deprogrammed, refocused and reassured. The whole country needs to go on a weekend retreat to rediscover who we are and the bonds that unite us — or at least once did.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

“When all the facts come out about the treasonous attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired by President Trump, impeaching him three times won’t feel sufficient. Consider this Washington Post headline from Monday: “Video Shows Capitol Mob Dragging Police Officer Down Stairs. One Rioter Beat the Officer With a Pole Flying the U.S. Flag.”

That said, while I want Trump out — and I don’t mind his being silenced at such a tense time — I’m not sure I want him permanently off Twitter and Facebook. There’s important work that I need Trump to perform in his post-presidency, and I need him to have proper megaphones to do it. It’s to blow apart this Republican Party.

My No. 1 wish for America today is for this Republican Party to fracture, splitting off the principled Republicans from the unprincipled Republicans and Trump cultists. That would be a blessing for America for two reasons.

First, because it could actually end the gridlock in Congress and enable us to do some big things on infrastructure, education and health care that would help ALL Americans — not the least those in Trump’s camp, who are there precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated and left behind.”