Thomas Friedman | Why Do We Swallow What Big Oil and the Green Movement Tell Us? – The New York Times

“. . . . Because our continued addiction to fossil fuels is bolstering Vladimir Putin’s petrodictatorship and creating a situation where we in the West are — yes, say it with me now — funding both sides of the war. We fund our military aid to Ukraine with our tax dollars and some of America’s allies fund Putin’s military with purchases of his oil and gas exports.

And if that’s not the definition of insanity, then I don’t know what is.

Have no illusion — these sins of the green movement and the oil industry are not equal. The greens are trying to fix a real, planet-threatening problem, even if their ambition exceeds their grasp. The oil and coal companies know that what they are doing is incompatible with a stable, healthy environment. Yes, they are right that without them there would be no global economy today. But unless they use their immense engineering talents to become energy companies, not just fossil fuel companies, there will be no livable economy tomorrow.

Let’s look at both. For too long, too many in the green movement have treated the necessary and urgent shift we need to make from fossil fuels to renewable energy as though it were like flipping a switch — just get off oil, get off gasoline, get off coal and get off nuclear — and do it NOW, without having put in place the kind of transition mechanisms, clean energy sources and market incentives required to make such a massive shift in our energy system.

It’s Germany in 2011, suddenly deciding after the Fukushima accident to phase out its 17 relatively clean and reliable nuclear reactors, which provided some 25 percent of the country’s electricity. This, even though Germany had nowhere near enough solar, wind, geothermal or hydro to replace that nuclear power. So now it’s burning more coal and gas.

A 2019 working paper for the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found that in Germany “the lost nuclear electricity production due to the phaseout was replaced primarily by coal-fired production and net electricity imports. The social cost of this shift from nuclear to coal is approximately $12 billion per year. Over 70 percent of this cost comes from the increased mortality risk associated with exposure to the local air pollution emitted when burning fossil fuels.” “

Thomas Friedman | How Do We Deal With a Superpower Led by a War Criminal? – The New York Times

“It is hard to believe, but now impossible to deny, that the broad framework that kept much of the world stable and prospering since the end of the Cold War has been seriously fractured by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In ways we hadn’t fully appreciated, a lot of that framework rested on the West’s ability to coexist with Putin as he played “bad boy,” testing the limits of the world order but never breaching them at scale.

But with Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, his indiscriminate crushing of its cities and mass killings of Ukrainian civilians, he went from “bad boy” to “war criminal.” And when the leader of Russia — a country that spans 11 time zones, with vast oil, gas and mineral resources and more nuclear warheads than anyone else — is a war criminal and must be henceforth treated as a pariah, the world as we’ve known it is profoundly changed. Nothing can work the same.

How does the world have an effective U.N. with a country led by a war criminal on the Security Council, who can veto every resolution? How does the world have any effective global initiative to combat climate change and not be able to collaborate with the biggest landmass country on the planet? How does the U.S. work closely with Russia on the Iran nuclear deal when we have no trust with, and barely communicate with, Moscow? How do we isolate and try to weaken a country so big and so powerful, knowing that it could be more dangerous if it disintegrates than if it’s strong? How do we feed and fuel the world at reasonable prices when a sanctioned Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of oil, wheat and fertilizer?”

Thomas Friedman | In Ukraine, It’’s Putin’s Plan B vs. Biden’s and Zelensky’s Plan A – The New York Times

” . .  . .  “More than half of the goods and services flowing into Russia come from 46 or more countries that have levied sanctions or trade restrictions, with the United States and European Union leading the way,’’ The Washington Post reported, citing the economic research firm Castellum.ai.

The Post story added: “In a televised speech Thursday, a defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to acknowledge the country’s challenges. He said the widespread sanctions would force difficult ‘deep structural changes in our economy’ but vowed that Russia would overcome ‘the attempts to organize an economic blitzkrieg.’ Putin added: “It is difficult for us at the moment. Russian financial companies, major enterprises, small- and medium-sized businesses are facing unprecedented pressure.”

So, there you have the question of the hour: Will the pressure on NATO countries from all the refugees that Putin’s war machine is creating — more and more each day — trump the pressure being created on his stalled army on the ground in Ukraine and on his economy back home — more and more each day?

The answer to that question should determine when and how this war ends — whether with a clear winner and loser or, maybe more likely, with some kind of dirty compromise tilted for or against Putin.

I say “maybe” because Putin may feel he cannot tolerate any kind of draw or dirty compromise. He may feel that anything other than a total victory is a humiliation that would undermine his authoritarian grip on power. In that case, he could opt for a plan C — which, I am guessing, would involve air or rocket attacks on Ukrainian military supply lines across the border in Poland.

Poland is a NATO member, and any attack on its territory would require every other NATO member to come to Poland’s defense. Putin may believe that if he can force that issue, and some NATO members balk at defending Poland, NATO could fracture. It would certainly trigger heated debates inside every NATO country — especially in the United States — about getting directly involved in a potential World War III with Russia. No matter what happens in Ukraine, if Putin could splinter NATO, that would be an achievement that could mask all his other losses.

If Putin’s plans A, B and C all fail, though, I fear that he would be a cornered animal and he could opt for plan D — launching either chemical weapons or the first nuclear bomb since Nagasaki. That is a hard sentence to write, and an even worse one to contemplate. But to ignore it as a possibility would be naïve in the extreme.” -30-

David Lindsay:

There were good comments about announcing we will use Russian money that we have frozen, to completely rebuild Ukraine, and then return to Russia what is left. Maybe $650 billion– won’t be much left after the rebuilding and reparations.

I still like the idea of a NATO no fly zone now, for the Ukraine. If NATO doesn’t  do it now, maybe they will do it later, after the Ukraine is destroyed, for Putin’s next acquisition. He is know to have list of targets. Apparently, Gen. Wesley Clark agrees. Here is a comment I endorsed”

Mitch Gitman
SeattleMarch 20

Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN today: “This is Ukraine’s airspace. This is not Russia’s airspace. You have to put the onus for the escalation on Russia.” I believe he was talking about the MiG-29s, but he could just as well have been talking about a no-fly zone. The fact is, Ukraine never invited Russia into its airspace. Ukraine HAS invited us into its airspace—nay, pleaded with us to fly into its airspace. And yet we’re supposed to accept Vladimir Putin’s terms of engagement that WE’RE the ones who are escalating?! But never mind putting American pilots in harm’s way, where are the drones and missiles we could be firing into Ukraine—not Russia—at Ukraine’s invitation? What about the long-range missiles we could provide the Ukrainians to sink the Russian navy bearing down on Odessa? We can control how and where we escalate. As Senator Ben Sasse said recently, “We’re a superpower, and Zelensky challenged us to act like it.” So what about the specter of a nuclear attack? Vladimir Putin’s desperate measures will not be a function of our having crossed some red lines that are well within the bounds of normal engagement. Will the entire Russian nuclear command sign a suicide pact just so one man is losing a war and feels cornered? The question is, do we have the courage to do the little it takes to win this war? Because I can guarantee you, if we don’t win it in Ukraine, we will have to find the courage to win it somewhere we will not be so able to distance ourselves from.

16 Replies798 Recommended

Thomas L. Friedman | Putin Has No Good Way Out, and That Really Scares Me – The New York Times

“If you’re hoping that the instability that Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has wreaked on global markets and geopolitics has peaked, your hope is in vain. We haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until Putin fully grasps that his only choices left in Ukraine are how to lose — early and small and a little humiliated or late and big and deeply humiliated.

I can’t even wrap my mind around what kind of financial and political shocks will radiate from Russia — this country that is the world’s third-largest oil producer and possesses some 6,000 nuclear warheads — when it loses a war of choice that was spearheaded by one man, who can never afford to admit defeat.

Why not? Because Putin surely knows that “the Russian national tradition is unforgiving of military setbacks,” observed Leon Aron, a Russia expert at the American Enterprise Institute, who is writing a book about Putin’s road to Ukraine.

“Virtually every major defeat has resulted in radical change,” added Aron, writing in The Washington Post. “The Crimean War (1853-1856) precipitated Emperor Alexander II’s liberal revolution from above. The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) brought about the First Russian Revolution. The catastrophe of World War I resulted in Emperor Nicholas II’s abdication and the Bolshevik Revolution. And the war in Afghanistan became a key factor in Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms.” Also, retreating from Cuba contributed significantly to Nikita Khrushchev’s removal two years later.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
NATO should deliver those Polish Migs to the Ukrainians by flying them into the Ukraine under a the wing of a dozen fighters, and make sure they are delivered properly, to the Ukrainian air force.
If the NATO had any real courage, they would honor their agreement to protect the Ukraine when it voluntarily gave up its vast nuclear arsenal, and instigate a no fly zone, and go to war if necessary to stop the invasion of what was and is for a few more weeks, a free, democratic country. Sitting by and watching fascists kill men, women and children, is so 20th century.
David blog at InconvenientNews.net

Thomas Friedman | This Is Putin’s War. But America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders. – The New York Times

“. . .  The most important, and sole, voice at the top of the Clinton administration asking that question was none other than the defense secretary, Bill Perry. Recalling that moment years later, Perry in 2016 told a conference of The Guardian newspaper:

“In the last few years, most of the blame can be pointed at the actions that Putin has taken. But in the early years I have to say that the United States deserves much of the blame. Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when NATO started to expand, bringing in Eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia.

“At that time, we were working closely with Russia and they were beginning to get used to the idea that NATO could be a friend rather than an enemy … but they were very uncomfortable about having NATO right up on their border and they made a strong appeal for us not to go ahead with that.”

On May 2, 1998, immediately after the Senate ratified NATO expansion, I called George Kennan, the architect of America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union. Having joined the State Department in 1926 and served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow in 1952, Kennan was arguably America’s greatest expert on Russia. Though 94 at the time and frail of voice, he was sharp of mind when I asked for his opinion of NATO expansion.

I am going to share Kennan’s whole answer:

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.

“We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a lighthearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs. What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was. I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe.

“Don’t people understand? Our differences in the Cold War were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime. And Russia’s democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we’ve just signed up to defend from Russia. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
These are great comments in opposition, but I still agree with Tom Friedman and George Kennan. We could have and should have held off the expansion of NATO, and not given the Putins in Russia such low hanging fruit, when its new and naked democracy was just trying to get off the ground and fly. Democracy is a tricky way to live, and sometimes, it feels as fragile as a butterfly. As one writer pointed out recently, we have had thousands of years of strong men and women, kingdoms and dictatorships. Democracy hasn’t yet really proven it can survive for very long.
This heavy handedness in 1998 is on NATO, and President Bill Clinton, and his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who, was raised in Czechoslovakia. She got her native land protected into NATO, without seeing as deeply as the old man Kennan and his allies, who warned of creating a backlash. Maybe Putin would have seized power anyway, but that is beside the point. NATO expansion before it was needed, logically, helped people like Putin come to and consolidate power, and undo the new Russian democracy. It is my sense now that NATO should go to war with Putin if necessary to protect the Ukraine. Since we helped create this Putin dictatorship monster, we should help kill it. The counter though, is that Sun Tzu would warn, long wars are for the weak minded and impatient.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Thomas Friedman | America 2022: Where Everyone Has Rights and No One Has Responsibilities – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/08/opinion/spotify-joe-rogan-covid-free-speech.html

“. . . . When Rogan exercised his right to spread misinformation about vaccines, and when Spotify stood behind its biggest star, they were doing nothing illegal.

They were just doing something shameful.

Because the Rogan podcast episode that set off the controversy, an interview with Dr. Robert Malone, who has gained fame with discredited claims, completely ignored the four most important statistical facts about Covid-19 today that highlight our responsibilities — to our fellow citizens and, even more so, to the nurses and doctors risking their lives to take care of us in a pandemic.

The first three statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest surveys. First, unvaccinated adults 18 years and older are 16 times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than fully vaccinated adults. Second: Adults 65 and older who are not vaccinated are around 50 times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than those who have received a full vaccine course and a booster. Third: Unvaccinated people are 20 times more likely to die of Covid than people who are vaccinated and boosted.

The fourth statistic is from a survey from the staffing firm Cross Country Healthcare and Florida Atlantic University’s College of Nursing, released in December. It found that the emotional toll and other work conditions brought on by the pandemic contributed to some two-thirds of nurses giving thought to leaving the profession.

A McKinsey study last month about the stress on nurses quoted Gretchen Berlin, a registered nurse and McKinsey partner, as saying: “Many patients, especially at the start of this, had only the nurses with them for those final moments, and I’m not sure that we’ve provided the decompression space for what that does to an individual who has to see that and support people through that over and over again. … The level of stress that individuals are dealing with is going to have massive implications on everyone’s well-being.” “

Thomas Friedman | Neil Young and Liz Cheney, Thanks for Sticking Your Necks Out – The New York Times

“. . . Let me try to explain the urgency of this moment by drawing a parallel between how our environment and our political system are both losing critical buffers that had long kept them stable.

Sometimes it’s helpful to think of the interlocking systems that support life on earth as if they were parts of a car that chugs along, occasionally hitting potholes that we humans create through our excesses — CO₂ emissions, deforestation and pollution.

This car always had lots of bumpers, spare tires, shock absorbers, airbags and backup batteries to keep it running smoothly, no matter how recklessly we drove, according to Johan Rockström, one of the world’s leading earth system scientists, who heads the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. These buffers were our oceans, ice caps, tropical forests, glaciers, freshwater rivers, coastal mangroves and rich topsoils, and they were able to absorb so much of our abuse and keep us in this Garden of Eden climate we’ve enjoyed since the last ice age.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you Tom Friedman for another magnificent piece. I have a quibble. You do a disservice to Liz Cheney by giving Neil Young equal weight in the beginning statement. Liz Cheney and I disagree about a lot, but she has put her job, her career, and her livelihood on the line, to try and save the Republican party from a conman and his followers, and the far right, which includes authoritarian and white racist Christian fascists. That is a much braver position, than quitting Spotify, which other have quit before, because it also doesn’t pay well, and hurts thousands of other musicians.
I am pleased to have always boycotted Spotify. But I tip my hat to Liz Cheney. We desperately need, as Friedman as so clearly written himself, a healthy, vibrant conservative but democratic Republican party, for our democracy to thrive.

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 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.”