Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

via Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now – The New York Times

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With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia- a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times

Two Americans snapped up large swaths of land in Chile, which they donated to a new conservation area that will be three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone…
NYTIMES.COM

 

“COCHRANE, Chile — An eagle soared over the lone house atop an arid hill in the steppes of Patagonia Park.

In the valley below, not far from the town of Cochrane, President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of a vast national park system in Chile stretching from Hornopirén, 715 miles south of the capital, Santiago, to Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America, where Chile splinters into fjords and canals.

The park is the brainchild of Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her husband, Douglas Tompkins, who founded The North Face and Esprit clothing companies, and starting in 1991, put $345 million — much of his fortune — buying large swaths of Patagonia.”

via With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia, a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times

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The Case Against Google – By CHARLES DUHIGG – NYT

Soon the Raffs began daydreaming about turning their idea into a moneymaker. They didn’t have the funds to compete with huge dating sites like Match.com, so they applied for a couple of patents and began brainstorming. They believed that their vertical-search technology was good — better, in fact, than almost anything they had seen online. Best of all, it was built to work well on almost any kind of data set. With just a bit of tinkering, it could search for cheap airline tickets, or great apartments, or high-paying jobs. It could handle questions with hard-to-compare variables, like what’s the cheapest flight between London and Las Vegas if I’m trying to choose between business class or leaving after 3 p.m.?

As far as they could tell, their search technology performed better on such problems than Google did, which Adam discovered when he tried to buy an iPod online. “I spent half an hour searching Google for the lowest price, and it drove me completely mad,” he told me. It was impossible for him to figure out which sites were selling iPods and which were selling accessories, like headphones or charging cords. Or Google would show Adam one price, but then the actual price was completely different. Or there was an extra charge for shipping. It seemed to Adam his technology would do a much better job.

Google executives, had they known of Adam’s frustrations, probably wouldn’t have been surprised. For years, Google had been trying to build a tool for comparing online prices. “The idea was you should be able to input any item, and we’d show you the best place to buy it,” says Brian Larson, a technical lead for what was then named Froogle and today is called Google Shopping. Larson’s team was small — just himself and one other programmer at first, and roughly a dozen people at its height — and Larson would regularly test how Froogle compared with other online price-comparison services. “Sometimes we were neck and neck; sometimes, not so much,” Larson said. “We had a hundred million product listings, which was better than competitors.” But they were often outperformed by sites like PriceGrabber.com, which had many more employees devoted to price comparisons.

Froogle’s limitations tended to pop up particularly when users included too many search parameters. For a while, Larson had a specific test search that Froogle kept failing, something like “white running shoes and cheap and free shipping.” Inevitably, the first result would be a Christmas elf wearing running shoes that some guy was selling online. No matter how Google’s engineers fiddled with their coding, they couldn’t stop the elf from appearing as the top link. Eventually, a manager bought the elf so it wouldn’t appear in the search results anymore. “We made elf T-shirts,” Larson told me. “It became our mascot.”

Adam and Shivaun’s technology was good enough to tell the difference between an elf wearing running shoes and an actual pair of running shoes. It was good enough, in fact, to figure out which websites charged hidden shipping fees and which offered truly good deals. So the Raffs quit their jobs, hired a few programmers, spent months perfecting their technology and, in early 2006, unveiled Foundem.com, a vertical-search engine for finding cheap online prices, to a small group of friends and associates. Each time someone used Foundem to buy something, the Raffs would receive a small payment from the website making the sale. Adam and Shivaun weren’t sure their company would succeed — there were already a couple of other big price-comparison search engines, like PriceGrabber, NexTag and, of course, Google itself — but they figured this was how the internet was supposed to work: Two people with a new idea can take on giants and, if their technology is good enough, grow into colossi themselves.

via The Case Against Google – The New York Times

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Attacking the ‘Woke’ Black Vote – by Charles Blow – NYT

One thing that is clear to me following the special counsel’s indictment of 13 Russians and three companies for interfering with our election is that the black vote was specifically under attack, from sources foreign and domestic. And this attack appeared to be particularly focused on young black activist-minded voters passionate about social justice: The “Woke” Vote.

The tragic irony is that these young people, many of whom already felt like the American political system was failing them, were encouraged to lay down one of the most powerful political tools they have, thereby ensuring an amplification of their own oppressions.

The indictment proclaims that the defendants acted as Americans to create social media pages and groups “which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues.” But that is a phrase so broad and bland as to obscure the piercing truth that the indictment reveals: Referencing actual voter suppression, it says that “in or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”

Indeed, the indictment includes some examples of that effort to suppress:

“On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Instagram account ‘Woke Blacks’ to post the following message: ‘Particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.’ ” Coincidentally (or not!) this was the exact same tack being taken by the Trump campaign during that time. Just before the election, a senior Trump campaign official told Bloomberg Businessweek, “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” in which Hillary Clinton’s “1996 suggestion that some African-American males are ‘super predators’ is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls — particularly in Florida.” This suppression may well have worked better against black people than other targets.

via Attacking the ‘Woke’ Black Vote – The New York Times

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Did George Washington Predict Donald Trump? – The New York Times

In September 1796, George Washington, weary of partisan combat just eight years after the ratification of the Constitution and the founding of the nation, wrote a farewell address explaining why he would not seek a third term. His message is worth remembering in our current political moment.

In elaborate and thoughtful prose, Washington raised red flags about disunity, false patriotism, special interests, extreme partisanship, fake news, the national debt, foreign alliances and foreign hatreds. With uncanny foresight, he warned that the most serious threat to our democracy might come from disunity within the country rather than interference from outside. And he foresaw the possibility of foreign influence over our political system and the rise of a president whose ego and avarice would transcend the national interest, raising the threat of despotism.

Washington certainly had great confidence, but in his address he didn’t brag about his accomplishments. On the contrary, he beseeched the Almighty to soften the impact of his errors and expressed hopes that the country would forgive them. He established a standard for presidential self-deprecation out of the fear that a president of grossly inflated ego could become a threat to democracy.

via Did George Washington Predict Donald Trump? – The New York Times

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Opinion | How to Reduce Shootings – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

Inevitably, predictably, fatefully, another mass shooting breaks our hearts. This time, it was a school shooting in Florida on Wednesday that left at least 17 dead at the hands of 19-year-old gunman and his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

But what is perhaps most heartbreaking of all is that they shouldn’t be shocking. People all over the world become furious and try to harm others, but only in the United States do we suffer such mass shootings so regularly; only in the United States do we lose one person every 15 minutes to gun violence.

So let’s not just mourn the dead, let’s not just lower flags and make somber speeches. Let’s also learn lessons from these tragedies, so that there can be fewer of them. In particular, I suggest that we try a new approach to reducing gun violence — a public health strategy. These graphics and much of this text are from a visual essay I did in November after a church shooting in Texas; sadly, the material will continue to be relevant until we not only grieve but also act.

via Opinion | How to Reduce Shootings – The New York Times

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The Truth About the Florida School Shooting – by David Leonhardt – NYT

It’s hard to imagine a worse distinction for a country to hold. A recent study in the journal Health Affairs concluded that the United States has become “the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into.”

via The Truth About the Florida School Shooting – The New York Times

Posted in David Leonhardt, Gun Violence and Gun Control | Tagged | Leave a comment

Death Toll Is at 17 and Could Rise in Shooting – The New York Times

PARKLAND, Fla. — A heavily armed young man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said.

Students huddled in horror in their classrooms, with some of them training their cellphones on the carnage, capturing sprawled bodies, screams and gunfire that began with a few shots and then continued with more and more. The dead included students and adults, some of whom were shot outside the school and others inside the sprawling three-story building.

The gunman, armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, the authorities said. He began his shooting rampage outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in this suburban neighborhood shortly before dismissal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way inside and proceeded down hallways he knew well, firing at students and teachers who were scurrying for cover, the authorities said.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” one student yelled over and over in one video circulating on social media, as more than 40 gunshots boomed in the background.

via Death Toll Is at 17 and Could Rise in Shooting – The New York Times

There are excellent comments after this NYT piece. Here is one I chose to repond to.

Katherine

St Louis 16 hours ago

If Sandy Hook didn’t lead to gun control reform, nothing will.

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Dear Katherine, I hope and believe that you are wrong, that nothing can be done about creating sensible gun control in the US. We have to oppose in elections the politicians who are well paid water carriers for the NRA, and the gun industry they choose to represent. This year, 2018, there will be a major mid-term election in November, and it is a good year to identify political action organizations or political candidates that will bring about sensible gun control.

In parts of the world where there has been strong gun control for a long time, these mass shootings are extremely rare. That would be most of the rest of the world. The United States is an outlier, in having a gun violence epidemic.

Here is an important story. “In 1996, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Mass Shooting Since.” by Will Oremus, Slate.com The political effort I refer to will cost us some time and money, but we owe it to the innocent casualties of these cruel and unnecessary mass shooting, to fight this fight, no matter how long it takes. I pledge $100. to this cause, for this election. But if all you can afford is $5.00, or just to make phone calls, it is time for the public to rise up, and insist on a “well regulated” militia.

x

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

Posted in David Lindsay, Gun Violence and Gun Control | Tagged | Leave a comment

The End of the Two-Party System – by David Brooks – NYT

“In the first half of the 1990s, I worked in Europe for The Wall Street Journal. I covered nothing but good news: the reunification of Germany, the liberation of Central Europe, the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Oslo peace process in the Middle East. Then, toward the end of my stay, there was one seemingly anomalous episode — the breakup of Yugoslavia.

In retrospect, the civil war in the Balkans was the most important event of that period. It prefigured what has come since: the return of ethnic separatism, the rise of authoritarian populism, the retreat of liberal democracy, the elevation of a warrior ethos that reduces politics to friend/enemy, zero-sum conflicts.

In those intervening years there’s been an utter transformation in the unconscious mind-set within which people hold their beliefs.

Back in the 1990s, there was an unconscious abundance mind-set. Democratic capitalism provides the bounty. Prejudice gradually fades away. Growth and dynamism are our friends. The abundance mind-set is confident in the future, welcoming toward others. It sees win-win situations everywhere.”

via The End of the Two-Party System – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr:  Brilliant writing David Brooks. You ended, “The scarcity mentality is eventually incompatible with the philosophies that have come down through the centuries. Decent liberals and conservatives will eventually decide they need to break from it structurally. They will realize it’s time to start something new.”
We definitely need a change, and you are correct in pointing out that scarcity will get worse, (since overpopulation and climate change continue to get worse.)
One of your commenters is right, that to equate the two parties is a false equivalence. If our democracy can survive the fascists now trying to make it a GOP one party system, there will be a renaissance of Democrats and Independents for at least 8 years. The republicans will either listen to voices like yours and clean themselves up, or be replaced, if we are lucky and successful, with a more environmentally aware conservative party.
x
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
Manage
THETAYSONREBELLION.COM
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Death by Hanging in Tehran – by Roger Cohen – NYT

“So Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian university professor and environmentalist, “commits suicide” in Tehran’s Evin prison two weeks after his arrest. His wife Maryam, summoned last Friday, is shown his body hanging in a cell. He is buried four days later in a village north of the capital, without an independent autopsy and after his family has come under intense Revolutionary Guard pressure to accept the official version of events.

Tell me another. Seyed Emami’s death is an outrage and an embarrassment to the Islamic Republic.

I met him in Iran in 2009, on the eve of a tumultuous presidential election that would lead to massive demonstrations and bloody repression. The theocratic regime that promised freedom in 1979 only to deliver another form of repression stood briefly on a knife-edge. Seyed Emami was a thoughtful, mild-mannered man, a sociologist and patriot with a love of nature. The notion that he would hang himself in a prison where they remove even your shoelaces strikes me as preposterous.

“I still can’t believe this,” his son Ramin Seyed Emami, a musician whose stage name is King Raam, wrote on Instagram.

Since anti-government protests began late last year, mainly in poorer areas that had been strongholds of the regime, Seyed Emami is the third case of a supposed suicide while in custody. In him, several of the phobias of Iranian hard-liners found a focus.

He was a dual national of the kind President Hassan Rouhani, a reformist, is trying to lure back to the country to spur growth. He was an environmentalist, one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, at a time when mismanagement and reckless dam building by the Revolutionary Guard and its front companies have contributed to water shortages. He was a Western-educated Iranian of the Rouhani camp, whose confrontation with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is in a particularly delicate phase.”

via Death by Hanging in Tehran – The New York Times

DL: Power to the people. Many good comments as well.

Posted in Bullies and Scoundrels, Iran, Roger Cohen | Tagged | Leave a comment