Why Qatar Is in the Naughty Corner – The New York Times

“Despite the convenience of this narrative, there are other forces at play. In reality, Qatar has been ostracized by its “brotherly” neighbors, as the language of regional diplomacy has it, for not kowtowing to the collective vision for the Middle East now largely shared by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

There is no doubt that the al-Thani clan, which rules the emirate from its capital, Doha, has funded militants fighting the regime of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria and meddled in the internal affairs of other Arab nations through its support of the Muslim Brotherhood, notably in Egypt. But these are relative sideshows in a broader regional game. Even allowing for the seeming hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia’s making such accusations, given its history of backing Sunni militant groups in Syria and its military intervention in Yemen, the allegations are so well known as to be tired at this point.”

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India’s Battered Free Press – The New York Times

“Press freedom in India suffered a fresh blow on Monday when the country’s main investigative agency raided homes and offices connected to the founders of NDTV, India’s oldest television news station. The raids mark an alarming new level of intimidation of India’s news media under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

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Trump Lies. China Thrives. – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“One of the many dangers posed to our society by having a president who’s a serial liar — and who doesn’t behave like an adult, let alone a president — is that we more easily ignore him even if he happens to say something true.Yes, some things are true even if Donald Trump believes them. I explored one of them in China last week — Trump’s charge that China is playing unfair on trade.

My visit to Beijing left me with two very strong responses. The first is that we underestimate China — and attribute all of its surge in growth to unfair trade practices — at our peril. The country has been fast and smart at adopting new technologies, particularly the mobile internet. For instance, China has moved so fast into a cashless society, where everyone pays for everything with a mobile phone, that Chinese newspapers report beggars in major cities have started to place a printout of a QR code in their begging bowls so any passer-by can scan it and use mobile payment apps like Alibaba’s Alipay or Tencent’s WeChat Wallet to contribute to the beggar’s mobile payment account.”

It is time to play rough with China on trade and access. I’m pleased that Tom Friedman is writing about this. It has been going on way too long.

Here is a comment I support:


New York City 15 minutes ago

While no one can dispute what Mr. Friedman is saying, he doesn’t mention the other elephant in the room, which is China’s wholesale practice of co-opting technologies by nefarious means — this, coupled with its vast export of commodities to foreign markets has also given it an additional advantage on the trade front.
As for Trump’s assertions that China is “playing unfair on trade”, as long as he continues to use Chinese-made steel, and not American, in building his businesses both here and abroad, he should keep his mouth shut.
Which of course, he never will.


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A Case for Jeremy Corbyn – by Roger Cohen – NYT

For a long time I could not bring myself to write about the British election. Trump-coddling, self-important, flip-flopping Theresa May, ensconced at 10 Downing Street without ever being elected prime minister, was going to sweep to her hard-Brexit victory and take the country down her little England rabbit hole.There were more important things to think about, like the end of the American century in 2017, one hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution. A boorish clown named Donald Trump brought down the curtain.”

Bravo. Magnificent. And I thought the trains in England were still nationalized.

Here are the two top comments, to help celebrate this forceful op-ed.


is a trusted commenter Paris 22 hours ago

“Still, Corbyn would not do May’s shameful Trump-love thing.” And that, in the eyes of the British electorate, is a big thumbs up for Mr. Corbyn! Trump is toxic waste pretty much anywhere. It’s got to such a point that soon I’d expect, if the Russians could vote in a free election, they’d vote out Putin because he’s too close to Trump.

Larry Eisenberg

is a trusted commenter Medford, Ma. 22 hours ago

I hope the Brits put Corbyn in,
A pro-Trumpist May is a sin,
An anti-Trump Britain
In these times is fittin’
T’would give Trump a kick in the shin.

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Trump’s Incredible Shrinking America – by Charles Blow – NYT

“Last month in Europe, Trump was as boorish and belligerent as it was possible to be, lashing out at our NATO allies about their defense spending just after having been gracious and magnanimous to leaders in the Middle East.Then last week Trump thumbed his nose at the world and the planet by announcing that he would pull America out of the Paris climate accord, even though a Yale survey found the agreement was popular and a majority of Americans in every state — including those that Trump won — wanted the United States to stay in the agreement.

But even beyond whether or not it was popular, staying in was right. More than 190 countries — most of the countries on the planet — are signatories to the agreement. We have one planet. It is in trouble. The world must band together to save it. How does it look for the world’s last remaining superpower to simply walk away?”

Excellent essay by Charles Blow. Here is one of many good comments, all quite depressing:

Jan Laidlaw Australia

8 hours ago

As an Australian, I wake up every morning thinking ‘What will Trump have done overnight?’ The answer every day is ‘Something that degrades America’s status world wide’.

The man appears to have never had any training in Manners 101 – how to get on with people. Watching him galumphing around on the world stage with world leaders such as Germany’s Merkel and France’s Macron, and lots of others, his performance can only be described as totally uncouth, cringe worthy, not only for his lack of understanding of basic politeness, but also, and more importantly, his total lack of understanding of world issues. American issues, any issues.

I’m obviously not an American, but I cannot think of a single step that Trump has taken so far, in such a short time frame, that has not been an absolute disaster for America and its place in the world.

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Donald Trump Poisons the World – by David Brooks – NYT

This week, two of Donald Trump’s top advisers, H. R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, wrote the following passage in The Wall Street Journal: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a cleareyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

That sentence is the epitome of the Trump project. It asserts that selfishness is the sole driver of human affairs. It grows out of a worldview that life is a competitive struggle for gain. It implies that cooperative communities are hypocritical covers for the selfish jockeying underneath.

The essay explains why the Trump people are suspicious of any cooperative global arrangement, like NATO and the various trade agreements. It helps explain why Trump pulled out of the Paris global-warming accord. This essay explains why Trump gravitates toward leaders like Vladimir Putin, the Saudi princes and various global strongmen: They share his core worldview that life is nakedly a selfish struggle for money and dominance.

It explains why people in the Trump White House are so savage to one another. Far from being a band of brothers, their world is a vicious arena where staffers compete for advantage.”

“. . .We’ve seen this philosophy before, of course. Powerful, selfish people have always adopted this dirty-minded realism to justify their own selfishness. The problem is that this philosophy is based on an error about human beings and it leads to self-destructive behavior in all cases.

The error is that it misunderstands what drives human action. Of course people are driven by selfish motivations — for individual status, wealth and power. But they are also motivated by another set of drives — for solidarity, love and moral fulfillment — that are equally and sometimes more powerful.”

Yesterday was an amazing day of editorial and op-ed writing at the NYT, but this piece taught me the most of all the extraordinary writings.

Comments are mixed. People still hate Brook’s long silent period. But look at the comment I found which shows that many of us have misquoted Hobbes, by not knowing the whole quote!!

View from the hill

is a trusted commenter Vermont 1 day ago

As Hobbes wrote, without a sense of community, there can be “no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

This is the world Trump would give us.

Here is one of my favorite commentators, doing well again:

Christine McM

is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 1 day ago

Of all the Trump appointments, McMaster is by far the most disappointing.

It is hard to watch a smart man – or rather should say smart men and women defending this president. It is even harder to listen to the litany of alleged accomplishments, all set to hyperbole and over statement.

When Trump returned from his trip abroad, it’s as if a full cabinet had been groomed to praise his leadership and impact in the world. It almost sounded like a satire of a bad movie where the bad dictator demands vigorous loyalty. I almost wondered if I had been following the same trip.

But McMaster is a special case, because of his sterling reputation and his moral study of what happens when military leaders succumb to political pressure.

For him to justify, even in general, the back channeling of Jared Kushner is a joke. The circumstances and timing are totally different from any back channeling done by former administrations.

Surely McMaster knows that and yet he followed the party line, sent to defend the indefensible on Sunday morning talk shows.

Two days ago, the times wrote how difficult it was for The administration to attract new talent. Is it any wonder?

Donald Trump is having a corrosive influence on the people around him. To watch Sean Spicer being forced to praise a man who merits none makes me think of any number of historical figures surrounded by sycophants leading their countries into disastrous foreign policy decisions.

McMaster wrote the book on this. Sad.

Posted in David Brooks | Tagged | 1 Comment

Six Days and 50 Years of War – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.Unforgiven, Israel’s milder critics say, because the Six-Day War, even if justified at the time, does not justify 50 years of occupation. They argue, also, that Israel can rely on its own strength as well as international guarantees to take risks for peace. This is a historic nonsense.”

Here  again, the comments make one smarter. Stevens seems to make good points, until someone pokes holes in them. I found this top comment more informative than the op-ed itself.


Silver Spring, MD 12 hours ago

Stephens repeats many of the tired cliches used to justify Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land. Most notable is the assertion that Yasser Arafat rejected a reasonable offer for a Palestinian state at Camp David. There is ample evidence that the offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David could not have been accepted by Arafat — the West Bank was cut up into a patchwork of bantustans by settlement blocs, bypass roads and zones of “temporary Israeli control”. Israel would have controlled all border crossings. The Israeli offer was improved considerably at Taba later in 2000, but by that time Barak had lost the election; time ran out. Then there’s the cliche that Israel turned Gaza over to the Palestinians, who ungratefully responded with attacks against Israel. But the people of Gaza have never been free from Israeli control; Israel has tight control over everything entering and leaving the strip (including building material needed to rebuild after Israeli bombs reduce much of Gaza to rubble).
The greatest problem in Stephens’ piece is his confusion of cause and effect. He admits that settlement growth outside the historically recognized blocs was a “mistake” made by Israel, but doesn’t seem to see the connection between this ubiquitous — and growing — symbol of domination and the Palestinian resistance. He certainly doesn’t explain how any Palestinian behavior necessitates the continual construction of more Israeli settlements.

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Trump’s Stupid and Reckless Climate Decision – by Bill McKibben – NYT

“Those changes, and similar ones agreed to by other nations, would not have ended global warming. They were too small. But the hope of Paris was that the treaty would send such a strong signal to the world’s governments, and its capital markets, that the targets would become a floor and not a ceiling; that shaken into action by the accord, we would start moving much faster toward renewable energy, maybe even fast enough to begin catching up with the physics of global warming. There are signs that this has been happening: The plummeting price of solar energy just this spring persuaded India to forgo a huge planned expansion of coal plants in favor of more solar panel arrays to catch the sun.

China is shutting coal mines as fast as it can build wind turbines.And that’s precisely the moment President Trump chose to make his move, a bid to undercut our best hope for a workable future in a bizarre attempt to restore the past. A few fossil-fuel barons may be pleased (Vladimir Putin likely among them, since his reign rests on the unobstructed development of Russia’s hydrocarbons), but most of the country and the world see this for the disaster it is. Majorities in every single state, red and blue alike, wanted America to stay in the accord.”

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Donald Trump’s Insult to History – The New York Times

“The tectonic plates of Europe are shifting, and President Trump is at the heart of this upheaval. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany bluntly made that point on Sunday when she said, “The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” and the result is that “we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.”With that line, it became clear that the United States is no longer the reliable partner her country and the rest of Europe have long depended on.

Since World War II, the United States led the way in building a new international order rooted in NATO and the European Union as well as a belief in democracy and free markets. Britain, France and Germany were central to that effort, which for 70 years kept the peace and delivered prosperity to millions of people while standing firm against the Soviet threat, helping end the Bosnian War and combating extremism in Afghanistan.”

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The Billionaire Gadfly in Exile Who Stared Down Beijing – The New York Times

The biggest political story in China this year isn’t in Beijing. It isn’t even in China. It’s centered at a $68 million apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.That’s where Guo Wengui, a billionaire in self-imposed exile, has hurled political grenades at the Chinese Communist Party for months, accusing senior leaders of graft using Twitter as his loudspeaker. He escalated his attack by claiming that members of the family of China’s second most powerful official, who oversees the country’s anticorruption effort, secretly own a large stake in a major Chinese conglomerate.”

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