What We Learned from This Morning’s Newspaper

Items today concern the US military budget, the Chinese balloon, flooding in Houston, Richard Powers on a real battle for trees, and the passing of the 747. All items from today’s paper (the New York Times).

Just a couple days ago I posted an item about ways to cut spending by the US government, given the current deficit ceiling debate. And noted, from a WaPo piece by Paul Waldman, this paragraph:

The military is the place to start cutting, said Lindsay Koshgarian of the Institute for Policy Studies. “More than half of the military budget goes to contractors in an average year, subsidizing multimillion-dollar CEO salaries and stock buybacks, as well as cases of egregious overcharging,” she told me. “Trimming weapons and military contracts is long overdue. And Congress routinely refuses to allow the Pentagon to retire weapons systems it no longer wants.”

The front page of today’s New York Times provides an example.

NY Times, 5 Feb 2023: The Pentagon Saw a Warship Boondoggle. Congress Saw Jobs., subtitled “After years of crippling problems and a changing mission, the Navy pushed to retire nine of its newest ships. Then the lobbying started.”

Print headline: “Lobbying Helped Save 5 Flawed Warships: Navy Wanted to Retire Failing Vessels.”


The big front page headline in today’s NYT is this:

Downing of Chinese Spy Balloon Ends Chapter in a Diplomatic Crisis, subtitled “The balloon, spotted earlier this week over the western United States, was brought down when an F-22 fighter jet fired an air-to-air missile at it off the coast of South Carolina.”

Print title: “U.S. Shoots Down a Balloon China Sent to Surveil: Pentagon Says Recovery Effort Will Seek Debris From the Atlantic Ocean.”

Much panic among Republicans: shoot it down now! Later news revealed that such balloons drifted over the US several times before, including during Trump’s administration, and he suppressed the news. My thought, without any research: if the intent was actually to spy on the US, wouldn’t that have been done much more efficiently from orbit? Surely the Chinese have as many spy satellites as we do. That said, I agree with Marco Rubio (for once) that if an American balloon had drifted over China, they would have shot it down much more quickly than we shot theirs down.


A couple more items from the Sunday Opinion section.

NYT, Jake Bittle, 4 Feb 2023: They Were Proud Houston Homeowners. Then It All Fell Apart.

Because of floods due to climate change. This news has been so pervasive over years and decades it’s hard to feel sympathy for the victims who haven’t paid attention. At the same time, maybe that’s a mean take. Most people don’t pay attention, and the government, especially when led by Republicans, are in denial. And only recently have insurance companies, which have permitted people to rebuild homes in flood zones, begun to realize that theirs is not a long-term strategy. They’re a business, and need to avoid going bankrupt with endless claims due to climate calamities that can be anticipated.


NYT, Richard Powers guest essay, 2 Feb 2023: Five Years Ago, I Wrote a Fictional Disaster That Is Now Playing Out in Real Time

The novelist recalls his 2018 novel The Overstory, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and real story in the news about a battle in the South River Forest, near Atlanta, that has turned violent. The print title is the first line of the online article: “What Could Make a Person Die for Trees?”


Three more just headlines.

NYT, Zeynep Tufekci, 3 Feb 2023: An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here

NYT, Linda Greenhouse, 30 Jan 2023: The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society

NYT, Sam Howe Verhovek, 1 Feb 2023: Bon Voyage, Boeing 747. You Really Did Change Everything.

I’ll comment on this last one, in a bit, or tomorrow. 5:40pm now and I need to finish quickly.


Today’s blog title is that of a 1972 Robert Silverberg story: What We Learned from This Morning’s Newspaper. It’s about a neighborhood that gets their newspapers delivered, and discovers one morning they’ve gotten the next week’s paper in their driveways, complete with news headlines, obituaries — and stock market reports.

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