Opinion | If We Had a Real Leader – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

“This week I had a conversation that left a mark. It was with Mary Louise Kelly and E.J. Dionne on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and it was about how past presidents had handled moments of national mourning — Lincoln after Gettysburg, Reagan after the Challenger explosion and Obama after the Sandy Hook school shootings.

The conversation left me wondering what America’s experience of the pandemic would be like if we had a real leader in the White House.

If we had a real leader, he would have realized that tragedies like 100,000 Covid-19 deaths touch something deeper than politics: They touch our shared vulnerability and our profound and natural sympathy for one another.

In such moments, a real leader steps outside of his political role and reveals himself uncloaked and humbled, as someone who can draw on his own pains and simply be present with others as one sufferer among a common sea of sufferers.

If we had a real leader, she would speak of the dead not as a faceless mass but as individual persons, each seen in unique dignity. Such a leader would draw on the common sources of our civilization, the stores of wisdom that bring collective strength in hard times.

Lincoln went back to the old biblical cadences to comfort a nation. After the church shooting in Charleston, Barack Obama went to “Amazing Grace,” the old abolitionist anthem that has wafted down through the long history of African-American suffering and redemption.

In his impromptu remarks right after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy recalled the slaying of his own brother and quoted Aeschylus: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

If we had a real leader, he would be bracingly honest about how bad things are, like Churchill after the fall of Europe. He would have stored in his upbringing the understanding that hard times are the making of character, a revelation of character and a test of character. He would offer up the reality that to be an American is both a gift and a task. Every generation faces its own apocalypse, and, of course, we will live up to our moment just as our ancestors did theirs.”

Opinion | Can a Facebook Oversight Board Push Back the Ocean? – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing Opinion writer.

Credit…Richard Drew/Associated Press

“So, big surprise, I have not been asked to be on Facebook’s Supreme Court of content. I was all ready to do an anti-Sherman if called: I will accept if nominated and will serve if elected.

Half of its members were finally announced on Wednesday morning, including four co-chairs, one of whom is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former prime minister of Denmark. She is clearly aces in terms of reputation and credibility, one of a slate of 20 members who scream global, fancy résumés, diverse and politically balanced.

Together, the independent organization, which is funded by the social media giant by a trust it cannot mess with, will judge appeals from users on material that has been taken down from the platform by the company, and it will review policy decisions that the company has submitted to the board.

The group selected so far — there are 20 more names to come — is qualified to do all that and a bag of chips. There is a former judge and vice president of the European Court of Human Rights (Andras Sajo), the former editor in chief of The Guardian (Alan Rusbridger), a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who promoted free speech in Yemen during the Arab Spring (Tawakkul Karman), a vice chancellor of the National Law School of India University (Sudhir Krishnaswamy), the former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice (Emi Palmor) and the leader of Africa’s Internet Without Borders (Julie Owono).

Impressively impressive no doubt, and designed to be that way, which is why it is also nonoffensively nonoffensive.

As yet, there are no loudmouths, no cranky people and, most important, no one truly affected by the dangerous side of Facebook. I asked in a press call on Wednesday morning, for example, why there were no board members like the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, who were terrorized by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on the platform until he was finally tossed off. I also asked whether we could find out who turned down an offer to be on the oversight board.”

David Lindsay:

After the 2016 election, I learned that Facebook, confronted with the fact that Russian and Republican bullies and scoundrels had promoted fake news on Facebook, and helped it go viral with trolls and bots. Facebook refused to do anything about this disastrous misuse of thier now major news platform. It became clear to me that Facebook had to be broken up and  regulated, like all news organizations.

Here is the most popular comment, which I support:

Paul Mc
Cranberry Twp, PA

If our Justice department still had an anti-trust division, worthy of the name, Facebook would have been broken up long ago, or regulated and held accountable for it’s content, as are (most) other legitimate media organizations.

6 Replies127 Recommended

An ‘Avalanche of Evictions’ Could Be Bearing Down on America’s Renters – By Sarah Mervosh – The New York Times

 

“EUCLID, Ohio — The United States, already wrestling with an economic collapse not seen in a generation, is facing a wave of evictions as government relief payments and legal protections run out for millions of out-of-work Americans who have little financial cushion and few choices when looking for new housing.

The hardest hit are tenants who had low incomes and little savings even before the pandemic, and whose housing costs ate up more of their paychecks. They were also more likely to work in industries where job losses have been particularly severe.

Temporary government assistance has helped, as have government orders that put evictions on hold in many cities. But evictions will soon be allowed in about half of the states, according to Emily A. Benfer, a housing expert and associate professor at Columbia Law School who is tracking eviction policies.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Commen:
I’m worried today about the people described in this NYT article this morning, renters who will get evicted without many more months of extended Federal help to laid off workers. Is it too late to use the European trick, and have them all get paid by their former employers, funded by the government? If so, isn’t it time for a big call to extend unemployment support and rent subsidies for people who are not able to work? Do we really want millions of new homeless, during a pandemic?
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

Opinion | Why a Biden Victory Hinges on Picking the Right Running Mate – By Rachel Bitecofer – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Bitecofer is a senior researcher at the Niskanen Center.

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Do vice-presidential picks matter? Conventional wisdom argues they have limited electoral impact.

But a vice-presidential pick does matter in a particular way to elections. It suggests the strategy and tactics a campaign will pursue. The pick might complement the ticket, like Al Gore did for Bill Clinton in 1992, or the pick might balance the ticket, like Mike Pence did for Donald Trump.

So Joe Biden’s electoral fate may well hinge on this decision. In our polarized era, where turnout determines election victors and each party’s coalition has become more locked in, ticket-balancing picks for vice president can be helpful in mending primary wounds and generating excitement for the coalition in the general election.

That is why Mr. Biden should select for his running mate a ticket balancer.

Now, the temptation for Mr. Biden to pick a ticket “complementer” will be high. All the conventional wisdom suggests that ticket complementers “do no harm” because they are, essentially, prototypes of the presidential nominee.

By contrast, ticket balancers offer voters something the main nominee lacks and often are meant to motivate a group within the coalition with which the nominee has struggled to gain traction. Balancers are perceived to be riskier, especially since John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin in 2008.

Hillary Clinton is often castigated as running a terrible, horrible, no good, doomed campaign. She actually ran a perfectly fine campaign — but strategically speaking, it was the wrong kind of campaign. It was based on the flawed assumption that a significant portion of American conservatives would not, simply could not, vote for Donald Trump.

But on Election Day, 90 percent of Republicans voted for him; Mrs. Clinton also failed to carry independents, despite a campaign structured mostly on winning them over.

Mrs. Clinton’s “do no harm” pick — Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia — ended up doing her considerable harm. The strategy built around the pick ended up leaving the party’s progressive flank vulnerable to, among other things, a sophisticated Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign.

In addition, so-called protest balloting in 2016 was three to five times higher than normal in the swing states. In states like Wisconsin, which was decided by less than a percentage point, nearly 6 percent of the electorate cast protest ballots. For all the attention placed on white, working-class voters and their continued realignment away from Democrats, protest balloting affected the outcome of every swing state contest and played a pivotal role in Mr. Trump’s destruction of the Democrat’s Midwest “blue wall.”

Yet Mr. Trump still has a plurality problem, and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, knows it. Even before the pandemic came along to destroy his best argument for re-election, the economy, Mr. Trump was unpopular among independents and has hardly ever (aside from a brief moment early in the coronavirus crisis) hit 50 percent approval rating nationally and rarely in swing states.

The only way to re-elect a plurality president is to make a plurality vote share sufficient enough to win. And the best way to do that is to replicate Russia’s playbook of targeting parts of the Democratic coalition — like progressives and young black voters — to turn them against voting for Mr. Biden.

 

The only person who has as much riding on Mr. Biden’s decision is Mr. Trump. As in 2016, he hopes to pick off or discourage disgruntled progressive voters. Much of Mr. Trump’s re-election hopes are pinned on Mr. Biden making the wrong choice of running mate.

So the Biden team must make a pick that can help Democrats match what promises to be an energized Republican base. The best way to do that is a ticket-balancing candidate like Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris. They would bring gender and racial diversity to the ticket and, perhaps even more important, ideological diversity.

That might prove to be the single most effective way to head off the Trump campaign’s “divide and conquer” plan for progressives in 2020. With 120 million millennials and Generation Z potential voters now powering their coalition, Democrats would be wise to recognize that their electoral fate hinges on getting these voters to the polls. Mr. Biden is positioning himself as a bridge to the party’s future — and liberals like Ms. Harris and Ms. Abrams would help pave the way.

Another ticket-balancing approach would be to put a down payment on the Democratic Party’s geographic future. This approach would focus resources not as much on the Midwest but on Sunbelt states from California to Georgia through Texas, which could rise as a potential swing state as early as 2024. This would have the Biden team looking at Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Latina governor of New Mexico, or at Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada as potential running mates.

Mr. Biden’s nomination maxes out the ticket’s appeal to the center of the electorate. Among independents, the pandemic, economic collapse and Mr. Trump’s antics already provide Mr. Biden a hard edge. A centrist, ticket-complementing pick like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will likely bring diminishing returns in this regard. As a fellow white moderate, Ms. Klobuchar is a quintessential ticket complementor — a 2020 version of Mr. Kaine.

 

If Mr. Biden is going to ignore the fact that today’s Democratic Party represents the most racially diverse coalition in America’s history, he should at least look to a ticket balancer like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who would bring ideological diversity and guarantee robust turnout and loyal support among progressives, many of whom are independents.

The special election last week in California’s 25th District shows Democrats are still vulnerable to low turnout; when their coalition fails to turn out, they lose. It also dispelled a dangerous myth — suburban Republicans are not casting ballots for Democrats. If Democrats want to hold on to or even expand on their House gains from 2018 and potentially take control of the Senate, they need an excited electorate.

Election outcomes in key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona all come down to the same thing: the percentage of Democrats and left-leaning independents that end up casting ballots compared with the percentage of Republicans and right-leaning independents that do so. Republicans understand this campaign math and learned to solve this equation a long time ago. The only question is, have Democrats finally solved it too?

Rachel Bitecofer (@RachelBitecofer) is an election forecaster and senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.

Opinion | How Elon Musk Won the Fight to Reopen His Tesla Factory – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“How do you solve a problem like a tweet-storming Elon Musk?

Memo to the officials of Alameda County in Northern California: You don’t.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20, as the county officials have found in a high-profile tussle this week with Mr. Musk, the famous, and occasionally infamous, entrepreneur known for electric cars, space rockets, tunnel digging and creative baby-naming.

And, most of all, for tweet-baiting, which Mr. Musk used to great effect while clashing with local officials over the timing and terms of reopening of his Tesla factory in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Fremont. Mr. Musk closed the plant after shelter-in-place rules were put in place in March (after initially defying orders).

But now Mr. Musk has apparently had enough. He filed a lawsuit and threatened to move operations and 10,000 jobs out of state, even as several reports indicated that he had restarted production at the plant over the weekend, flouting the rules and attracting the ire of the local government.”

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Campaigning in a Crisis: Obama, McCain, Trump and Biden – By Adam Nagourney – The New York Times

“It was a late Sunday afternoon in September 2008, and senior aides to Barack Obama were gathered at his presidential campaign headquarters in Chicago. Their latest polling showed that Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, had lost his lead over his opponent, Senator John McCain, since the Republican convention. They were worried.

Two hours into the meeting, Mr. Obama walked in the door. Henry M. Paulson, the secretary of the Treasury, had just alerted him of bad economic news that would become public in the coming hours, Mr. Obama told his aides. “The world is going to change and whatever you guys are working on is going to be different tomorrow,” he said, according to participants.

Early the next morning, Lehman Brothers, one of the nation’s most prominent securities firms, filed for bankruptcy. The collapse shook the nation’s financial industry and sent the stock market into free fall. Overnight, with the election less than two months away, a historic economic crisis transformed America’s presidential race, testing both candidates on who best could lead the nation to recovery.

With its staggering death toll, surging unemployment and economic devastation, the Covid-19 crisis confronting the nation today is far more cataclysmic than the 2008 meltdown. But Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain faced a series of choices — on leadership, empathy and tone, on executing political strategy and navigating fast-moving events on Wall Street, Main Street and Washington — that are relevant and even illuminating as President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. try to navigate another campaign playing out against the backdrop of a national emergency.

Opinion | Crumbs for the Hungry but Windfalls for the Rich – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Cristobal Herrera/EPA, via Shutterstock

“While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one group: zillionaires. Their economic rescue package quietly allocated $135 billion — yes, that’s “billion” with a “b” — for the likes of wealthy real estate developers.

My Times colleague Jesse Drucker notes that Trump himself, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may benefit financially from this provision. The fine print was mysteriously slipped into the March economic relief package, even though it has nothing to do with the coronavirus and offers retroactive tax breaks for periods long before Covid-19 arrived.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, both Democrats, have asked the Trump administration for any communications that illuminate how this provision sneaked into the 880-page bill. (Officially, the provision is called “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other Than Corporations,” but that’s camouflage; I prefer to call it the “Zillionaire Giveaway.”)

About 82 percent of the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average benefit is $1.6 million.

In other words, a single mom juggling two jobs gets a maximum $1,200 stimulus check — and then pays taxes so that a real estate mogul can receive $1.6 million. This is dog-eat-dog capitalism for struggling workers, and socialism for the rich.”

Opinion | Covid Dreams, Trump Nightmares – by Maureen Dowd – The New York Times

“. . . The mask should be a medical signal, not a political one. But Trump rejects the mask because of a misbegotten image of masculinity and power. In denying the mask, he denies reality, science and the fact that the country is in a crouch. Trump has proved that people wearing a mask can present more truth than people not wearing a mask.

His latest con, something that he stupidly refers to as “Obamagate,” a scandal about unmasking, is also misbegotten. You can’t create a scandal about Obama out of nothing just because you hate the fact that he went by the book while you dwell in a murky world of transgressions, that he glides while you lurch.

Even as Trump tries to paint Joe Biden as gaga, he is doing something truly gaga: He is running the government that is responding to the worst pandemic in a century at the same time he is the leader of the resistance to his own government, urging people and states to open up whenever they see fit, recommending Clorox injections, stifling Dr. Fauci, refusing to wear the mask.

The fact is that Donald Trump has been wearing a mask for a long time, like Eleanor Rigby “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” He studied larger-than-life titans like George Steinbrenner and Lee Iacocca and invented a swaggering character called Donald Trump with a career marked by evasions, deceptions and disguises.

The young builder was intent, as T.S. Eliot wrote, to take the time “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Early on, Donald locked in his costume for the masquerade, the look of a C.E.O. in the ’80s. His body armor was a dark suit, white shirt and monochromatic silk tie. His hair was a blond helmet, his war paint was orange.

“He is the most vaudevillian performance artist who ever inhabited the White House,” says his biographer Tim O’Brien. “He has a consuming desire to always be center stage, yet he never wants to reveal who he really is. He masks his finances, his taxes, his friendships, his ongoing family conflicts of interest, his ignorance and his inadequacies. He’s constantly making up areas of expertise he doesn’t have.

“He doesn’t read the Bible and he doesn’t live as a Christian and love thy neighbor. But he is demanding that the churches be reopened because his evangelical base will love that. Everything he’s doing right now is to stave off a loss in November.”  . . .  “

Opinion | The First Invasion of America – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“I was an American history major in college, back in the 1980s.

I’ll be honest with you. I thrilled to the way the American story was told back then. To immigrate to America was to join the luckiest and greatest nation in history. “Nothing in all history had ever succeeded like America, and every American knew it,” Henry Steele Commager wrote in his 1950 book, “The American Mind.”

To be born American was to be born to a glorious destiny. We were the nation of the future, the vanguard of justice, the last best hope of mankind. “Have the elder races halted?” Walt Whitman asked, “Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas? We take up the task eternal.”

To be born American was to be born boldly individual, daring and self-sufficient. “Trust thyself: Every heart vibrates to that iron string,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in an essay called, very Americanly, “Self-Reliance.”

To be born American was to bow down to no one, to say: I’m no better than anyone else, but nobody’s better than me. Tocqueville wrote about the equality of condition he found in America; no one putting on airs over anyone else. In 1981, Samuel Huntington wrote that American creed was built around a suspicion of authority and a fervent rejection of hierarchy: “The essence of egalitarianism is rejection of the idea that one person has the right to exercise power over another.”
I found it all so energizing. Being an American was not just a citizenship. It was a vocation, a call to serve a grand national mission.

Today, of course, we understand what was wrong with that version of American history. It didn’t include everybody. It left out the full horrors of slavery and genocide.

But here’s what has struck me forcefully, especially during the pandemic: That whole version of the American creed was all based on an assumption of existential security. Americans had the luxury of thinking and living the way they did because they had two whopping great oceans on either side. The United States was immune to foreign invasion, the corruptions of the old world. It was often spared the plagues that swept over so many other parts of the globe.”

Brooks ends with, “Something lovely is being lost. America’s old idea of itself unleashed a torrent of energy. But the American identity that grows up in the shadow of the plague can have the humanity of shared vulnerability, the humility that comes with an understanding of the precariousness of life and a fierce solidarity that emerges during a long struggle against an invading force.”

Opinion | How Many Will Die for the Dow? – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In mid-March, after weeks in denial, Donald Trump finally admitted that Covid-19 was a serious threat and called on Americans to practice social distancing.

The delayed acknowledgment of reality — reportedly driven by concerns that admitting that the coronavirus posed a threat would hurt the stock market — had deadly consequences. Epidemiological modelers believe that tens of thousands of deaths might have been avoided if America had started lockdowns even a week earlier.

Still, better late than never. And for a little while it seemed as if we were finally settling on a strategy for containing the virus while also limiting the economic hardship caused by the lockdown.

But Trump and the Republican Party as a whole have now given up on that strategy. They won’t say this explicitly, and they’re throwing up various disingenuous explanations for what they’re doing, but their basic position is that thousands of Americans must die for the Dow.”