Opinion | Happy Thanksgiving to All Those Who Told the Truth in This Election – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“With so many families gathering, in person or virtually, for this most unusual Thanksgiving after this most unusual election, if you’re looking for a special way to say grace this year, I recommend the West Point Cadet Prayer. It calls upon each of these future military leaders to always choose “the harder right instead of the easier wrong” and to know “no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

Because we should be truly thankful this Thanksgiving that — after Donald Trump spent the last three weeks refusing to acknowledge that he’d lost re-election and enlisted much of his party in a naked power play to ignore the vote counts and reinstall him in office — we had a critical mass of civil servants, elected officials and judges who did their jobs, always opting for the “harder right” that justice demanded, not the “easier wrong” that Trump and his allies were pressing for.

It was their collective integrity, their willingness to stand with “Team America,” not either party, that protected our democracy when it was facing one of its greatest threats — from within. History will remember them fondly.

Who am I talking about? I am talking about F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, who in September openly contradicted the president and declared that historically we have not seen “any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election” involving mail-in voting.

I am talking about Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a conservative Republican — who oversaw the Georgia count and recount and insisted that Joe Biden had won fair and square and that his state’s two G.O.P. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, did not garner enough votes to avoid election runoffs. Perdue and Loeffler dishonorably opted for the easier wrong and brazenly demanded Raffensperger resign for not declaring them winners.

I am talking about Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who not only refused to back up Trump’s claims of election fraud, but whose agency issued a statement calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history,” adding in bold type, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

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Krebs did the hard right thing, and Trump fired him by tweet for it. Mitch McConnell, doing the easy wrong thing, did not utter a peep of protest.

I am talking about the Republican-led Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Ariz., which, according to The Washington Post, “voted unanimously Friday to certify the county’s election results, with the board chairman declaring there was no evidence of fraud or misconduct ‘and that is with a big zero.’”

I am talking about Mitt Romney, the first (and still virtually only) Republican senator to truly call out Trump’s postelection actions for what they really were: “overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election.”

Opinion | Trump Contrives His Stab-in-the-Back Myth – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“The word Dolchstosslegende is hard to pronounce but important to understand. It translates as “stab-in-the-back myth” and was a key element in the revival of German militarism in the Weimar years. Even modestly educated Germans know exactly what it denotes and the evil it entails.

Donald Trump and his legal team are now contriving their own Dolchstosslegende.

That’s true even as Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the election seems to descend from fantasy to farce. The main point of the exercise is no longer (if it ever seriously was) to find a judge, governor or other pliable instrument to deny Joe Biden the presidency. It is to deny the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, of the electoral system that gave him the office and of the federal and judicial systems that turned Trump’s legal challenges aside.

The point of the farce is farce. It is to make an obscene joke of the Biden administration and our constitutional system of government.

This was also the point of the Dolchstosslegende, which claimed that the German Army, though in retreat in the fall of 1918, could have kept up the fight had it not been betrayed by defeatist and scheming politicians who agreed to an armistice that November.”

Opinion | Should Trump Be Prosecuted? – By Andrew Weissmann – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Weissmann was a senior prosecutor in the Mueller investigation.

Credit…Joshua Lott/Getty Images

“When the Biden administration takes office in 2021, it will face a unique, fraught decision: Should Donald Trump be criminally investigated and prosecuted?

Any renewed investigative activity or a criminal prosecution would further divide the country and stoke claims that the Justice Department was merely exacting revenge. An investigation and trial would be a spectacle that would surely consume the administration’s energy.

But as painful and hard as it may be for the country, I believe the next attorney general should investigate Mr. Trump and, if warranted, prosecute him for potential federal crimes.

I do not come to this position lightly. Indeed, we have witnessed two U.S. presidential elections in which large crowds have found it acceptable to chant with fervent zeal that the nominee of the opposing party should be jailed. We do not want to turn into an autocratic state, where law enforcement authorities are political weapons of the reigning party.”

Opinion | Trump Wars II: The Loser Strikes Back – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Andres Kudacki

“We all knew that Donald Trump would react badly to defeat. But his refusal to concede, the destructiveness of his temper tantrum and the willingness of almost the entire Republican Party to indulge him have surpassed even pessimists’ expectations.

Even so, it’s very unlikely that Trump will manage to overturn the election results. But he’s doing all he can to wreck America on his way out, in ways large and small. Among other things, his officials are already trying to sabotage the economy, setting the stage for a possible financial crisis on Joe Biden’s watch.

To the uninitiated, the sudden announcement by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, that he’s terminating support for several emergency lending programs created back in March might not seem like that big a deal. After all, the financial markets aren’t currently in crisis. In fact, defying Trump’s prediction that “your 401(k)s will go to hell” if he were to lose, stocks have risen substantially since Biden’s win.

Furthermore, much of the money allocated to those programs was never actually used. So what’s the problem?”

The Risks of Another Epidemic: Teenage Vaping – The New York Times

“As in decades past, the nation’s regulatory agencies have been slow — some say negligent — to recognize this fast-growing threat to the health and development of young Americans. Dr. Rome, a pediatrician who heads the Center for Adolescent Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, explained that nicotine forms addictive pathways in the brain that can increase a youngster’s susceptibility to addiction throughout life. The adolescent brain is still developing, she told me, and e-cigarette use is often a gateway to vaping of marijuana, which can affect the brain centers responsible for attention, memory, learning, cognition, self-control and decision-making.”

GM to Curb Economic Ties With Trump: Live Business Updates – GM Quits Trump lawsuit against CA

“Over the past four years, General Motors has emerged as one of President Trump’s favorite corporate targets. He attacked the company repeatedly for closing a plant in Ohio and lashed out at it even when the automaker offered to make ventilators this spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Mr. Trump ridiculed the company’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, one of the few women to lead a large U.S. corporation. “Always a mess with Mary B,” he wrote on Twitter in March.

The company and Ms. Barra have not responded to the presidential wrath, but on Monday G.M. broke ranks with the White House on the one major issue where they were aligned. The automaker said it would no longer back the Trump administration in a fight with California over clean-air standards.

California has sought tougher standards on tailpipe emissions to battle climate change. The Trump administration loosened Obama-era standards and revoked the authority of California and other states to set their own rules, which led to a lawsuit from several states. G.M., Toyota Motor and Fiat Chrysler intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the administration. A few other automakers, including Ford Motor, BMW and Volkswagen, sided with California.

G.M.’s support for the Trump administration surprised many auto experts given the president’s repeated attacks on the company and Ms. Barra. It also seemed to be an odd position for G.M. to take because the automaker has outlined ambitious plans to add nearly two dozen electric models to its lineup.

In a letter to the leaders of some of the nation’s largest environmental groups on Monday, Ms. Barra indicated G.M. was now backing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in his plan to cut emissions and support the use of electric vehicles.”

John Kerry Launches Star-Studded Climate Coalition called World War Zero – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — John Kerry, the former senator and secretary of state, has formed a new bipartisan coalition of world leaders, military brass and Hollywood celebrities to push for public action to combat climate change.

The name, World War Zero, is supposed to evoke both the national security threat posed by the earth’s warming and the type of wartime mobilization that Mr. Kerry argued would be needed to stop the rise in carbon emissions before 2050. The star-studded group is supposed to win over those skeptical of the policies that would be needed to accomplish that.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are part of the effort. Moderate Republican lawmakers like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, and John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, are on the list. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting and Ashton Kutcher round out the roster of more than 60 founding members. Their goal is to hold more than 10 million “climate conversations” in the coming year with Americans across the political spectrum.

With a starting budget of $500,000, Mr. Kerry said, he and other coalition members intend to hold town meetings across the country starting in January. Members will head to battleground states key to the 2020 election, but also to military bases where climate discussions are rare and to economically depressed areas that members say could benefit from clean energy jobs.

Opinion | All the Empty Seats at the Thanksgiving Table – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Courtesy Margaret Renkl

“NASHVILLE — In the box of old photos I found after my mother’s death, there’s a picture of me taken on Thanksgiving Day 1983, in the fall of my senior year of college. I’m lying on the sofa reading James Agee’s letters to Father Flye. I don’t know why the photo exists — we were not a family who documented ordinary moments. Our pictures centered on people gathered around birthday cakes and Christmas trees. Film wasn’t wasted on someone who has no idea a picture is being taken. Certainly not on someone who isn’t even smiling.

I remember that day, not because it was documented in a photograph but because I ran into my Shakespeare professor outside the liberal arts building on Monday morning, and he asked me how I’d spent the break. “All I did was eat and sleep and read James Agee,” I told him. “That sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving,” he said.

 
 

The author at home in 1983.

Maybe I remember that conversation because it startled me. It had not felt like the perfect Thanksgiving. My great-grandmother, the quiet, steady, patient anchor of the entire extended family, was missing. She’d broken her hip the year before, at 96, and then pneumonia — “the old folks’ friend,” my great-grandfather, a country doctor, called it — had taken hold. Mother Ollie was still herself right until up until the day she fell, and I suppose that’s what my great-grandfather must have meant by “friend”: that there are fates worse than death for the very aged. But a year later, the empty place at the table still felt like a rebuke. As with every death before or since, I could not get over the shock. How can love not be enough to save someone so deeply loved?” . . .

Opinion | Making the Most of the Coming Biden Boom – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“The next few months are going to be incredibly grim. The pandemic is exploding, but Donald Trump is tweeting while America burns. His officials, unwilling to admit that he lost the election, are refusing even to share coronavirus data with the Biden team.

As a result, many preventable deaths will occur before a vaccine’s widespread distribution. And the economy will take a hit, too; travel is declining, an early indicator of a slowdown in job growth and possibly even a return to job losses as virus fears cause consumers to hunker down again.

But a vaccine is coming. Nobody is sure which of the promising candidates will prevail, or when they’ll be widely available. But it’s a good guess that we’ll get this pandemic under control at some point next year.

And it’s also a good bet that when we do the economy will come roaring back.

OK, this is not the consensus view. Most economic forecasters appear to be quite pessimistic; they expect a long, sluggish recovery that will take years to bring us back to anything resembling full employment. They worry a lot about long-term “scarring” from unemployment and closed businesses. And they could be right.

But my sense is that many analysts have overlearned the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis, which was indeed followed by years of depressed employment, defying the predictions of economists who expected the kind of “V-shaped” recovery the economy experienced after earlier deep slumps. For what it’s worth, I was among those who dissented back then, arguing that this was a different kind of recession, and that recovery would take a long time.

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And here’s the thing: The same logic that predicted sluggish recovery from the last big slump points to a much faster recovery this time around — again, once the pandemic is under control.

What held recovery back after 2008? Most obviously, the bursting of the housing bubble left households with high levels of debt and greatly weakened balance sheets that took years to recover.

This time, however, households entered the pandemic slump with much lower debt. Net worth took a brief hit but quickly recovered. And there’s probably a lot of pent-up demand: Americans who remained employed did a huge amount of saving in quarantine, accumulating a lot of liquid assets.

All of this suggests to me that spending will surge once the pandemic subsides and people feel safe to go out and about, just as spending surged in 1982 when the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates. And this in turn suggests that Joe Biden will eventually preside over a soaring, “morning in America”-type recovery.

Which brings me to the politics. How should Biden play the good economic news if and when it comes?

First of all, he should celebrate it. I don’t expect Biden to engage in Trump-like boasting; he’s not that kind of guy, and his economics team will be composed of people who care about their professional reputations, not the quacks and hacks who populate the current administration. But he can highlight the good news, and point out how it refutes claims that progressive policies somehow prevent prosperity.

Also, Biden and his surrogates shouldn’t hesitate to call out Republicans, both in Washington and in state governments, when they try to sabotage the economy — which, of course, they will. I won’t even be surprised if we see G.O.P. efforts to impede the wide distribution of a vaccine.

What, do you think there are some lines a party refusing to cooperate with the incoming administration — and, in fact, still trying to steal the election — won’t cross?

Finally, while Biden should make the most of good economic news, he should try to build on success, not rest on his laurels. Short-term booms are no guarantee of longer-term prosperity. Despite the rapid recovery of 1982-1984, the typical American worker earned less, adjusted for inflation, at the end of Reagan’s presidency in 1989 than in 1979.

And while I’m optimistic about the immediate outlook for a post-vaccine economy, we’ll still need to invest on a large scale to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, improve the condition of America’s families (especially children) and, above all, head off catastrophic climate change.

So even if I’m right about the prospects for a Biden boom, the political benefits of that boom shouldn’t be cause for complacency; they should be harnessed in the service of fixing America for the long run.

And the fact that Biden may be able to do that is reason for hope.

Those of us worried about the future were relieved to see Trump defeated (even though it’s possible he’ll have to be removed forcibly from the White House), but bitterly disappointed by the failure of the expected blue wave to materialize down-ballot.

If I’m right, however, the peculiar nature of the coronavirus slump may give Democrats another big political opportunity. There’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be able to run in the 2022 midterms as the party that brought the nation and the economy back from the depths of Covid despond. And they should seize that opportunity, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the nation and the world.”   _30_

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A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 20, 2020, Section A, Page 26 of the New York edition with the headline: Making the Most of the Coming Biden Boom. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Opinion | Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Elinor Carucci/Edwynn Houk Gallery

“After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself:

Approach with awe. C.S. Lewis once wrote that if you’d never met a human and suddenly encountered one, you’d be inclined to worship this creature. Every human being is a miracle, and your superior in some way. The people who have great conversations walk into the room expecting to be delighted by you and make you feel the beam of their affection and respect. Lady Randolph Churchill once said that when sitting next to the statesman William Gladstone she thought him the cleverest person in England, but when she sat next to Benjamin Disraeli she thought she was the cleverest person in England.

Ask elevating questions. All of us have developed a way of being that is our technique for getting through each day. But some questions, startling as they seem at first, compel us to see ourselves from a higher vantage: What crossroads are you at? What commitments have you made that you no longer believe in? Who do you feel most grateful to have in your life? What problem did you use to have but now have licked? In what ways are you sliding backward? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Ask open-ended questions. Many of us have a horrible tendency to ask questions that imply judgment: Where did you go to school? Or we ask yes/no questions: Did you have a good day? Which basically shut off interesting answers. Better questions start with “What was it like. …” or “Tell me about a time. …” or “How did you manage to cope while your wedding was postponed for a year?”

Make them authors, not witnesses. The important part of people’s lives is not what happened to them, but how they experienced what happened to them. So many of the best conversations are not just a recitation of events. They involve going over and over an event, seeing it from wider perspectives coating it with new layers of emotion, transforming it, so that, say, an event that was very hard to live through is now very satisfying to remember.

Treat attention as all or nothing. Of course, we all have divided attention. In “You’re Not Listening,” Kate Murphy writes that introverts have more divided attention than others while in conversation because there’s so much busyness going on in their own heads. But in conversation it’s best to act as if attention had an on/off switch with no dimmer. Total focus. I have a friend who listens to conversations the way congregants listen to sermons in charismatic churches — with amens, and approbations. The effect is magnetic.

Don’t fear the pause. Most of us stop listening to a comment about halfway through so we can be ready with a response. In Japan, Murphy writes, businesspeople are more likely to hear the whole comment and then pause, sometimes eight seconds, before responding, which is twice as long a silence as American businesspeople conventionally tolerate.

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Keep the gem statement front and center. In the midst of many difficult conversations, there is what the mediator Adar Cohen calls the gem statement. This is the comment that keeps the relationship together: “Even when we can’t agree on Dad’s medical care, I’ve never doubted your good intentions. I know you want the best for him.” If you can both seize that gem statement it may point to a solution.

Find the disagreement under the disagreement. In the Talmudic tradition when two people disagree about something, it’s because there is some deeper philosophical or moral disagreement undergirding it. Conversation then becomes a shared process of trying to dig down to the underlying disagreement and then the underlying disagreement below that. There is no end. Conflict creates cooperative effort. As neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett writes, “Being curious about your friend’s experience is more important than being right.”

The midwife model. Sometimes people talk to solve a person’s problem. The Rev. Margaret Guenther wrote that a good conversationalist in these cases is like a midwife, helping the other person give birth to her own child. That means spending a lot of time patiently listening to the other person teach herself through her narration, bringing forth her unthought thoughts, sitting with an issue as it slowly changes under the pressure of joint attention. “To influence actions,” neuroscientist Tali Sharot writes, “you need to give people a sense of control.”

Deeper conversations help people become explicable to each other and themselves. You can’t really know yourself until you know how you express yourself and find yourself in another’s eyes. Deeper conversation builds trust, the oxygen of society, exactly what we’re missing right now.

“Humans need to be heard before they will listen,” Amanda Ripley writes.

It’s been a rough year for all that, but this Thanksgiving, the possibility of deep talk is still out there, even over Zoom.” -30-