Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – By Frankie Huang – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Huang is a writer and illustrator.

“BEIJING — One day last winter my mother sent me an odd message over WeChat. “Has Laolao said anything strange to you today?” she asked.

I immediately sensed that something was amiss. My mother is a typical Chinese parent. She always feels obliged to withhold bad news from me until she has no other choice. Why was she worried about my grandmother?

I thought back to my most recent visit to Laolao’s shabby apartment here. She had just turned 88, and other than the usual age-related forgetfulness and grumbling about kids these days, she was her usual self.

My mother’s next message unnerved me even more. “Was she of sound mind?”

“You have to tell me what’s going on,” I messaged back.

I fought the urge to berate her and began to scour the internet for information on bank scams that involved sworn secrecy. My heart sank when results filled my screen, describing our situation exactly. I was in an airport, on a business trip, so I messaged Laolao’s assistant at her office and told her to freeze all my grandmother’s bank accounts. But it turned out the bank couldn’t do anything unless Laolao herself requested it.”

Opinion | Against the Myth of ‘No New Border Walls’ – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Cantú is an author and a former Border Patrol agent.

Credit…Michael Benanav for The New York Times

“TUCSON, Arizona — My earliest childhood memories are of the wind sweeping across the deserts of West Texas, over the rolling hills and stone peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where my mother worked as a ranger for the National Park Service. Her duties were not just to protect and preserve places of natural beauty but also to interpret their landscape to visitors through stories — stories she would share with me on a daily basis at home, on hikes, in the car, even weaving them into the songs she sang to me at bedtime.

The Guadalupe Mountains, an hour and a half from the Rio Grande, could be considered part of a vast network of borderland parks and wilderness preserves. Because of their proximity to our evermore militarized border, these areas have become one of our country’s most endangered landscapes. The most immediate threat comes, of course, from President Trump’s fixation on expanding the staggering number of barriers that already reach across more than one-third of our nearly 2,000 miles of border shared with Mexico.

While it may be comforting for many to think that the Trump administration has been entirely ineffective in delivering on his most symbolic and most hateful campaign promises, the truth is far more alarming: As you read these words, towering walls of concrete and steel are being constructed across national monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. In all, more than 130 miles of federally protected lands are under threat.

Those who seek to minimize the new construction insist that new walls are only replacing existing ones — mostly four-foot-high vehicle barriers that do little to alter the movement of wildlife or the natural rhythms of the landscape. The 30-foot walls that are taking their place are easily scalable by humans but completely impenetrable by most wild animals. The new construction also poses grave flooding hazards and requires the draining of precious desert groundwater, threatening to permanently reshape entire ecosystems.”

Opinion | The Double-Barreled Dream World of Trump and His Enablers – By Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch – The New York Times

By Glenn R. Simpson and 

Mr. Simpson and Mr. Fritsch are the founders of Fusion GPS.

 

“As the founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the reports by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that raised some of the earliest warnings of Russia’s actions, we’re willing to clear up some of the nonsense now so abundant on the right.

House Republicans like Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan seem eager to portray Fusion as co-conspirators with the Ukrainians in some devilish plot to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 candidacy. That could not be farther from the truth. None of the information in the so-called Steele dossier came from Ukrainian sources. Zero. And we’ve never met Serhiy Leshchenko, the Ukrainian former legislator and journalist whom Republicans want to blame for the downfall of Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

That said, our investigation of Donald Trump did get a great boost because of Ukraine, just not in the way Republicans imagine. We began looking into Mr. Trump’s business dealings and ties to Russia in the fall of 2015 with funding from Republicans who wanted to stop his political ascent. The Ukraine alarms went off six months later, when candidate Trump brought into his campaign none other than Mr. Manafort, a man with his own tangled history with Russian oligarchs trying to get their way in Ukraine.

It turns out we already knew a great deal about Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine because we worked on several stories about his work for Russian-backed politicians eight years earlier, when we were both still writing for The Wall Street Journal. That reporting threw a spotlight on how Mr. Manafort, while representing clients involved in fierce geopolitical struggles over Ukraine, had neglected to comply with a lobbying law requiring that he register as a foreign agent — the very law, among others, to which he pleaded guilty of violating.”

Opinion | Why the Searing Politics of the Trump Era Give Me Hope – by Lee Drutman – The New York Times

“But here’s why I’m ultimately optimistic: I see how much the election of Mr. Trump acted as an impetus for people who care about democracy to get involved. The 2018 election registered the highest turnout midterm election in 104 years, and the smart money is on a similarly high turnout election in 2020. It may sound strange to say, but Mr. Trump’s election may yet turn out to be the shock and near-death experience that American political system needed to right itself.

I’m also optimistic because the one reform with the most potential to break our zero-sum partisanship, ranked-choice voting, is gaining tremendous momentum at the state and local level. In 2018, Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting for federal elections (after Mainers approved it in two statewide referendums). This month, New York City voters adopted it. Also in 2020, expect voters in Alaska and Massachusetts to decide whether they want in on ranked-choice voting.

By removing the spoiler effect of third parties, ranked-choice voting can break the us-versus-them force driving our partisan warfare, and create space for a political realignment that creates new coalitions to shape economic reforms and negotiate social change.”

Opinion | The Day That Decided the 2020 Election – by Timothy Egan – The New York Times

“The impeachment hearings had been bumping along, the main story clear: a parade of impeccable public servants trying to uphold the values of their country against a gangster White House. A candidate who had gloated over chants of “lock her up” for an opponent who had used unsecured emails had, once elected, conducted foreign policy by extortion, on open cellphone lines penetrated by the Russians.

Most Americans felt that Trump had committed an impeachable offense, but barely half favored removing him by the constitutional equivalent of the death penalty.

Instead, he said that the unusual diplomatic dance in Ukraine was not part of a rogue operation holding up American tax dollars as part of a scheme to take down a political opponent. It was White House policy, the government of the people in service of one person.

“We followed the president’s orders,” he said. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” “

Moliere’s 1665 comedy “Don Juan,” has great resonance in today’s world,  at Westport Country Playhouse through Nov. 23.

We saw Moliere’s Don Juan last night at the Westport Playhouse, and were deeply impressed by the script and the acting. Don Juan explains to his servant how his new piety will be the perfect con, is so appropriate to understanding the giant hypocrisy of the GOP today.

The review below ends, ” One question that’s highlighted by having Don Juan be so dastardly and Sganarelle so dutiful: Why does the servant stick around? The theme of blind obedience is one that Kennedy and Pelsue are happy to explore, right up to the closing of the curtain.

Brendan Pelsue’s adaptation is full of respect for Moliere’s original. He cuts a few scenes down to their essence, but since the show runs two and a half hours (including intermission) even with those cuts, he’s doing us a favor there. When a joke won’t work without explaining it, Pelsue explains, usually by adding more jokes. He turns monologues into snappy dialogues just by adding a few reaction lines or back-and-forth expressions. The debates about love and honor don’t get tedious. Religious dogma is downplayed. This new version, coupled with Kennedy’s clear direction, is about accenting what we find objectionable about Don Juan today, and that’s plenty.

“Don Juan” is not a morality play. Its anti-hero stays immoral to the end. His story is crazed and complicated, and very much a comedy. This underappreciated 350-year-old play by one of theater’s all-time master satirists is scarily appropriate for our times. It can be hard to take, but so worthwhile. “A cruel nobleman is a horrible thing,” the play tells us. But he can also be terribly entertaining.

DON JUAN by Moliere, translated and adapted by Brendan Pelsue, directed by David Kennedy, runs through Nov. 23 at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40-$70. 888-927-7529, westportplayhouse.org.

COURANT.COM
Moliere’s 1665 comedy “Don Juan,” a cautionary tale of unrepressed lust and selfishness, has great resonance in today’s world, as proven by David Kennedy’s sharp production at Westport Country Playhouse through Nov. 23.

Opinion | If Trump Were Anyone Else … – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“As the impeachment process unfolds, President Trump’s defenders will throw up dust clouds of complexity. But as the first day of open hearings suggested, it’s simple. Forget about Ukraine and diplomacy for a moment.

Suppose that a low-ranking government official, the head of a branch Social Security office, intervened to halt a widow’s long-approved Social Security payments. The widow, alarmed that without that income she might lose her home, would call the branch director to ask for help.

“I’d like you to do me a favor, though,” the director might respond. He would suggest that her Social Security payments could resume, but he’d like the widow to give him her late husband’s collection of rare coins.

Everybody would see that as an outrageous abuse of power. Whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, we would all recognize that it’s inappropriate for a federal official to use his or her power over government resources to extract personal benefits. The Social Security official could say that the payments eventually resumed, or assert that the widow’s son had engaged in skulduggery — but he’d be out of a job in an instant and would face a criminal investigation.”

Ediorial | Republicans’ Best Defense Is a Bad Offense – The New York Times

“What did Americans learn from the first day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry?

They learned damaging new information, about another witness who reportedly overheard a telephone conversation in which President Trump pressed to find out if the Ukrainians had committed to investigating his top political rival.

They learned they are still served by people of integrity who are committed to advancing the national interest. The day’s two witnesses, George Kent and William Taylor, both deeply experienced diplomats, provided precise, scrupulously nonpartisan and damning testimony about the effort at the center of the inquiry: the secretive shakedown of Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his associates, for the president’s political gain.

And those Americans who tuned in also learned that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have set themselves a degrading task. Rather than engage the facts about Mr. Trump’s Ukrainian escapade, they are twisting them and eliding them and inventing new ones they’d prefer. They spent most of Wednesday stuffing straw men and then ostentatiously knocking them down.”

David Lindsay:  This editorial is an excellent summary of what I watched most of.

Here is one of many good comments I endorsed:

The History Prof
New York

I came of age politically in 1972 by watching the Watergate impeachment hearings. I was 14 years old, and in my naivite, I believed what all the pundits said after Nixon’s resignation: “the Constitution works!” Although teens of the era were taught to distrust older Americans, we had watched in awe as Sam Ervin, John Sirica, and Peter Rodino led the effort to defend the rule of law. And we were grateful to the three senior Republicans–Sen. Barry Goldwater, House Minority Leader John Rhodes, and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, for meeting with Nixon to advise him to resign, which he did the following day. I think the idealism which Watergate instilled in me led me into teaching. For 35 years I have taught my students about constitutionalism and the rule of law, and the Anglo-American tradition that no person–neither a king nor a president–is above the law. But where now are the Goldwaters and the Scotts, the men who put their loyalty to the Constitution above their loyalty to the Republican Party? I have watched in dismay during the past month as the Republicans have attacked the decent, heroic Americans who have come before the Judiciary Committee to testify: Bill Taylor, Fiona Hill, Lt. Col. Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, George Kent, etc. Why do the Republicans besmirch their reputations? Because unlike the “Never Trumpers,” who upheld their own conservative values, the Republicans in Congress are “Trumpers-at-any-Price.” History will judge them very harshly.

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Opinion | What Trump Is Hiding From the Impeachment Hearings – By Neal K. Katyal – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Katyal is a former acting solicitor general and a law professor.

Credit…Illustration by Alicia Tatone; Photographs by Damon Winter/The New York Times, and Guido Mieth and mbell, via Getty Images

“The public impeachment hearings this week will be at least as important for what is not said as for what is. Congress will no doubt focus a lot on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his secret plan to get that government to announce a public investigation of the man he considered his chief political rival, Joe Biden.

But think about what the president is trying to hide in the hearings. He has been blocking government officials from testifying before Congress, invoking specious claims of constitutional privilege. And while the Ukraine allegations have rightly captured the attention of Congress and much of the public, Mr. Trump’s effort to hinder the House investigation of him is at least as great a threat to the rule of law. It strikes at the heart of American democracy — and it is itself the essence of an impeachable offense.

President Trump has categorically refused to cooperate with the impeachment investigation. He has declined to turn over documents related to the inquiry and has instructed all members of his administration not to testify before Congress. Every member of the executive branch who has gone to tell the truth to the House impeachment investigators — like Marie Yovanovich and Alexander Vindman (and maybe Gordon Sondland, too, at least the second time around) — has done so in defiance of the president’s instructions. President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has refused to testify. Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, have ignored congressional subpoenas related to the investigation.”

Editorial | The Disorienting Defenses of Donald Trump – The New York Times

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“The case for weighing the impeachment of President Trump boils down to a few simple points: In an effort to win re-election in 2020, Mr. Trump apparently attempted to extort a foreign government into announcing an investigation of his top political rival. The president did so while also trying to revive a conspiracy theory that casts doubt over whether the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf. Witnesses have already testified that in order to achieve those goals, Mr. Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid against the bipartisan wishes of Congress. All the while, the president and his staff have refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation into what transpired.

Republicans find themselves in a tough spot. Lawmakers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, which obliges them to act as a check on the executive branch and any abuses of its power. Yet instead of considering the testimony, many Republicans have chosen reflexively to defend Mr. Trump — not an easy task in the face of such strong evidence of inexcusable behavior.

Here’s a field guide to some of the lines of attack that Republicans have used so far. See if you can recognize them if they appear during the public hearings scheduled to begin this week.”