Editorial | Watching the Watchmen – The New York Times

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.

“American communities need robust law enforcement, and the vast majority of police officers are public servants performing dangerous work with dedication. The footage of Memphis police officers killing Tyre Nichols in early January, however, is all the more unbearable because Americans have seen the likes of it so many times before. Too many Americans today live in fear that they may suffer abuse or excessive force at the hands of police officers who are sworn to protect them.

Police officers killed 1,096 people in the United States last year, according to The Washington Post, which painstakingly tracks the death toll because the government does not keep a complete count. That was the most such deaths in any year since 2015. The victims, including Mr. Nichols, are disproportionately young Black men.

To keep Americans safer, the federal government and state and local governments need to match continued investments in policing with reforms that make law enforcement agencies as a whole — as well as individual officers — more accountable to the communities that they serve.

The single most important change Congress can make is to write out of existence the misbegotten legal doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which makes it unreasonably difficult to hold officers or agencies financially liable for misconduct. Under federal law, government officials can face civil lawsuits for violating a person’s constitutional rights. But the Supreme Court has inserted an “absolute shield,” as Justice Sonia Sotomayor has called it, that effectively prevents police officers from facing this important tool for accountability by imposing a set of threshold tests that plaintiffs almost never meet. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in 2018, the current standard “tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.” “

Opinion | Gary Hart: The  “New Church Committee’ Is an Outrage – The New York Times

Mr. Hart is a former United States senator from Colorado and the author of, most recently, “The Republic of Conscience.”

“To legitimize otherwise questionable investigations, Congress occasionally labels them after a previous successful effort. Thus, the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ proposed select committee, which plans to investigate the “weaponization of government,” is being described as “the new Church committee,” after the group of senators who investigated the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and other groups from 1975-76.

As the last surviving member of the original Church committee, named after its chairman, the late Senator Frank Church of Idaho, I have a particular interest in distinguishing what we accomplished then and what authoritarian Republicans seem to have in mind now.

The outlines of the committee, which Rep. Jim Jordan will assemble, remain vague. Reading between the rhetorical lines, proponents appear to believe agencies of the national government have targeted, and perhaps are still targeting, right-of-center individuals and groups, possibly including individuals and right-wing militia groups that participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

That is almost completely at odds with the purpose of the original Church committee, which was founded in response to widespread abuses by government intelligence agencies. While we sought to protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of American citizens, we were also bound to protect the integrity of the intelligence and security agencies, which were founded to protect those freedoms, too.

Our committee brought U.S. intelligence agencies under congressional scrutiny to prevent the violation of the privacy rights of American citizens, and to halt covert operations abroad that violated our constitutional principles. Rather than strengthening the oversight of federal agencies, the new committee seems designed to prevent law enforcement and intelligence agencies from enforcing the law — specifically, laws against insurrectionist activity in our own democracy.

It is one thing to intercept phone calls from people organizing a peaceful civil rights march and quite another to intercept phone calls from people organizing an assault on the Capitol to impede the certification of a national election.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Can Joe Biden Save Israel? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“If I could get a memo onto President Biden’s desk about the new Israeli government, I know exactly how it would start:

Dear Mr. President, I don’t know if you are interested in Jewish history, but Jewish history is certainly interested in you today. Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation — from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one. You may be the only one able to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition from turning Israel into an illiberal bastion of zealotry.

I’d also tell Biden that I fear that Israel is approaching some serious internal civil strife. Civil conflicts are rarely about one policy. They tend to be about power. For years, the fierce debates in Israel about the Oslo Accords were about policy. But today, this simmering clash is about power — who can tell whom how to live in a highly diverse society.

The short story: An ultranationalist, ultra-Orthodox government, formed after the Netanyahu camp won election by the tiniest sliver of votes (roughly 30,000 out of some 4.7 million), is driving a power grab that the other half of voters view not only as corrupt but also as threatening their own civil rights. That’s why a 5,000-person anti-government demonstration grew to 80,000 over the weekend.”

Republican Drive to Tilt Courts Against Climate Action Reaches a Crucial Moment – Coral Davenport – The New York Times

11 MIN READ

WASHINGTON — Within days, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision that could severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants — pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

But it’s only a start.

The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming.”

David Lindsay:  The West Virginia coalition of Republicans won 6-3 at the Supreme Court.

However, Wikipedia adds some filler since then.

“Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in August following the West Virginia decision. Among other actions, the bill was written towards several of the points raised in the majority decision and possibly overturns it. The law’s language addresses the major questions doctrine by explicitly granting EPA new authorities to regulate greenhouse gases. The law clarified that carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels is indeed one of several greenhouse gases to be treated as pollutants covered by the 1970 Clean Air Act, codifying Massachusetts. Some legal experts believe this would allow the EPA to set “outside the fence” regulations on existing power plants as to promote clean energy.[37][38] Other analysts say the law does not extend the EPA’s authority to alternative sources; Vermont Law School professor Patrick Parenteau said the Act does not include specific language towards generation shifting, leaving it as a potential major questions doctrine concern.[39]   “

Nicholas Kristof | Are We in the West Weaker Than Ukrainians? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

” “We will beat the Ukrainian out of you so that you love Russia,” a Russian interrogator told one torture survivor I spoke to in Ukraine, before he whipped her and raped her. That seems a pretty good summation of Vladimir Putin’s strategy.

It isn’t working in Ukraine, where Putin’s atrocities seem to be bolstering the will to fight back. That brave woman triumphed over her interrogators, albeit at horrific personal cost.

But I worry that we in the West are made of weaker stuff. Some of the most momentous decisions the United States will make in the coming months involve the level of support we will provide Ukraine, and I’ve had pushback from some readers who think President Biden is making a terrible mistake by resolutely helping Ukraine repel Russia.”

Dave Cullen | Gun Safety: Yes, There’s Actually a Reason to Have Hope – The New York Times

Mr. Cullen is the author of “Columbine” and “Parkland.”

“You were right to feel hopeless. Gun safety was a lost cause. The National Rifle Association was invincible, and the Republican Party was never going to defy it. The failure to alter that reality after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — 10 years ago on Wednesday — choked off our last faint wisp of hope.

If losing those 6- and 7-year-olds couldn’t drive that change, nothing would.

But we had it wrong. Gun safety wasn’t buried in Newtown, Conn. The modern safety movement was born that day.

Sandy Hook unleashed a slow-motion tsunami of determination that culminated this June in the first significant act of Congress on gun safety in nearly three decades. Fifteen Republican senators broke with the N.R.A. — unthinkable in the old political landscape.

Sandy Hook galvanized two women. The day after the shooting, a suburban mother, Shannon Watts, started Moms Demand Action, which morphed into Everytown for Gun Safety after merging with another group. Three weeks after the massacre, the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords created the forerunner to her gun safety organization, Giffords.”

Phillip Atiba Goff | The Root Cause of Violent Crime Is Not What We Think It Is – The New York Times

Phillip Atiba Goff is the chair and Carl I. Hovland professor of African American studies and professor of psychology at Yale University.

“There is a prevailing narrative about crime that positions bad people as the problem and toughness — in the form of police and prisons — as the solution. It’s emotionally powerful, enough to make politicians allocate money for more cops and more prisons in order to avoid being labeled weak or, worse, pro-crime. The recent decision by Mayor Eric Adams of New York to get more homeless mentally ill people involuntarily committed — which shocked even the N.Y.P.D. — is just the latest example.

But policies like this have little, if any, effect on violent crime, in part because they do not address what causes the problem.

The 2022 midterm elections, in which the Republican Party poured considerable sums into a tough-on-crime message and did far worse than expected, offer hope that change is at last possible. Candidates with the courage to do so can run — and win — on a promise to reduce the causes of violence, addressing it before it occurs instead of just punishing it when the damage is already done.

If throwing money at police and prisons made us safer, we would probably already be the safest country in the history of the world. We are not, because insufficient punishment is not the root cause of violence. And if people are talking about how tough they are and how scared you should be, they care more about keeping you scared than keeping you safe.”

Jesse Wegman | Is Donald Trump Ineligible to Be President? – The New York Times

“. . . . There is another, less-known solution in our Constitution to protect the country from Mr. Trump: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from public office anyone who, “having previously taken an oath” to support the Constitution, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to America’s enemies.” . . . .

Why Does the U.S. Have So Many Mass Shootings? Research Is Clear: Guns. – The New York Times

“When the world looks at the United States, it sees a land of exceptions: a time-tested if noisy democracy, a crusader in foreign policy, an exporter of beloved music and film.

But there is one quirk that consistently puzzles America’s fans and critics alike. Why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Five Readings for Your Thanksgiving Table – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

I always enjoy Thanksgiving, but I’m particularly going to savor this year’s in light of the midterm elections. They surfaced something beautiful and decent and vitally important in the soul of the nation. It was a readiness to defend the core of our democracy — our ability to peacefully and legitimately transfer power — when it was under imminent threat by Donald Trump and his imitators.

Had we lost our commitment to the solemn obligation that one party smoothly hands off power to another, we’d be totally lost as a country today. But instead, democracy was reaffirmed. Enough Americans — principled Republicans, Democrats and independents — sorted through their ballots and rejected almost all of the high-profile Trumpist election deniers for major state and federal offices.

In “using the tools of democracy to protect democracy,” as Vox put it, they reconnected the country with something deep in our heritage — that losers concede gracefully and move on, and winners win gracefully and govern. In celebration of that tradition, I offer these five readings for your Thanksgiving table:

Sept. 19, 1796, excerpts from President George Washington’s Farewell Address, explaining that he would not seek a third term and the most important lessons he had learned:

“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. … You should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness. … With such powerful and obvious motives to union affecting all parts of our country … there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands. …

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”