Gail Collins | Robocalls Are Not Even the Worst of It – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I am happy to inform you that the federal government is revving up the war on robocalls.

I checked on how things were going just after hanging up on a tinny-voiced woman who wanted to warn me that my car’s extended warranty was going to expire unless I pressed 1. In case I didn’t really care, she could take me off the calling list forever if I pressed 2.

Public service announcement: People, do not press 2. It’s press 1’s evil twin sister.

Robocalls refer to anything that comes to your phone via automated dialing. Which might include legal stuff you want to hear about, like a snow day.”

Bryan Garsten | How to Protect America From the Next Donald Trump – The New York Times

Dr. Garsten is a political scientist.

“Voting Donald Trump out of office was crucial, but it will not be enough to save the American experiment.

Many critics have used the words “authoritarian” or “fascist” to describe the president’s mode of politics, as if he were an invader from outside our democratic way of life. In fact, Mr. Trump is a creature native to our own style of government and therefore much more difficult to protect ourselves against: He is a demagogue, a popular leader who feeds on the hatred of elites that grows naturally in democratic soil. We have almost forgotten how common such creatures are in democracies because we have relied on a technology designed to restrain them: the Constitution. It has worked by setting up rules for us to follow, but also on a deeper level by shaping our sense of what we are proud of and what we are ashamed of in our common life. Today this constitutional culture has all but collapsed, and with it, our protection against demagogues”

Jamelle Bouie | We Underestimated Trump Before. It Didn’t Go Well. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Sometimes, and much to our detriment, we find real events are simply too outlandish to take seriously.

Many professional Republicans, for example, initially dismissed the movement to “Stop the Steal” as a ridiculous stunt.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” an anonymous senior Republican official told The Washington Post a few days after Joe Biden claimed victory:

He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.

Republicans went ahead and humored the president, who then urged his followers to assault the Capitol and try to void the election results in his favor.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Jamelle Bouie, for an extraordinary essay– a prize winner. Let me explore. You pointed out that the northern Republicans completely underestimated the willingness of the new confederacy to fight. They thought it was a bluff, and the civil war ensued. What if Lincoln and the GOP just allowed the succession? How would history have changed? Might make a good mini series. In my own study of history, I have read several writers claim that slavery was dying out relatively quickly, without civil wars, because it didn’t have the right economic model for the new industrial societies that were developing in the western world. If the United States was allowed to break in two, would the Nazi party of Germany and the Japanese militarists be in power over most of the world today? One can easily make the dots go in that direction.
Could the Northern and the Southern States come together and fight fascism in the WW II, and if they did, would they be ready to become the industrial engine of the Allies in a relative short period of time? This thought makes me even more grateful for Lincoln and the soldiers who sacrificed for the Union. Now, who will stop this new menace, and would be dictator Donald Trump, who threatens us from within. In reading, “Inside the Third Reich,” by Albert Speer, one can see many similarities. They both designed their platforms, by what enraged their audiences. Neither had scruples.
Author of The Tayson Rebellion, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Linda Greenhouse | What Sandra Day O’Connor Stood For on the Supreme Court – The New York Times

Ms. Greenhouse, a contributing Opinion writer, covered the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008.

“This has been a month of sad remembrances — the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, of course, and the anniversary last Saturday of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. An additional, less noted anniversary is an occasion not for sorrow but for wonder. Forty years ago this Saturday, on Sept. 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor took her seat on the Supreme Court.

I use the word “wonder” because of how what once seemed remarkable is today a commonplace; of the 12 justices to join the court in the ensuing decades, four have been women, including three of the last five. Most people in the United States today were not yet born on that early fall afternoon when Sandra O’Connor took the oath of office and ended 191 years of an all-male Supreme Court.

The overflowing audience included President Ronald Reagan, whose nomination of a little-known judge on Arizona’s intermediate appellate court fulfilled a campaign promise — regarded by some as impetuous — to name the first woman to the court. For those of us who were old enough in 1981 to recognize the significance of the breakthrough, the sight of Justice O’Connor on a bench that included aging nominees of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson was electrifying.”

Lovely tribute. But many comments criticized it, as did, the most recommended one.

Daniel Fleisher
Baltimore7h ago

A respectful and moving tribute to Justice O’Connor. But there is a dark cloud over all of it. Ms. Greenhouse’s admiration is based largely on Justice O’Connor’s concern for the practical effects of her jurisprudence. But O’Connor ignored practical effects–as well as law–in deciding perhaps the most consequential case during her tenure: Bush v. Gore. In this infamous, unprincipled decision, O’Connor acted simply as a partisan– stopping the vote count in order to lift into power her preferred candidate. In her tribute, Ms. Greenhouse chose to omit this decision, despite the enormity of its corruption and consequence. Presumably, she omitted it because it was a poor fit with the tribute she was fashioning. But, for those of us who remember the Supreme Court’s soon-to-be disastrous intervention in the 2000 presidential election, Ms. Greenhouse’s omission is fatal.

9 Replies338 Recommended

The Attack on Big Government and the Remaking of American Liberalism By Paul Sabin – NYT Book Review

Aug. 10, 2021

PUBLIC CITIZENS
The Attack on Big Government and the Remaking of American Liberalism

By Paul Sabin

“When you’re a household name for 56 years, you acquire more than one reputation. Ralph Nader has three.

Nader first came to public attention in 1965 when he published “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a best seller that said auto companies were building dangerous cars. That’s Nader the consumer advocate. Nader leveraged his fame into a network of nonprofit government watchdog groups staffed by idealistic young “Nader’s Raiders” recruited from top universities. That’s Nader the public citizen. In 2000, having concluded the two major parties were really “one corporate party wearing two heads and different makeup,” Nader waged a third-party presidential bid and took enough Florida votes away from Al Gore to cost him the election. That’s Nader the spoiler, still reviled by many liberals for making George W. Bush president.

It’s past time to put this grievance to rest. Gore’s defeat (by a mere 537 Florida votes) was so narrow that it can be attributed to any stray breeze. Paul Sabin, a professor of history at Yale, suggests in “Public Citizens” that if you want to blame a Democratic debacle on Nader, consider President Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980, even though Nader wasn’t a candidate that year.

“Public Citizens” is an elegantly argued and meticulously documented attempt to place Nader within the liberal tradition. Sabin’s thesis is that Nader the public citizen was a principal architect of the adversarial liberalism that succeeded New Deal liberalism. Birthed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, adversarial liberalism was defeated in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, whose antigovernment message (Sabin argues) acquired legitimacy partly through Nader’s spirited attacks on the federal government. “It was as if liberals took a bicycle apart to fix it,” Sabin writes, “but never quite figured out how to get it running properly again.” “

Gail Collins | Why Are We Still Going Great Guns? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Let’s take a look at how well Joe Biden is doing with his gun safety agenda.

We call this gun safety, people, because “gun control” makes a lot of politicians nervous. And really, what the heck? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that eliminating the sale of semiautomatic rifles would make the country more … gun safe.

Banning assault weapons was on Biden’s to-do list, along with universal background checks and a stronger, more forward-looking Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the leadership of David Chipman.

Well, here we are, less than a year into the administration, and Chipman’s nomination is kaput. Biden hasn’t yet come up with a new name. This is not all that unusual, since congressional gun politics has limited the A.T.F. to only one actual confirmed chief in the last 15 years.”

Spencer Ackerman | The Jan. 6 Riot Proves the Sept. 11 Era Isn’t Over – The New York Times

“Days after the insurrection, the interim U.S. attorney for Washington at the time, Michael Sherwin, suggested that “sedition and conspiracy” charges might await the ringleaders of Jan. 6. Most people who breached the Capitol did so because Mr. Trump told them to. Few would have mobilized to steal an election had not a phalanx of elected Republicans told them the election was already stolen. But prosecutors stopped short of calling Mr. Trump even an unindicted co-conspirator. They preferred to indict those who answered the call, not those who sounded it. Elite impunity, a feature of not only the war on terror but also of American history, trumped commitments to democratic preservation.

Congress opted against using the 14th Amendment’s powers to unseat those members who fomented and cheered the insurrection, such as Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who saluted the mob as it advanced toward the Capitol. Eight months later, there is no political response to the insurrection at all, only a security response aimed at its foot soldiers. The war on terror should have taught America the lesson that security-based responses to political problems are futile.”

Jesse Wegman | Will We Ever Amend the Constitution Again? – The New York Times

Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.

This essay is part of a series exploring bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment. Read more about this project in a note from Ezekiel Kweku, Opinion’s politics editor.

“The 26th Amendment to the Constitution took effect 50 years ago this summer, extending the right to vote to all Americans age 18 and older. It was the fourth amendment in the span of a decade, three of which expanded voting rights — a burst of democratic reform nearly unequaled in the nation’s history.”

Paul Krugman | Republicans Have Their Own Private Autocracy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I’m a huge believer in the usefulness of social science, especially studies that use comparisons across time and space to shed light on our current situation. So when the political scientist Henry Farrell suggested that I look at his field’s literature on cults of personality, I followed his advice. He recommended one paper in particular, by the New Zealand-based researcher Xavier Márquez; I found it revelatory.

The Mechanisms of Cult Production” compares the behavior of political elites across a wide range of dictatorial regimes, from Caligula’s Rome to the Kim family’s North Korea, and finds striking similarities. Despite vast differences in culture and material circumstances, elites in all such regimes engage in pretty much the same behavior, especially what the paper dubs “loyalty signaling” and “flattery inflation.”

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value. For example, new hires at investment banks may work insanely long hours, not because the extra hours are actually productive, but to demonstrate their commitment to feeding the money machine.”

In the context of dictatorial regimes, signaling typically involves making absurd claims on behalf of the Leader and his agenda, often including “nauseating displays of loyalty.” If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Paul Krugman for another superlative essay. This writer worries greatly about the prospects of the future. Regarding the new covid 19 pandemic, I harbor dark thoughts of using sticks, not carrots. Deny anyone who refused a vaccine, the right to hospital care if they get covid. I think Bret Stephens is the only writer I’ve read who has dared say this before I said it in public now. One or two other commenters are bringing us similar ideas. To continue my line of dark thinking, Protect our front line medial personnel. Let the new covid patients who refused vaccination go to a quarantine ward in a prison in the hospital to die as quickly as possible. Require proof of vaccination for everything under the sun or society has to offer. The only exemption, would be a medical one, in writing from a medical doctor, corroborated by a government agency, such as the CDC.
David is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews

How Do You Stop Robocalls? – The New York Times

“The calls look vaguely familiar, as if they could be coming from a neighbor’s phone. Sometimes they’re ominous warnings about your Social Security number. A friendly voice pretends to be concerned about the warranty on a car you don’t have.

Americans get millions of illegal robocalls every month, despite attempts by the telecommunications industry and government agencies to stop them.

The latest effort by the Federal Communications Commission — the government agency that regulates communications — to cut down on the calls uses a technology called Stir/Shaken, which went into effect on June 30. While it has nothing to do with James Bond and martinis, it is meant to add to the arsenal of defenses against “bad guys” who trick people.

Here’s how it works.” . . .