Opinion | Is America Becoming a Four-Party State? – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman
Image
CreditCreditTodd Heisler/The New York Times
By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 19, 2019, 1082 c
Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“In case you haven’t noticed, long-established political parties across the democratic world are blowing up, with Britain’s Labour Party just the latest to fracture. Could America’s parties be next?

Could we have our first four-party election in 2020 — with candidates from the Donald Trump far right, the old G.O.P. center right, the Joe Biden center left and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez far left all squaring off, as the deepening divides within our two big parties simply can’t be papered over any longer? It’s not impossible.

Indeed, two phrases recently in the news that touch on core principles of the Democratic and Republican Parties are like fuses that could ignite much larger explosions in the coming year. Those phrases are: “unwilling to work” and “national emergency.”

On Feb. 7, Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional office sent out an F.A.Q. explainer of the Green New Deal that she’s proposing. The initiative aims “to mobilize every aspect of American society … to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.””

Advertisements

Opinion | A Nation of Weavers – by David Brooks – the New York Times

The top commenters shred this piece as off the wall, but they are poor listeners. David Brooks speaks deeply about underlying problems and solutions.

“On Dec. 7, 1941, countless Americans saw that their nation was in peril and walked into recruiting stations. We don’t have anything as dramatic as Pearl Harbor, but when 47,000 Americans kill themselves every year and 72,000 more die from drug addiction, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? When the basic norms of decency, civility and truthfulness are under threat, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? Aren’t we all called at moments like these to do something extra?

My something extra was starting something nine months ago at the Aspen Institute called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. The first core idea was that social isolation is the problem underlying a lot of our other problems. The second idea was that this problem is being solved by people around the country, at the local level, who are building community and weaving the social fabric. How can we learn from their example and nationalize their effect?”

Opinion | New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

Image:  A protest against Amazon’s HQ2 at an Amazon store in Manhattan in November.   Credit   Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 17, 2019, 1433
“Imagine that a bunch of children are sitting around a table when a seemingly beneficent adult walks into the room carrying a plate of cupcakes. The kids burst out in excitement — until they notice a problem: There are fewer cupcakes than children.

At this point, the adult announces some ground rules. To receive a cupcake, the children will have to compete with one another. The adult will accept cash or other objects of value. Praise for the adult’s kindness would also be welcome.

The kids immediately start saying nice things and digging into their pockets. But then one child has second thoughts. She quiets the room and tells the adult he’s being a bully. He is bigger, stronger and richer than the kids, she says. He shouldn’t make them grovel for cupcakes. The adult replies: “Fine. No cupcake for you.”

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

If she were your child, how would you feel: proud that she took a stand, or disappointed that she didn’t act in her own best interests? Cupcakes, after all, are pretty tasty.

Last week, New York became that disobedient child. The city damaged its own interests, or at least its short-term interests, for the sake of principle. Enough New Yorkers raised enough of a ruckus about the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks that the city and state were bestowing on Amazon that Amazon finally had enough. On Thursday, it announced that it would no longer be bringing 25,000 jobs to Queens. No cupcake for New York.

Yes, I know: Jobs are not cupcakes. Jobs help people build middle-class lives, which are in too short supply these days. So pretend that the adult in my story offered a Kindle instead of a cupcake. Or a college scholarship. It shouldn’t change your view of the girl’s rebellion.

Regardless, it’s a version of what social scientists call “the tragedy of the commons” — in which people hurt their long-term interests by acting in their short-term interests. The only solution to the tragedy of the commons is to change the rules.”

Opinion | Trump’s Nightmare Opponents – Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 10, 2019, 1090

Senator Amy Klobuchar announced her presidential candidacy on Sunday in Minneapolis.CreditCreditStephen Maturen/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, the pollsters at Monmouth University asked Democrats across the country to choose between two different kinds of nominees. One was a candidate whom the voter agreed with on most issues but who might struggle to beat President Trump. The other was the reverse — a strong candidate with different views from those of the person being polled.

It was a rout. About 56 percent preferred the more electable candidate, compared with 33 percent who picked the more ideologically in-sync candidate. The gap was even larger among women and liberal Democrats. Patrick Murray, who runs the Monmouth poll, points out that this pattern isn’t normal. In previous campaigns, voters cared more about ideology than electability.

I think there are two main reasons for the switch. The first, of course, is the awfulness of the Trump presidency. But the less obvious reason is important too: The differences among most of the leading Democratic presidential candidates just aren’t very big right now.”

Opinion | The False Promise of the Moderate Democrat – By Jamelle Bouie – The New York Times

By Jamelle Bouie
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 7, 2019, 23
Credit
Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“There’s something odd about the self-described moderates and centrists considering a run for president. If “moderation” or “centrism” means holding broadly popular positions otherwise marginalized by extremists in either party, then these prospective candidates don’t quite fit the bill.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax on the nation’s largest fortunes is very popular, according to recent polling by Morning Consult, with huge support from Democrats and considerable backing from Republicans. But Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who has flirted with running for president as a moderate Democrat, rejects the plan as an extreme policy that would put the United States on the path to economic ruin. “If you want to look at a system that’s noncapitalistic, just take a look at what was once, perhaps, the wealthiest country in the world, and today people are starving to death. It’s called Venezuela,” he said during a January trip to New Hampshire. He is similarly dismissive of the idea of “Medicare for all,” warning that it would “bankrupt us for a very long time.”

Likewise, Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, has staked out ground as a moderate politician, even as he opposes similarly popular ideas. A substantial majority of the public favors proposals to greatly expand college access or make it free outright. In a January op-ed for The Washington Post, McAuliffe dismissed “universal free college” as a misuse of tax dollars. “Spending limited taxpayer money on a free college education for the children of rich parents badly misses the mark for most families.”

And let’s not forget Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks chief executive who might run for president as an independent, who characterizes himself as a “centrist” despite holding positions that have little traction among the public as a whole. “We have to go after entitlements,” he has said, referring to the unpopular idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare to shrink the federal deficit.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment.

Opinion | Abolish Billionaires – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 6, 2019, 558
People protesting against the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
Credit
Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last fall, Tom Scocca, editor of the essential blog Hmm Daily, wrote a tiny, searing post that has been rattling around my head ever since.

“Some ideas about how to make the world better require careful, nuanced thinking about how best to balance competing interests,” he began. “Others don’t: Billionaires are bad. We should presumptively get rid of billionaires. All of them.”

Mr. Scocca — a longtime writer at Gawker until that site was muffled by a billionaire — offered a straightforward argument for kneecapping the wealthiest among us. A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes. It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society.

At some level of extreme wealth, money inevitably corrupts. On the left and the right, it buys political power, it silences dissent, it serves primarily to perpetuate ever-greater wealth, often unrelated to any reciprocal social good. For Mr. Scocca, that level is self-evidently somewhere around one billion dollars; beyond that, you’re irredeemable.”

Felicity Jones is shy but relentless as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ‘On the Basis of Sex’ | Mick LaSalle – Datebook – San Francisco Chronicle

David Lindsay: I have good news about the State of Our Union. Kathleen and I today celebrate our 5th year anniversary of relationship.
Also, we decided to skip Trump’s state of his union speech last night, and instead we went to see “On the Basis of Sex,” the fabulous and inspiring docudrama of how the Ginsbergs stole Christmas from the reactionary, keep the women in their place crowd, back in 1972, represented in the film by Sam Waterson. Furthermore, if you are near New Haven CT, the film will be at the Criterion New Haven for another week. Metacritic.com gave this film an aggregate 60, which was a crime. But their numbers are always suspect, since they are not generated by the critic, but by a reader at Metacritic. Scott of the NYT gave the film a rave review in my mind, and the reader scored the review as a 60! What is wrong with Metacritic.
There was a good piece in the NYT today about Trump’s lies last night, which I decided not to post. You don’t need to read it, but for reference, it is:
State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong
President Trump appeared in front of a joint session of Congress for the annual address. Here is how his remarks stacked up against the facts.
https://www.nytimes.com/…/fact-check-state-of-the-union.htm…

Mick LaSalle 

Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself, the movie about her life, “On the Basis of Sex,” sneaks up slowly, growing steadily in estimation, until a point is reached, not at the end but well into the proceedings, that it’s all downright inspiring. Here’s the story of a woman who not only shaped the journey of women in the second half of the 20th century, but whose life embodied that journey.That life translates well into the movie medium, in that Ginsburg’s story from her days at Harvard Law School through her appointment to the Supreme Court has the built-in narrative structure of a dramatic film. As in a rags-to-riches tale, Ginsburg starts off underestimated. She’s quiet, she’s little, and she’s female, and few will recognize her brilliance. She’s constantly blocked and put down and experiences doubts and disappointment, but she eventually emerges as a figure of fame and permanent importance.“On the Basis of Sex” makes you feel the cost it took to build this life, the years and years of work, in the face of almost monolithic resistance. Interestingly, and this feels intrinsically true, the movie shows that the obstacles Ginsburg faced often came from her closest male allies, who, after all, were steeped in the very same culture as her political foes. Ginsburg was at a disadvantage with these men, not only because she was a woman, but also because she was mild of temperament, not someone who could easily put herself forward. However, she did have the most significant advantage in her favor: She was smarter than everybody else.She had the further benefit of a supportive, understanding husband, whose outgoing personality complemented her watchful reserve. The old line that behind every great man is a great woman sometimes goes the other way, and so “On the Basis of Sex” is also the saga of an exceptional marital partnership.

Source: Felicity Jones is shy but relentless as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ‘On the Basis of Sex’ | Datebook

Opinion | The Real State of the Union, in Charts – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Lindsay: David Leonhardt is my new go to guy for American politics. Here is a perfect example.

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 5, 2019, 174 c
“My fellow Americans, the state of our union is far weaker than it should be.

The economy’s growth isn’t benefiting most families very much. Life expectancy has been falling. The planet is warming. The rest of the world is less enamored of America than it has been in the past.

But I can offer you one major piece of good news: Our country’s urgent and growing problems have inspired more Americans to vote and to otherwise get involved in politics. And that sort of engagement is the best hope for restoring our country to its rightful strength.

Here, then, is the true state of the union, in charts:

The last few years — including 2018 — have brought some good economic news. Paychecks for most workers are rising faster than inflation. But the gains are still modest, and they don’t come close to erasing years in which pay gains trailed economic growth: (GDP has risen more than average wages. You must go to the NYT for the full chart.)

Inflation adjusted. Earnings are the median for full-time workers. G.D.P. rate for 2018 is prorated based on first three quarters.

Opinion | The Empty Quarters of U.S. Politics – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman
By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist

Feb. 4, 2019, 606
Howard Schultz, the coffee billionaire, who imagined that he could attract broad support as a “centrist,” turns out to have an approval rating of 4 percent, versus 40 percent disapproval.

Ralph Northam, a Democrat who won the governorship of Virginia in a landslide, is facing a firestorm of denunciation from his own party over racist images on his medical school yearbook page.

Donald Trump, who ran on promises to expand health care and raise taxes on the rich, began betraying his working-class supporters the moment he took office, pushing through big tax cuts for the rich while trying to take health coverage away from millions.

These are, it turns out, related stories, all of them tied to the two great absences in American political life.

One is the absence of socially liberal, economically conservative voters. These were the people Schultz thought he could appeal to; but basically they don’t exist, accounting for only around, yes, 4 percent of the electorate.

The other is the absence of economically liberal, socially conservative politicians — let’s be blunt and just say “racist populists.” There are plenty of voters who would like that mix, and Trump pretended to be their man; but he wasn’t, and neither is anyone else.

Understanding these empty quarters is, I’d argue, the key to understanding U.S. politics.”

David Lindsay on Facebook: I’ve just posted some excellent articles about the enviromnent to blogs 1 & 2, which are now set up to repost at my Facebook pages for those same blogs, listed under pages I manage. Here is a Paul Krugman piece I enjoyed immensely, though commenters are tearing it apart by disecting its small imperfections, rather than appreciating his deeper truths. What I liked most, was a comment to Krugman’s swashbuckling analysis that expressed my deep concern that the Democrast are destroying themselves, when they decide to hound Governor Northam out of office in Virginia:
Trajan The Real Heartland Times Pick
“Democrats love to eat their own. We have one of the most racist presidents to ever hold office in modern times, yet some Democrats are going after Northam over some dumb stunt that happened decades ago. Is he a good leader NOW? Does he support good policies NOW? Is Northam’s behavior really any worse (blackface versus sexual misconduct) than someone who just got a seat on the Supreme Court? Wow, this is like watching an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Republicans have a strategic advantage because, while Democrats get all twisted up in identity politics, Republican leaders are only tightly focused on serving the rich and powerful at the expense of average Americans. No party disunity there.

Democrats need to start focusing on the basic, kitchen table issues that average Americans care about, like affordable health care, affordable housing and affordable higher education. With that strong streak of self-destruction that runs through Democrats, Nancy Pelosi is needed more than ever in the people’s House where badly needed legislation has to move forward.”

1 Reply 24 Recommended

Opinion | Trump’s Wall of Shame – By Jamelle Bouie – The New York Times

By Jamelle Bouie
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 24, 2019, 1267
Credit
Guillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Image
CreditCreditGuillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
This is Jamelle Bouie’s debut column.

“The wall of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency has always operated both as a discrete proposal — an actual structure to be built under his leadership — and as a symbol with a clear meaning. Whether praised by its supporters or condemned by its opponents, the wall is a stand-in for the larger promise of broad racial (and religious) exclusion and domination.

It’s no surprise, then, that some Americans use “Build the wall” as a racist chant, much like the way they invoke the president’s name. And it’s also why, despite the pain and distress of the extended government shutdown, Democrats are right to resist any deal with the White House that includes funding for its construction.

That’s not to say there aren’t practical reasons for Democrats to resist the proposals on hand. The president calls his most recent bid a major compromise, but its headline provision — protections for immigrants covered by either Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status — are short-term and limited. It also puts a cap on the number of Central American migrant children and teenagers who can receive asylum, requiring them to apply in their home countries, while also eliminating automatic court hearings for minors who arrive at the border in order to streamline the deportation process. Together with its $5.7 billion for “the wall,” it’s less a compromise than a near capitulation to the president’s vision for immigration policy — a vision he could not get through Congress when he had Republican majorities in both chambers. A border wall also just won’t work — erecting a barrier does nothing to solve the political conflicts and economic pressures that drive migration to the United States.

Agreeing to this deal — or any deal beyond a straightforward bill to end the shutdown — would only validate the president’s extortion tactics, adopted after conservatives pressured him at the end of last year to reject a so-called clean bipartisan bill to fund the government. To agree to wall funding in these circumstances would guarantee a repeat performance the next time President Trump wants to secure a legislative “win” without the difficult work of negotiating with Congress, much less his opposition.
But the paramount reason for resisting this deal, and any other, is what it would mean symbolically to erect the wall or any portion of it. Like Trump himself, it would represent a repudiation of the pluralism and inclusivity that characterizes America at its best. It would stand as a lasting reminder of the white racial hostility surging through this moment in American history, a monument to this particular drive to preserve the United States as a white man’s country.In fact, you can almost think of the wall as a modern-day Confederate monument, akin to those erected during a similar but far more virulent period of racist aggression in the first decades of the 20th century. Built as shrines to white racial dominance as much as memorials for any particular soldier, they were part of a larger, national drive to uphold white supremacy against what one nativist thinker termed a “rising tide of color.” “
David Lindsay:
Welcome Jamelle Bouis. Well done. Fabulous explanation. Best I’ve heard in explaining this damned nusissance of a wall.