Opinion | If Politics Is All About Pushing Hot Buttons, Is There Anything That Can Cool Us Down? – Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“Bret: As for Biden, I’m warming to him fast. It’s not that I agree with him on policy questions — I don’t agree with most Democrats in the field. Nor do I think he’s the cleverest guy ever to run for president. But I admire his obvious decency, his knowledge of Washington, his lack of partisan rancor and the reassurance he would bring to both America and the world that a sane and decent person sits in the Oval Office. I also like the fact that he doesn’t feel the need to pre-emptively cringe in the face of his party’s left-wing Furies.

Oh, and he can trounce Trump, which is more than can be said for most of his Democratic rivals. Isn’t that worth cheering?

Gail: Nothing against Joe Biden, but I keep thinking — gee, can’t we do better? Yeah, he’s a very nice guy, and, yeah, he’s running a moderate campaign that could appeal to a lot of centrists.

But Bret, he’s been around forever and he’s never captured the national imagination except, of course, during the heartbreaking death of his son. Obviously I’d vote for him if he’s the nominee, but that’s a pretty depressing prospect so early in the game.

And wait a minute — weren’t you a Mayor Pete fan?

Bret: I developed a (one-sided) emotional connection with Biden after his son died of brain cancer, partly because it happened not long after my dad and his sister, who was very dear to me, also died of brain cancer within a few months of each other. People who have experienced profound loss and suffering generally have a stronger claim to leadership than those who haven’t. It’s what Aeschylus wrote: “Pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.””

Opinion |  – by The Big Story You Don’t Read AboutDavid Brooks – The New York Times

“My colleague David Bornstein points out that a lot of American journalism is based on a mistaken theory of change. That theory is: The world will get better when we show where things have gone wrong. A lot of what we do in our business is expose error, cover problems and identify conflict.

The problem with this is that we leave people feeling disempowered and depressed. People who consume a lot of media of this sort sink into this toxic vortex — alienated from people they don’t know, fearful about the future. They are less mobilized to take action, not more.

Bornstein, who writes for The Times and also co-founded the Solutions Journalism Network, says that you’ve got to expose problems, but you’ve also got to describe how the problems are being tackled. The search for solutions is more exciting than the problems themselves.

But many of our colleagues don’t define local social repair and community-building as news. It seems too goody-goody, too “worthy,” too sincere. It won’t attract eyeballs.

That’s wrong.

I’ve spent the past year around people who weave social fabric, and this week about 275 community weavers gathered in Washington, for a conference called #WeaveThePeople, organized by the Weave project I’ve been working on at the Aspen Institute.”

David Lindsay:

David Brooks, thank you for a lovely and profound op-ed. Reading this piece was one of the best parts of my day, and the comment by the Vietnam Veteran, who was saved by a weaver, is to die for. I hope you can weave more of current events into your narratives: climate change, the sixth extinction, income inequality, and forecasts of a future diminished by overpopulation and pollution.  You need to help preserve our environment, if you want to protect all the beautiful weavers.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com. He performs a folk concert of songs and stories about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Opinion | The Tawdry Trump-Nadler War – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

May 9, 2019, 828
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Representative Jerry Nadler went “there,” declaring the nation is in a “constitutional crisis.”CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Our system of checks and balances requires that political leaders hold two opposing ideas in their heads simultaneously. If you’re a political leader, the first is that your political opponents are wrong about many things and should be defeated in elections. The second is that you still need them. You need them to check your excesses, compensate for your blind spots and correct your mistakes.”

David Lindsay:  Brooks has the clearest argument I have heard, as to why the Democrats should slow down, and not jump into impeachment. They should hold their fire, until they have tried to get Robert Muller to testify, and hear what he has to say. David Leonhardt has warned that impeaching Trump prematurely will make him a martyr, and empower and rebuild his crumbling party.

Opinion | Revenge of the Coastal Elites – By Timothy Egan – The New York Times

By Timothy Egan
Contributing Opinion Writer

May 10, 2019, 546
Image
The unveiling of President Barack Obama Boulevard in Los Angeles on Saturday.CreditCreditDamian Dovarganes/Associated Press

“LOS ANGELES — A big crowd showed up for the festive unveiling of President Barack Obama Boulevard here last weekend, at the intersection of “hope and resistance,” as one news outlet put it. Sure, it’s just a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of road, a living ex-president’s name added to streets honoring Jefferson and Washington.

But the ceremony also marked the latest, and one of the most joyous, of the not-so-subtle ways in which the West Coast continues to live free and prosper under a president doing everything he can to hurt the 51 million Americans in the three lower-48 states that hug the Pacific shore.

President Trump hates the West Coast. He has called California “out of control” and boasted about “my sick idea” to dump migrants into the progressive cities in this time zone. Worst of all, his administration is actively working to take away health care from more than five million people in California alone.

He appears to have warmer feelings for Kim Jong-un, the thug who starves his own people — “We fell in love,” Trump once said of North Korea’s dictator — than for a majority of citizens under his rule on the West Coast. He has higher praise for a traitor and slaveholder, Robert E. Lee — “a great general” — than for the states working under a hostile administration without seceding from the union.”

Opinion | Trump Is Terrible for Rural America – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist      May 9, 2019, 844

“Economists, reports Politico, are fleeing the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service. Six of them resigned on a single day last month. The reason? They are feeling persecuted for publishing reports that shed an unflattering light on Trump policies.

But these reports are just reflecting reality (which has a well-known anti-Trump bias). Rural America is a key part of Donald Trump’s base. In fact, rural areas are the only parts of the country in which Trump has a net positive approval rating. But they’re also the biggest losers under his policies.

What, after all, is Trumpism? In 2016 Trump pretended to be a different kind of Republican, but in practice almost all of his economic agenda has been G.O.P. standard: big tax cuts for corporations and the rich while hacking away at the social safety net. The one big break from orthodoxy has been his protectionism, his eagerness to start trade wars.

And all of these policies disproportionately hurt farm country.

The Trump tax cut largely passes farmers by, because they aren’t corporations and few of them are rich. One of the studies by Agriculture Department economists that raised Trumpian ire showed that to the extent that farmers saw tax reductions, most of the benefits went to the richest 10 percent, while poor farmers actually saw a slight tax increase.”

Opinion | We Have 2 Dead Young Heroes. It’s Time to Stand Up to Guns. – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist

May 8, 2019,   978
Image: Students got off buses after being evacuated from STEM School Highlands Ranch, the site of a deadly shooting on Tuesday.
Credit  Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

“Politicians fearful of the National Rifle Association have allowed the gun lobby to run amok so that America now has more guns than people, but there is still true heroism out there in the face of gun violence: students who rush shooters at the risk of their own lives.

Let’s celebrate, and mourn, a student named Kendrick Castillo, 18, just days away from graduating in Highlands Ranch, Colo., who on Tuesday helped save his classmates in English literature class from a gunman.

“Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” Nui Giasolli, a student in the classroom, told the “Today” show. Kendrick was killed, and eight other students were injured.

At least three boys in the class — one of them Brendan Bialy, who hopes to become a Marine — tackled and disarmed the gunman. “They were very heroic,” Nui said. Bravo as well to the police officers who arrived within two minutes of the shooting and seized the two attackers.”

Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – By Chris Hughes – co-founder of Facebook – The New York Times

By Chris Hughes
Mr. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute.
May 9, 2019, 14
“The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark is still the same person I watched hug his parents as they left our dorm’s common room at the beginning of our sophomore year. He is the same person who procrastinated studying for tests, fell in love with his future wife while in line for the bathroom at a party and slept on a mattress on the floor in a small apartment years after he could have afforded much more. In other words, he’s human. But it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Bravo Chris Hughes, I feel enlightened. So, Elizabeth Warren knew about this stuff when she called for the breakup of Facebook. After reading this and the top comments, I want to second this idea, and also, insist that we also breakup Amazon. Amazon went around blackmailing companies like Diapers.com. Sell out to us or be destroyed, was the way Amazon treated such new upstarts and success stories in the online market place, and they got away with it.

Some commentators insist we should all quit Facebook, but I don’t agree. I enjoy and use it way to much to share or push ideas, causes, and humor, and to follow (less often) my friends and family.

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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.

Opinion | How to Defeat Trump – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

May 7, 2019, 612
“Growing up, I was always fascinated with the magician-psychic Uri Geller, who was famous for bending spoons with his supposed supernatural powers. How did he do that? I wondered. I’ve been thinking about him lately as I’ve watched an even more profound magic trick playing out in our politics. We have a president who can bend people.

In so many cases, Donald Trump has been able to take people who came into his orbit and just bend them to his lying ways the way Uri Geller bent spoons. The latest is Attorney General William Barr, who, in only a few weeks, got bent into becoming Trump’s personal lawyer. But Barr is in good company. Trump took Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, who’d actually been bent against him, and bent them into fawning sycophants. It’s awesome!

How does he do that trick? Surely the answer lies partly in Trump’s energy source: Fox News, Breitbart and Trump’s own Twitter feed keep his base in a state of constant agitation and high partisanship, and Trump, seemingly with no hands, leverages that energy into bending so many Republicans to his will. With a few exceptions, like Jim Mattis, Trump also has a knack for picking people who are bendable.

And bendable people — people who, like Trump, were always outsiders or never on the A-team — are attracted to him to get ahead.

Opinion | Trump’s Anti-Abortion Incitement – By Michelle Goldberg – The New York Times

The president’s lies about infanticide could inspire violence.

By Michelle Goldberg
Opinion Columnist

April 29, 2019, 858

President Trump on Saturday in Green Bay, Wis., where he described Democrats as in favor of infanticide.
Credit
Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Last week, The Washington Post’s tally of Donald Trump’s false and misleading claims hit a milestone, topping 10,000. His untruths, which lately average almost two dozen a day, have long since stopped being news, becoming instead irritating background noise. So when, on Saturday, he told a particularly lurid lie about infanticide at a political rally in Wisconsin, it was, like so much in this administration, at once shocking and unsurprising.

As his raucous crowd booed and screamed, Trump described a hideous scenario that he insists Democrats approve of. “The baby is born,” said Trump. “The mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully” — at this, he seemed to mime rocking an infant — “and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.” He made a chopping motion with his hand.

Trump was elaborating on the willfully misunderstood words of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, who, in a radio interview in January, responded to a Republican hypothetical about a woman requesting an abortion during labor. A pediatric neurologist by training, Northam described what actually occurs when a woman whose pregnancy may not be viable gives birth. If “a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” he said. “The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.””

Opinion | The Zombie Style in American Politics – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

April 29, 2019, 632

“Russia didn’t help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. O.K., it did help him, but the campaign itself wasn’t involved. O.K., the campaign had a lot of Russian contacts and knowingly received information from the Russians, but that was perfectly fine.

If you’ve been trying to follow the Republican response to revelations about what happened in 2016, you may be a bit confused. We’re not even talking about an ever-shifting party line; new excuses keep emerging, but old excuses are never abandoned. On one side, we have Rudy Giuliani saying that “there’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.” On the other side, we have Jared Kushner denying that Russia did anything beyond taking out “a couple of Facebook ads.”

It’s all very strange. Or, more accurately, it can seem very strange if you still think of the G.O.P. as a normal political party, one that adopts policy positions and then defends those positions in more or less good faith.

But if you have been following Republican arguments over the years, you know that the party’s response to evidence of Russian intervention in 2016 is standard operating procedure. On issue after issue, what you see are multiple levels of denial combined with a refusal ever to give up an argument no matter how completely it has been discredited.”