Opinion | Bloomberg’s Bogus- Belated Mea Culpa -by Charles Blow – The New York Times

“Last Sunday I wrote a column entitled “You Must Never Vote for Bloomberg” because of Michael Bloomberg’s promotion, advocacy and defense of the racist stop-and-frisk policy that ballooned during his terms as mayor of New York City.

This Sunday, Bloomberg apologized for that policy.

Speaking at the Christian Cultural Center, a black megachurch in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said:

“Over time, I’ve come to understand something that I long struggled to admit to myself: I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand that back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities. I was totally focused on saving lives, but as we know, good intentions aren’t good enough. Now, hindsight is 20/20. But, as crime continued to come down as we reduced stops, and as it continued to come down during the next administration, to its credit, I now see that we could and should have acted sooner and acted faster to cut the stops. I wish we had. I’m sorry that we didn’t. But, I can’t change history. However today, I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”

This is a necessary apology, but a hard one to take, coming only now, as he considers a run for the Democratic nomination, a nomination that is nearly impossible to secure without the black vote.

It feels like the very definition of pandering.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment.
Charles Blow, I was a big fan of yours for years, and reposted your essasys on my political blog, InconvenientNews.net. But something has changed. What? There is a brittle arrogance to the tone of your position here. The sincere apology of a successful and rich white man is unacceptable, because he hasn’t, as your fans have commented, offeredd to make ammends equal to his sin. My goodness, trying to save the country from Donald Trump, and then facing the resposiblity of the presidency could actually give one repenting sinner a real chance to make ammends, like you have possilby never considered. There can be a deafness to the far left and right, where apologies are never accepted. As humans, we all have to be careful to guard against total clarity.

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.”

Opinion | Why I Like Mike – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

 

“I have a pet theory about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — that it is to wider trends in world affairs what Off Broadway is to Broadway. A lot of stuff seems to get perfected there in miniature — from airline hijackings to suicide bombings, from building walls to keep others out to lone wolf terrorism — and then moves to Broadway, to bigger stages.

So, I ask, what’s playing off Broadway these days? It’s a political drama that may offer a distant mirror on our own presidential politics.

Israel has held two national elections since April, but the country is so perfectly divided that it still hasn’t been able to produce a governing coalition. There are three trends worth noting, though, after these two Israeli elections — especially if you’re President Trump.

First, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu deployed openly racist tropes against Israeli Arabs to motivate his own hard-right base to get out and vote. Israeli Arabs finally had enough and basically said to Bibi: “You talking to us?’’ And in the second election in September they voted in huge numbers and created the third-largest party in Israel, weakening Netanyahu’s ability to form a new government. You never know whom you’re arousing when you start using dog whistles. Just sayin’, Mr. Trump.”

“. . .It was “billionaire’’ Bloomberg who funded the most radical and progressive green agenda of this era.

“Bloomberg’s Beyond Coal partnership with the Sierra Club broke the mold for environmental philanthropy,’’ notes Carl Pope, former head of the Sierra Club and now a partner with Bloomberg on Beyond Coal. “In 2010, 500 coal plants provided half of America’s power, at the price of more than 10,000 lives, staggering volumes of water pollution, and one third of total carbon dioxide emissions. The Sierra Club pitched Bloomberg that they could shut down a third of those plants with a three-year campaign, using grass roots community mobilization and aggressive regulatory interventions.”

Attracted by the combination of lives saved and climate impact, Pope added, “Bloomberg ponied up. Now, nine years and several renewals later, coal provides only a quarter of U.S. power, and retirements of more than half those coal plants have been secured. These retirements are largely responsible for U.S. climate progress over the last decade.’’ The steady fall in the price of gas and renewables was critical in undermining coal, “but Bloomberg’s $500 million for climate mitigation projects was also critical — as was his insistence that the green group, while using its own tool kit, measure its results rigorously.’’

How Laws Against Child Sexual Abuse Imagery Can Make It Harder to Detect – The New York Times

“Child sexual abuse photos and videos are among the most toxic materials online. It is against the law to view the imagery, and anybody who comes across it must report it to the federal authorities.

So how can tech companies, under pressure to remove the material, identify newly shared photos and videos without breaking the law? They use software — but first they have to train it, running repeated tests to help it accurately recognize illegal content.

Google has made progress, according to company officials, but its methods have not been made public. Facebook has, too, but there are still questions about whether it follows the letter of the law. Microsoft, which has struggled to keep known imagery off its search engine, Bing, is frustrated by the legal hurdles in identifying new imagery, a spokesman said.

The three tech giants are among the few companies with the resources to develop artificial intelligence systems to take on the challenge.

One route for the companies is greater cooperation with the federal authorities, including seeking permission to keep new photos and videos for the purposes of developing the detection software.

But that approach runs into a larger privacy debate involving the sexual abuse material: How closely should tech companies and the federal government work to shut it down? And what would prevent their cooperation from extending to other online activity?

Paul Ohm, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual property section, said the laws governing child sexual abuse imagery were among the “fiercest criminal laws” on the books.

“Just the simple act of shipping the images from one A.I. researcher to another is going to implicate you in all kinds of federal crimes,” he said.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments.
I’ve worked with computer clients since 1991 who shaked with anger about how hard it is to master their computers.They still do. I say to them, what I say about this article, “Just think, in a hundred years, people will write comedies about how we struggled in the early, dark ages of computer science. Nothing is seemless. Nothing works as promised.”
Plug and play still hasn’t happened everywhere for everyone, and you get absurd stories like this one, where the government expects big tech companies to clean out child porn, but they aren’t allowed to store or share the photos they are targeting to remove from the internet. We are living through a comedy, every day.
The best way to deal with the pain is to laugh, and keep working to slowly improve interconnectivity with some respect for privacy. (David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

Opinion | Facebook Isn’t Just Allowing Lies, It’s Prioritizing Them – By Tim Wu – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Wu is a law professor at Columbia.

Credit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

” “First, do no harm,” a doctrine typically associated with the practice of medicine, is the right ethic when it comes to decisions surrounding Silicon Valley’s paid promotion technologies and their effects on elections and democracy. A desire to avoid harm — in particular, the spread of misinformation — is part of what persuaded Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, to announce that his company will no longer run political ads. And Twitter is not alone: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Microsoft and Twitch also refuse political ads, while Google accepts them in some states but not others.

Facebook is now the outlier, and it is increasingly hard to understand why it is insisting on accepting not only political advertising, but even deliberate and malicious lies if they are in the form of paid advertisements. Given how much can go wrong — and has gone wrong — the question everyone is asking is: Why does Facebook think it needs to be in this game? Naïveté is at this point the most flattering explanation.

It isn’t, as some think, just about making money, for as a revenue source, the money at stake is minor. But the money does matter, in a different way. Paying for promotion is how, on social media, some speakers gain priority over others. This creates an advantage unrelated to actual popularity. Paired with the freedom to lie, the effect is to give political lies and paid misinformation campaigns a twisted advantage over other forms of election speech (like “the news.”) Even as Facebook’s “integrity” teams try to stamp out other forms of deception, paid promotions gain access to the full power of Facebook’s tools of microtargeting, its machine learning and its unrivaled collection of private information, all to maximize the influence of blatant falsehoods. What could possibly go wrong?

If the idea of prioritizing lies over truth doesn’t sound very appealing, Facebook’s defenses of its policy are almost their own misinformation campaign. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications, has suggested that Facebook sees itself as providing the “tennis court” where politicians play the game of politics. But tennis actually has strict rules; Facebook has embraced, instead, the norms of a fighting cage. More important, Mr. Clegg is hiding the more fundamental question: Who ever said Facebook needed be the tennis court in the first place?”

Opinion | To Beat Trump, Focus on His Corruption –  by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Given the severity of Trump’s misbehavior — turning American foreign policy into an opposition-research arm of his campaign — Democrats had no choice but to start an impeachment inquiry. Yet they need to remember that impeachment is an inherently political process, not a technocratic legal matter. It will fail if it does not persuade more Americans of Trump’s unfitness for office. It will succeed only if he is not president on Jan. 21, 2021.

And it is far more likely to succeed if Democrats can connect it in voters’ minds to a larger argument about the substance of Trump’s presidency.

The most promising version of that argument revolves around corruption: The Ukraine quid pro quo matters because it shows how Trump has reneged on his promise to fight for ordinary Americans and is using the power of the presidency to benefit himself. As Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, says: “This man is not working for you. He is working to put his own interests first. And he is endangering the country to do it.”

Corruption is one of the public’s top worries, surveys show. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last year, people ranked the economy as the country’s most important issue, and No. 2 was “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington.” It’s a cross-partisan concern too, spanning Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The corruption argument can appeal to the swing voters who helped elect Barack Obama in 2012, flipped to Trump in 2016 and flipped back to Democrats in 2018. And despite wishful thinking by some progressives, winning swing voters — rather than simply motivating the base — will again be crucial in 2020. “You have to build a bridge for people to walk across,” said David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, referring to Trump’s 2016 supporters. “If you say the guy is a reprobate and a sleaze and all of that, it’s harder for people who voted for him to walk across that bridge.”

Opinion | Being Gay Hurts Mayor Pete. It Helps, Too. – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

“Pete Buttigieg vaulted into the top four of a crowded Democratic presidential field because he has an agile intellect, is fiercely articulate and both espouses and embodies a fresh perspective that many voters of all stripes crave.

He also got there because he’s gay.

He’d be the first to acknowledge that. In fact he did acknowledge it when we spoke last June about the state of L.G.B.T.Q. rights in America. Referring to his sexual orientation and his marriage to another man, he told me, “It’s safe to say that it led to there being more interest and attention early on.” He stood out among the dozens of Democratic aspirants, each desperate to do precisely that.

But there’s a big difference between winning over enough Americans to land in his current position — he placed second, behind Elizabeth Warren, in one survey of Iowa voters last week — and having an appeal broad enough to nab the party’s nomination, let alone the White House. Is being gay an insurmountable obstacle on the path to those prizes?

Anyone who answers with an unequivocal yes or no is just guessing.

The question is now being asked more urgently than before, as the primary contests draw closer and many Democrats simultaneously assess the risks of the two front-runners, Warren and Joe Biden, and survey the field anew, wondering if anyone in the tier of candidates just below them might be a better opponent for Donald Trump. Their gazes invariably fall on Buttigieg, but their apprehensions include whether America could really elect a gay president.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Frank Bruni.

Here are the top comments, all of which I recommended:

Dave T.
The California Desert
Times Pick

I don’t know whether being gay is a plus or minus for Pete Buttigieg. It’s a plus for me, a gay man, but well down the list of reasons I will vote for him, including having an agile intellect, being fiercely articulate and espousing and embodying a fresh perspective that many voters of all stripes crave (thanks, Frank.) I’d also add reasons like not pandering, not bellowing and not being 70+ (I am 62.) So I’m voting for Pete Buttigieg in California’s primary and I hope he wins. Even if he doesn’t, I’m still voting for whomever the Democrats nominate to defeat the traitor currently in The White House. I hope everyone else will also vote blue, no matter who, because we are teetering on a precipice.

17 Replies812 Recommended

 
SC commented October 29

SC
Midwest
Times Pick

If Ireland, a staunchly Catholic and, for decades, a very socially conservative country, could vote for a young gay prime minister, then maybe the US too could vote for a young gay President. Irish voters looked to someone who had great political gifts, intellect, personality and experience. Perhaps Ametican voters will respond to some of these same qualities in Buttigieg.

7 Replies676 Recommended

 
KJ commented October 29

KJ
Tennessee
Times Pick

When I lived in California I worked with and became friends with many gay individuals, and came to realize that a huge percentage of them combined the best of both sexes. Male nurses with physical strength and the tenderness to work with fragile individuals. Female IT experts with the drive and ambition usually associated with males, but who worked cooperatively rather that coveting accolades. And parents who loved their kids no matter what. Buttigieg is special. Intensely intelligent, nonjudgmental, practical, and just plain decent. His personality or may not be influenced by his sexuality, but it’s beyond hypocritical for philandering, sexist, or racist individuals to make it an issue. Our country needs competence and fairness more than a first lady.

6 Replies660 Recommended

 
JB commented October 29

JB
Los Angeles
Times Pick

Notwithstanding Mayor Pete’s obvious intellectual abilities and communication skills, it is a wonder that people find mayor him to be too inexperienced or too young to be president. Compared to the current occupant of the White House, who had no experience in anything other than grift and a host of other illicit activities, Mayor Pete would be a breath of fresh air.

8 Replies638 Recommended

Opinion | Al-Baghdadi Is Dead. The Story Doesn’t End Here. – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“The killing of the founder and leader of the Islamic State by United States commandos operating in Syria should certainly further weaken the most vile and deadly Islamist movement to emerge in the Middle East in the modern era.

The world is certainly a better place with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead and a measure of justice meted out on behalf of all the women ISIS raped, all the journalists ISIS beheaded and the tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis it abused. Good for President Trump for ordering it, for the intelligence agents who set it up, for the allies who aided in it and for the Special Forces who executed it.

But this story is far from over, and it could have many unexpected implications. Let’s start at home.

President Trump was effusive in his praise for the U.S. intelligence agencies who found and tracked al-Baghdadi to the lair in Syria where he blew himself up to avoid being captured. In his news conference, Trump went on and on about just how good the men and women in our intelligence agencies are.

Well, Mr. President, those are the same intelligence agencies who told you that Russia intervened in our last election in an effort to tip the vote to you and against Hillary Clinton (and are still intervening). When our intel agencies exposed that reality, you impugned their integrity and quality.

And the same intelligence agencies who tracked down al-Baghdadi are the same ones who produced two whistle-blowers high up in your White House — who complained that you, Mr. Trump, abused the power of your office to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, touching off this impeachment inquiry.

And those same intelligence agencies whom you hailed as heroes for tracking down al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump, are the same “deep state,” the same agencies and whistle-blowers whom your White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, just smeared as “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.’’

So thank you, Mr. Trump, for clearing up this confusion. We now know that the same intelligence services who have been heroic in protecting us from those who want to attack our constitutional democracy from abroad are the same heroes who have stepped up to protect our constitutional democracy from within. Unlike you, Mr. Trump, they took seriously their oath to do both.”

Opinion | Trump’s Syria Trifecta: A Win for Putin, a Loss for the Kurds and Lots of Uncertainty for Our Allies – The New York Times

“In taking responsibility with the Kurds for defeating ISIS in Syria, we relieved Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Assad of a huge burden, enabling them to crush the regime’s domestic rivals. And what’s really crazy is that — we did it for free! We didn’t even demand autonomy for our Syrian Kurdish allies or power-sharing with moderate Sunni Syrian rebels.

I feel terrible for the Kurds, but at least America might get the last laugh on Putin. Trump let Putin win Syria — and the indefinite task of propping up al-Assad’s genocidal regime and managing Iran’s attempts to use Syria as a platform to attack Israel. What’s second prize?

But even if you argue that walking away from the Kurds in Syria was the right coldblooded, strategic thing to do, how a president does things matters. By just pulling out of Syria without advance planning or coordination with our allies — and dumping the Syrian Kurds after they sacrificed 11,000 men and women in the fight against ISIS — we sent a message to every U.S. ally: “You’d better start making plans to take care of yourselves, because if Russia, China or Iran decides to come after you or bully you, America does not have your back — unless you’ve paid cash in advance.”

Watch out. Over time, that will not make for a more stable world or a cheaper U.S. foreign policy.”

Opinion | Democrats, Avoid the Robot Rabbit Hole – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

“One of the less discussed parts of Tuesday’s Democratic debate was the exchange that took place over automation and how to deal with it. But it’s worth focusing on that exchange, because it was interesting — by which I mean depressing. CNN’s Erin Burnett, one of the moderators, asked a bad question, and the debaters by and large — with the perhaps surprising exception of Bernie Sanders — gave pretty bad answers.

So let me make a plea to the Democrats: Please don’t go down the robot rabbit hole.

Burnett declared that a recent study shows that “about a quarter of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in just the next 10 years.” What the study actually says is less alarming: It finds that a quarter of U.S. jobs will face “high exposure to automation over the next several decades.”

But if you think even that sounds bad, ask yourself the following question: When, in modern history, has something like that statement not been true?”