Trump’s Threat to Democracy – by Nicholas Kristof- NYT

“Two political scientists specializing in how democracies decay and die have compiled four warning signs to determine if a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules. 2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents. 3. He or she tolerates violence. 4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, both professors at Harvard, write in their important new book, “How Democracies Die,” which will be released next week.

“With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century,” they say, which sounds reassuring. Unfortunately, they have one update: “Donald Trump met them all.” ”

Yes. Here is the top comment I endorse:
Mike Roddy is a trusted commenter Alameda, Ca 2 hours ago
I spent a couple of years in Venezuela early in Chavez, reign, and saw the country’s decline up close. Included was utter corruption, even by South American standards, and a President who reflexively lied to the public during eight hour speeches on TV every Sunday.

The Venezuelans laughed at him and shrugged their shoulders, knowing that the elections were rigged and they were helpless. American left wingers didn’t do their homework, and somehow believed his schtick.

The lesson here is that we cannot underestimate the president, for many reasons.

1. Trump won’t decide to follow democratic norms, since he comes from a real estate background that included bribery, partnerships with criminals, and refusals to honor contracts.
2. Strengthening democratic norms is wise, but our attacks on the President must be blunt and relentless. This is not just another blowhard, but rather a dangerous, and murderous, potential dictator.
3. How can someone be expected to obey democratic norms when he doesn’t even know the words to the national anthem?
4. This is the most important: The oligarchs who back Trump- Mercer, Adelson, Koch, and the entire fossil fuel industry- also don’t care about democracy. They are waist deep in global bribery and environmental carnage. The press has been negligent in rarely making those connections. Many of Trump’s staffing decisions were dictated by them.

Your turn, New York Times. You’ve been OK so far (apart from ignoring #4), but without you we lose.

215 Recommended

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Robert Mueller in the Cross Hairs – by NIcholas Kristof – NYT

“We may shortly be facing a national crisis. President Trump’s base is egging him on to undertake his own “Saturday Night Massacre” and fire Robert Mueller for committing … for committing … uh, well, for working too hard as a prosecutor.

On Fox News, the host Jeanine Pirro proposed firing Mueller, blaming the Democrats, and imprisoning Hillary Clinton. Speaking of the Mueller investigation, Pirro said, “It’s time to shut it down, turn the tables, and lock her up.”Wow. I’ve reported from tin-pot countries where public figures talk blithely of shutting down prosecutors and imprisoning rivals. I never thought I’d live in one.

Lou Dobbs of Fox Business Network denounced Mueller’s “gross overreach,” and the pro-Trump site Gateway Pundit excoriated “deep state crooked cop Robert Mueller.” Across the right wing, ideological snipers are taking potshots at Mueller, and even The Wall Street Journal has suggested in an editorial that Mueller resign.

All this amounts to a perilous pirouette. After all, Mueller was last known to be a registered Republican and was appointed F.B.I. director by a Republican president, George W. Bush. Newt Gingrich reflected the G.O.P. consensus when he wrote in a May tweet: “Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.”

Good Grief. What are we coming to?

‘Drug Dealers in Lab Coats’ – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“For decades, America has waged an ineffective war on drug pushers and drug lords, from Bronx street corners to Medellin, Colombia, regarding them as among the most contemptible specimens of humanity.One reason our efforts have failed is we ignored the biggest drug pushers of all: American pharmaceutical companies.

Our policy was: You get 15 people hooked on opioids, and you’re a thug who deserves to rot in hell; you get 150,000 people hooked, and you’re a marketing genius who deserves a huge bonus.

Big Pharma should be writhing in embarrassment this week after The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the abuse goes far beyond that: The industry systematically manipulated the entire country for 25 years, and its executives are responsible for many of the 64,000 deaths of Americans last year from drugs — more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined.

The opioid crisis unfolded because greedy people — Latin drug lords and American pharma executives alike — lost their humanity when they saw the astounding profits that could be made.”

Yes, thank you. Here is the leading comment, I support:

Meredith New York 16 hours ago

Kristof is blunt and true, but leaves out campaign donors.

It’s not only ‘greed’. Like our huge gun death rate isn’t only about rage or ‘mental illness’. It’s the opportunities our society offers to act out greed & sociopathy. Our election funding system supporting this.

In our political system, there are no limits to ‘monetization’.

Big pharma, like big gun makers are some of our biggest election sponsors, as we see the thousands of deaths pile up. With phony slogans of ‘freedom, and private profits unhindered by big govt’, we legitimize the world’s most profitable, exploitive industries in health, guns and elections.

Other capitalist democracies don’t prescribe paint killers at the US rate, have health care and medicine at lower cost. They limit gun possession.
They don’t turn over their elections to the biggest corporate megadonors,

See NYT past op ed by Richard Painter, chief WH ethics lawyer “The N.R.A. Protection Racket”. The racket applies to drugs, h/c and every issue, If politicians don’t play ball, their donors threaten to run somebody against them in a primary who will. Candidates know the rules.

Al Gore on CNN Zakaria show “ Our democracy has been hacked by big money long before Putin hacked our democracy.”

Do US voters know that Europe bans the drug ads direct to consumers that swamp our media, and bans privately paid campaign ads and also guns for all?

We need columns with contrasting positive examples along with moral outrage.

Reply 272 Recommended

Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“After the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, the impulse of politicians will be to lower flags, offer moments of silence, and lead a national mourning. Yet what we need most of all isn’t mourning, but action to lower the toll of guns in America.

We don’t need to simply acquiesce to this kind of slaughter. When Australia suffered a mass shooting in 1996, the country united behind tougher laws on firearms. As a result, the gun homicide rate was almost halved, and the gun suicide rate dropped by half, according to the Journal of Public Health Policy.

Skeptics will say that there are no magic wands and that laws can’t make the carnage go away. To some extent, they’re right. Some criminals will always be able to obtain guns, especially in a country like America that is awash with 300 million firearms. We are always likely to have higher gun death rates than Europe.But the scale is staggering. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American history, back to the American Revolution. Every day, some 92 Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries, according to David Hemenway of Harvard.”

David Lindsay:  Yes, and we need to ban sales of assault weapons and high capacity magazines to civilians.
Here is a comment I endorsed.
Charlie Smithson Cincinnati, OH 4 hours ago

What I don’t want to hear is the GOP say that “Now isn’t the time to talk about gun control, now is the time to respect the victims.”

If we don’t talk about some sensible gun control, now, after this horrible tragedy, then when will we? Gun violence and death are clearly an area where America can celebrate its exceptionalism. We are amazing at it and we just keep getting better at the violence and killing.

As someone who attends many musical performances a year I can’t even imagine something like this. It is a horrible, traumatic, tragedy.

The continued allegiance to the NRA by our GOP politicians is criminal and enabling.

Reply 752 Recommended

‘Enough Already’ Said God – by  Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“The famous televangelist Jim Bakker, who is preaching again on television after a rape accusation and a prison term for financial fraud, recently warned that Christians would start an armed insurrection if President Trump were impeached. “If it happens, there will be civil war in the United States of America,” Bakker told his television audience. “The Christians will finally come out of the shadows, because we are going to be shut up permanently if we’re not careful.”

Afterward, I received the following transcript of a conversation between Bakker and, er, God. It comes from a divine source.

Bakker: “Dear God, thank you for blessing me with wisdom, courage, virtue and rugged good looks. Plus humility. Please help me raise up an army to smite the infidels trying to impeach President Trump. …”God: “Oh, enough already!”

Bakker, trying to dive under the bed: “Who’s there? And oh, no! Fire! Fire! There’s a fire on my bed!”

God: “It’s a burning bush.”Bakker: “Who said that? Fire! Fire! Help!”

God: “Don’t be such a wimp: This is a smokeless burning bush. It won’t even singe your linens. So listen up. This is God. . . . ”

Here are the top two comments, I completely endorse.
Aryae Coopersmith Half Moon Bay, California 1 day ago

Thank you Nick Kristof for giving us a few laughs while pointing out the elephant in the room!

To keep it very simple — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share three key values: love God, love your neighbor, love the stranger. The rest, as they say, is commentary.

623Recommended

ChristineMcM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 1 day ago

“God: “I’m nonpartisan. I just don’t like being used. I was mortified when four out of five white evangelical Christians voted for a thrice-married liar who bragged about sexual assault — and then cited me as the reason for their votes.”

Great column, Nicholas! If anyone can call out hypocrisy, it’s God, er, and, His son.

That Trump got the support of evangelicals was definitely some sort of miracle. One that tells us more about the real morality of preachers who make their livings not so much selling God as themselves.

In a certain way, I see the connection now–at least on the hypocrisy and selling of self. It takes one to know one–Bakker and company might be selling paradise but he and his peers want a down payment first in the form of credit card donations to the show.

So what else do Trump and televangelists have in common, when not pushing the Bible or violating the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount? Or failing to offer strangers a proper welcome?

Perhaps it’s the love of large fancy mansions here on earth, over living the kind of values that might ensure them a room in God’s mansion up above.

617Recommended

Google and Sex Traffickers Like Backpage.com – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.Google’s motto has long been “Don’t be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping Backpage.com, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.

Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.”

We Don’t Deny Harvey- So Why Deny Climate Change? – by NIcholas Kristof – NYT

“Imagine that after the 9/11 attacks, the conversation had been limited to the tragedy in Lower Manhattan, the heroism of rescuers and the high heels of the visiting first lady — without addressing the risks of future terrorism.

That’s how we have viewed Hurricane Harvey in Houston, as a gripping human drama but without adequate discussion of how climate change increases risks of such cataclysms. We can’t have an intelligent conversation about Harvey without also discussing climate change.

That’s awkward for a president who has tweeted climate change skepticism more than 100 times, even suggesting that climate change is a Chinese hoax, and who has announced he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says it’s “misplaced” to talk about Harvey and climate change.

Really? To me, avoiding the topic is like a group of frogs sitting in a beaker, fretting about the growing warmth of the water but neglecting to jump out. Climate scientists are in agreement that there are at least two ways climate change is making hurricanes worse.

Here are the two most recommended comment, which I support:

Mark Jeffery Koch

Mount Laurel, New Jersey 2 days ago

I pray for the people of Texas and hope that no more lives will be lost.

I also hope that the people of Texas stop voting for Senators and Congressmen who deny that global warming and climate change exists. All of Texas’s Republican congressional representatives voted against the Hurricane Sandy relief bill after Sandy decimated the Northeast.

Trump has called global warming a Chinese “hoax” and has erroneously claimed that cutting emissions to avert catastrophic climate change will ruin the US economy.

Trump has rolled back Obama-era policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution, while other executive orders threaten to limit federal funding for science and the environment. His proposed budget will cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 35%, more than any other agency.

He has gutted the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s electric plants and signed an executive order to remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

Who would you rather have as President during an environmental disaster or preventing one from happening? Obama or the fraud currently occupying the White House?

The people of Texas will get thru this disaster. It will take time but they will rebuild their homes, businesses, houses of worship, and their lives.

The question is, can America survive Trump?

NYT Pick

gemli

is a trusted commenter Boston 1 day ago

Ignoring reality is what we do. It’s so much more convenient to pretend everything is just fine.

And then the bleeding obvious surprises us when it can no longer be rationalized. It doesn’t help that our most highly placed government leaders have a vested interest in ignoring reality. Getting the coal vote was apparently more important than reducing fossil fuel emissions.

This is especially true when the president is so reality-challenged and obstinately perverse that he’d look at the sun during the eclipse, even after the experts said not to. Experts! Bah! What do they know?

Maybe the experts should tell him not to stick his finger in an electric socket. Or play with dynamite.

We may have reached a tipping point with the climate, when ice caps melt and more sunlight heats more of the ocean, in a vicious spiral that soon overwhelms our ability to respond. It’s small comfort that the people who voted for a climate-change-denying ignoramus will suffer along with us. But I have to shamefully admit that it is a comfort, however fleeting and small.

When the day finally comes when we can’t do anything about the torrential rain and the rising water, there will be no fashionable heels high enough to protect us, and no news fake enough to deny the grim reality.

We’re Journalists- Mr. Trump- Not the Enemy – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“Yet for all our failings, journalism remains an indispensable constraint on power. Trump has systematically tried to delegitimize the institutions that hold him accountable — courts, prosecutors, investigators, the media — and that’s the context for his vilification of all them, for we collectively provide monitoring that outrages him.

The New York Times and The Washington Post have separately tallied Trump’s lies, with The Post calculating that he has now made more than 1,000 misleading statements since assuming the presidency. That’s a grueling pace of almost five a day, and it is accelerating (at the six-month mark, it was 4.6 a day). This prevarication proliferation is an indication that John F. Kelly is unable to rein in Trump, and that the problem was not Steve Bannon but the president himself.”

Fleeing to the Mountains – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“This is our collective patrimony, a tribute to the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and other visionaries who preserved our wild places for the future. Thank God for them. Otherwise, these lands might have been carved up and sold off as ranches for the rich.

Because of the foresight of past generations, the federal government owns one million square miles, an area three times the size of California, Oregon and Washington combined. Much of this is unspoiled, our inheritance and our shared playground.Yet today, President Trump sees this heritage as an opportunity for development. More aggressively than past administrations, Trump’s is systematically handing over America’s public lands for private exploitation in ways that will scar the land forever.”

No Insurance- but for 3 Days- Health Care Is Within Reach – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/opinion/remote-area-medical-health-care-republican.html?src=me&_r=0

The patients swamped the county fairground here for a three-day health extravaganza of free care organized by Remote Area Medical, an aid group that holds these events across the country. This one involved about 1,400 volunteers serving 2,300 men and women who needed care of every kind.Some patients camped out for three days at the fairground gate before the clinic opened to make sure they would be treated.