Aaron Tang | Maine’s End Run Around the Supreme Court Is an Example for Other States – The New York Times

Mr. Tang is a law professor at the University of California, Davis, and a former law clerk to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“What a week so far for conservatives. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine law that prohibited religious private schools from receiving taxpayer dollars. And on Thursday, it invalidated a New York State gun safety law limiting the public carry of firearms. The outcome in these cases was not surprising. The court has ruled in favor of religious litigants in an overwhelming number of cases, and the gun case’s outcome was clear from the oral argument before the justices in November.

What is surprising is how little the 6-to-3 decision in the Maine case, Carson v. Makin, will matter practically. And the reason offers a glimpse of hope for those who worry about a future dominated by the court’s conservative supermajority — including the many Americans troubled by the court’s decision in the gun case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Let’s start with the Carson case. Anticipating this week’s decision, Maine lawmakers enacted a crucial amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination law last year in order to counteract the expected ruling. The revised law forbids discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and it applies to every private school that chooses to accept public funds, without regard to religious affiliation.”

Thomas B. Edsall | Why Conspiracy Theories Flourish in Trump’s America – The New York Times

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

“Whether he is out of power or in office, Donald Trump deploys conspiracy theory as a political mobilizing tool designed to capture anger at the liberal establishment, to legitimize racial resentment and to unite voters who feel oppressed by what they see as a dominant socially progressive culture.

The success of this strategy is demonstrated by the astonishing number of Republicans — a decisive majority, according to a recent Economist/YouGov survey — who say that they believe that the Democratic Party and its elected officials conspired to steal the 2020 election. This is a certifiable conspiracy theory, defined as a belief in “a secret arrangement by a group of powerful people to usurp political or economic power, violate established rights, hoard vital secrets, or unlawfully alter government institutions.”

Not only do something like 71 percent of Republicans — roughly 52 million voters, according to a University of Massachusetts Amherst poll released on Jan. 6, 2022 — claim to believe that Donald Trump won the 2020 election despite indisputable evidence to the contrary, but the Republican Party has committed itself unequivocally and relentlessly to promoting this false claim.”

Jack Goldsmith | Prosecute Trump? Put Yourself in Merrick Garland’s Shoes – The New York Times

Mr. Goldsmith served in the George W. Bush administration as an assistant attorney general, office of legal counsel, and as special counsel to the general counsel of the Department of Defense.

“The evidence gathered by the Jan. 6 committee and in some of the federal cases against those involved in the Capitol attack pose for Attorney General Merrick Garland one of the most consequential questions that any attorney general has ever faced: Should the United States indict former President Donald Trump?

The basic allegations against Mr. Trump are well known. In disregard of advice by many of his closest aides, including Attorney General William Barr, he falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and stolen; he pressured Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count certified electoral votes for Joe Biden during the electoral count in Congress on Jan. 6; and he riled up a mob, directed it to the Capitol and refused for a time to take steps to stop the ensuing violence.

To indict Mr. Trump for these and other acts, Mr. Garland must make three decisions, each more difficult than the previous, and none of which has an obvious answer.”

 Alex Kingsbury | Who Is Financing Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ Caucus? Corporations You Know. – The New York Times

Mr. Kingsbury is a member of the editorial board.

“Immediately after the Jan. 6 attack, hundreds of corporations announced freezes on donating money to Republican lawmakers who had voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory. “Given recent events and the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are assessing our future PAC criteria,” a spokesperson for Toyota said a week after the attack.

For many corporations, that pause was short-lived.

“By April 1, 2021, Toyota had donated $62,000 to 39 Republican objectors,” the journalist Judd Legum wrote in his newsletter, Popular Information. That included a donation of $1,000 that Toyota gave to Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican from Arizona who is a close ally of Donald Trump and a fervent devotee of the “big lie.”

In July 2021, Toyota reversed course and announced another hiatus from donating to lawmakers who voted to overturn the election results. Six months later, the money started to flow again. The company, in a statement to The Times, said it donates equally to both parties and “will not support those who, by their words and actions, create an atmosphere that incites violence.” (Corporations aren’t allowed to give directly to campaigns but instead form political action committees that donate in the name of the company.)”

“. . . . In the year and a half since the attack, rivers of cash from once skittish donors have resumed flowing to election deniers. Sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes just a thousand. But it adds up. In the month of April alone, the last month for which data is available, Fortune 500 companies and trade organizations gave more than $1.4 million to members of Congress who voted not to certify the election results, according to an analysis by the transparency group Accountable.US. AT&T led the pack, giving $95,000 to election objectors.”

“. . . . All told, as of this week, corporations and industry groups gave almost $32 million to the House and Senate members who voted to overturn the election and to the G.O.P. committees focused on the party’s congressional campaigns. The top 10 companies that gave money to those members, according to CREW’s analysis of campaign finance disclosures, are Koch Industries, Boeing, Home Depot, Valero Energy, Lockheed Martin, UPS, Raytheon, Marathon Petroleum, General Motors and FedEx. All of those companies, with the exception of Koch Industries and FedEx, once said they’d refrain from donating to politicians who voted to reject the election results.

Of the 249 companies that promised not to fund the 147 senators and representatives who voted against any of the results, fewer than half have stuck to their promise, according to CREW.

Kudos aplenty to the 85 corporations that stuck to their guns and still refuse to fund the seditious, including Nike, PepsiCo, Lyft, Cisco, Prudential, Marriott, Target and Zillow. That’s what responsible corporate citizenship looks like. It’s also patriotic.”

Neal K. Katyal | The Future Criminal Case Against Donald Trump – The New York Times

Mr. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and is a co-author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

“Congress and the Justice Department now find themselves in a complex dance, set to the tempo of the Jan. 6 hearings. The House select committee has already uncovered evidence suggesting that former President Donald Trump committed serious federal crimes.

Congress cannot bring criminal charges; the Justice Department must do so. And critics of the department are asking why it does not appear to be investigating these allegations. The hearings point to a potential answer: The committee is laying a foundation upon which prosecutors can build in a subsequent investigation.

And a subsequent investigation is virtually inevitable, given the evidence generated by the committee. How could Attorney General Merrick Garland ignore the facts the American people are now learning about?”

Should Biden Run in 2024? Democratic Whispers of ‘No’ Start to Rise. – The New York Times

“Midway through the 2022 primary season, many Democratic lawmakers and party officials are venting their frustrations with President Biden’s struggle to advance the bulk of his agenda, doubting his ability to rescue the party from a predicted midterm trouncing and increasingly viewing him as an anchor that should be cut loose in 2024.

As the challenges facing the nation mount and fatigued base voters show low enthusiasm, Democrats in union meetings, the back rooms of Capitol Hill and party gatherings from coast to coast are quietly worrying about Mr. Biden’s leadership, his age and his capability to take the fight to former President Donald J. Trump a second time.

Interviews with nearly 50 Democratic officials, from county leaders to members of Congress, as well as with disappointed voters who backed Mr. Biden in 2020, reveal a party alarmed about Republicans’ rising strength and extraordinarily pessimistic about an immediate path forward.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
I’m still in Biden’s court, though he pissed me off when he didn’t pass the Infrastructure Bill immediately, and caved to the left wing of his party, which I blame for most of our self-inflicted wounds. Sanders would lose in a landslide in the electoral college. When Nate Cohn puts together his amalgam of national polls, we will know who is hot and who is not, in the six swing states, that will determine the electoral college outcome. It would be great if Buttigieg could win them all. I I’ll bet you a penny, it remains Biden as our best chance. If Ukraine runs out of ammunition, which is happening now, and falls, all bets are off.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Michelle Cottle | Jan. 6 Committee Hearing: Heroes and Villains – The New York Times

Ms. Cottle is a member of the editorial board.

“It turns out that not even Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka bought into the former president’s toxic fantasies about the 2020 election having been stolen from him. She came to understand pretty quickly after the election that there was no evidence of a plot by Democrats, accepting the assessment of Bill Barr, Mr. Trump’s attorney general at the time, that the game had not been rigged. Mr. Trump had lost, and all the wild claims to the contrary, as Mr. Barr says he told Mr. Trump, were “bullshit.”

Snippets from Ms. Trump’s and Mr. Barr’s recorded testimonies were among the many engrossing bits of evidence to emerge Thursday evening during the Jan. 6 House committee’s first public hearing. The grainy video clips somehow fit the somber mood of the proceedings and fueled the sense that dark dealings were at last coming to the light for inspection by the American people.

It is a heavy lift to get people to pay attention to a story that they think they already know — and that many have grown exhausted hearing about. And Democrats, bless their hearts, are often lousy storytellers, too focused on dry data or policy rhetoric or high-minded ideological ideals to weave a strong narrative or make a gut-level connection.

But in their opening argument to the American people, the Democrat-dominated Jan. 6 committee presented a story that was both informative and resonant — by turns heartbreaking, hair-raising and infuriating. Fact by fact, clip by clip, the committee laid out the contours of its case that the president of the United States spearheaded a monthslong, multifaceted effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, culminating in the violent attack on the Capitol. More details will come in later hearings. But the committee’s Republican vice chairwoman, Liz Cheney, captured the crux of the story in her opening remarks: “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”

Paul Krugman | Crime and Political Punishment – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“Results from Tuesday’s primaries in California suggest that crime may be a big issue in the midterm elections. In San Francisco, a progressive prosecutor was ousted in a recall vote. In Los Angeles, a businessman and former Republican who has run for mayor on the promise to be a big crime fighter made a strong showing.

It’s not hard to see why crime has moved up on the political agenda. Murders surged nationwide in 2020 and ticked up further in 2021, although we don’t really know why. Right-wingers blame Black Lives Matter, because of course they do. A more likely explanation is the stress caused by the pandemic — stress that, among other things, led to a large increase in domestic violence.

Despite the recent surge, the overall homicide rate is still well below its peak in 1991, and the geography of the political backlash doesn’t seem closely correlated with actual crime rates: San Francisco and Los Angeles both have less violent crime than, say, Houston. But rising crime is real, and voter concern is understandable.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
It is hard to be consistently excellent. Krugman writes about the precipitous drop in crime, “But my reading is that there’s no consensus on why that decline — which took place all across the nation, in red states and blue — took place.” It appears that my favorite economist has not read “Freakonomics,” by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner. Levitt dedicates a chapter to this issue, and claims that his studies show that abortion became legal in the 1973, and many states had dramatic down turns in crime 20 years later. Why, he asked, then stated, probably because there was a dramatic decrease in unwanted male babies many of whom would grow to be hardened criminals in about 20 years. He has lots of data, from a large number of states. Paul Krugman should at least address the leading explanation in the minds of lesser men.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

Molly Worthen | 400 Years Ago, They Would Be Witches. Today, They Can Be Your Coach. – The New York Times

Dr. Worthen is a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who writes frequently about America’s religious culture.

Sign up for the Tish Harrison Warren newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  An Anglican priest reflects on matters of faith in private life and public discourse. Get it in your inbox.

“Erica Carrico suspects that if she’d lived 400 years ago, she would have been accused of witchcraft. “Women who were healers, who were connected to the moon cycle and nature, they were considered witches,” she told me. “I love following the moon. I feel divinely guided by my intuition. I’ve done the new moon and the full moon ceremony. I’ve practiced with crystals quite a bit and sage, sweat lodges. I’ve done so many things, just trying to find my way, what feels right.”

Ms. Carrico is “all about the woo,” as her website puts it, but she also trains women to be hard-driving entrepreneurs. She is a spiritual coach, a relatively new occupation that is dominated by women and appears to be growing, although hard numbers are elusive (to further confuse things, some practitioners refer to themselves as business coaches, albeit ones with a generous helping of New Age ritual on the side). At a time when more and more Americans call themselves spiritual but not religious, these coaches give us a glimpse of the allure and the hazards of 21st-century D.I.Y. religion.

Spiritual coaches are a new chapter in the long history of female religious entrepreneurship in America — a tradition that runs from Boston in the 1630s, when Anne Hutchinson’s packed religious meetings outraged Puritan ministers, to today’s evangelical conference circuit, dominated by demure yet forceful female evangelists who are not ordained but whose books and podcasts constitute major media empires. By blending eclectic religious practices with the gospel of entrepreneurship, spiritual coaches pitch their clients (who, like the coaches, are mostly women) the things that religion has always promised. They offer a path to meaning in the midst of suffering and tools to recover a sense of agency in a world that flings us around by our heels.

If we are tempted to dismiss their taste for crystals and energy healing as New Age flimflam, it’s partly because they face up to something that many modern Westerners struggle to admit: Neither total submission to a traditional religious institution nor atheistic materialism feels right. We kind of do want the universe to hold our hand — without bossing us around too much.”

Frank Bruni | Liz Cheney Will Not Tolerate Trump’s Lies – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

“I keep waiting for Liz Cheney to flinch.

I keep looking for some sign that her nerve is faltering, that the attacks are getting to her and that the loneliness of her situation — unconditionally contemptuous of Donald Trump, emphatically committed to a Republican Party beyond him — has become unbearable.

But no. She’s all in and she’s all steel. It could well be the political death of her. Or it could give her a kind of immortality more meaningful than any office.

Cheney, who represents Wyoming in the House, is front and center this week, with a starring role as the vice chair of the House committee whose investigation into the Jan. 6 riot has reached a dramatic culmination in prime-time television hearings. She’s one of just two Republicans on the nine-member panel.

But while the other, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, isn’t running for re-election, Cheney is in the middle of a furiously contested primary battle against a prominent Wyoming Republican official who has welded herself to Trump. Just two weeks ago, Trump traveled to the deep red state, which he won by more than 40 percentage points in 2020, to command his supporters to oust Cheney when they vote on Aug. 16. He said that she had “thrown in her lot with the radical left.”