Nicholas Kristof | Trump Incites Rioters – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

” “If the Democratic Party wants to stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners, that is up to them. But I as your president will not be part of it. The Republican Party will remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe.”

— Donald Trump, Aug. 28, 2020

Wednesday was a horrifying and shameful moment in American history. I’ve covered attempted coups in many countries around the world, and now I’m finally covering one in the United States.

Trump and his enablers talk a good game about patriotism. They denounced President Barack Obama for sometimes not wearing a flag lapel pin. They criticized Colin Kaepernick for protesting police brutality by taking a knee rather than standing during the national anthem — and then Trump incited a mob on Wednesday to invade the United States Capitol. The rioters encountered a minimal police response, not the kind that Black Lives Matter protesters received.

ImageDemonstrators at the Capitol in June protested the killing of George Floyd.
Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Many of those pro-Trump rioters probably dispute the idea of white privilege. But the fact that they were allowed to overrun the police and invade the Senate and House chambers was evidence of that privilege.

Opinion | The Coronavirus Vaccine Won’t Solve Everything – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

“This should be a season of hope: We will shortly be getting a highly effective coronavirus vaccine, and the pandemic should wind down in the coming months.

Yet this is the most wretched holiday season of my life. Consider:

  • More Americans have died from Covid-19 in nine months than in combat over four years in World War II. The virus death toll exceeds 292,000, compared with 291,557 American World War II battle deaths.

  • We’re sometimes now losing more Americans from the virus in a single day than perished in the Pearl Harbor attacks or 9/11. But contrary to viral memes floating around the internet, the virus is not creating the “deadliest days” in American history: In October 1918, in a much smaller population, more than 6,000 Americans died of the Spanish flu on average each day for the entire month.

  • If American states were treated as countries, the places with the highest per capita coronavirus death rates would be: SloveniaSouth Dakota, North Dakota, Bulgaria, Iowa, Bosnia, Hungary, Croatia, Illinois, North Macedonia, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, San Marino.

A pandemic is a test of a country’s governance, and this is one the United States has failed. Much of that is on President Trump’s colossal failure of leadership, but it also reflects a deeper skepticism about science and a proclivity toward personal irresponsibility — such as refusing to wear masks.”

Opinion | An Uplifting Update, on the Terrible World of Pornhub – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

David Lindsay: Hallelujah! Maybe there is a god. Maybe that god resides a little bit inside of all forms of life, including humans. In spite of their incredible propensity for evil, humans can also do good works.

Opinion Columnist

We all need uplift this terrible year, so here’s inspiring news about some young heroes and the good they’ve achieved on a wrenching topic.

Young men and women who had been exploited by Pornhub as children shared their stories, their documentation and their mortification in hopes that this might prevent other children from being abused. And now, guardedly, there’s hope that they’ve brought about change.

Pornhub on Tuesday announced huge moves that could — if thoroughly put into effect — significantly curb future exploitation. I don’t trust Pornhub a bit, so officials will need to monitor this sector in a way they haven’t before.

And perhaps that will happen. Four senators, Josh Hawley, Maggie Hassan, Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis, on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for rape victims to sue porn companies that profit from videos of their assaults. Another senator, Jeff Merkley, is separately drafting bipartisan legislation to regulate such companies more rigorously, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (which is home to Pornhub) said Tuesday that his government was developing new regulations for these platforms as well.

Visa and Mastercard are reviewing their ties with Pornhub; there are calls for criminal prosecutions; activist groups like Traffickinghub are demanding action; and lawyers are circling with civil suits.

All this may explain why Pornhub on Tuesday announced three steps that mirrored suggestions I made in a long investigative column over the weekend that quoted the young people who so bravely told their stories. 1.) It will allow videos to be uploaded only by people who have verified their identities. 2.) It will improve moderation. 3.) It will no longer allow video downloads, which allow illegal material to proliferate.

We should all be suitably skeptical. Fake I.D.’s abound, and in September a Tuscaloosa man was charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in videos that he posted on his verified Pornhub account. And even if there is no download button, it is still possible to download using other methods.

That said, this is a big deal, and it happened only because of young people who spoke up and forced difficult conversations that government leaders had dodged.

One woman I wrote about, Serena K. Fleites, 19, felt her life spiral out of control after naked videos of her were posted on Pornhub when she was 14; after two suicide attempts, she was homeless and living in a car in Bakersfield, Calif., with three dogs, dreaming of becoming a vet tech but having no idea how to get there.

I’m thrilled to report that Fleites has been deluged with offers of housing, jobs, education and counseling, and she and her dogs have moved into a long-stay hotel with help from a GoFundMe backed by readers. One benefactor has volunteered to pay for her education to become a vet tech.”

Opinion | The Children of Pornhub – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.

“Pornhub prides itself on being the cheery, winking face of naughty, the website that buys a billboard in Times Square and provides snow plows to clear Boston streets. It donates to organizations fighting for racial equality and offers steamy content free to get people through Covid-19 shutdowns.

That supposedly “wholesome Pornhub” attracts 3.5 billion visits a month, more than Netflix, Yahoo or Amazon. Pornhub rakes in money from almost three billion ad impressions a day. One ranking lists Pornhub as the 10th-most-visited website in the world.

Yet there’s another side of the company: Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are.

After a 15-year-old girl went missing in Florida, her mother found her on Pornhub — in 58 sex videos. Sexual assaults on a 14-year-old California girl were posted on Pornhub and were reported to the authorities not by the company but by a classmate who saw the videos. In each case, offenders were arrested for the assaults, but Pornhub escaped responsibility for sharing the videos and profiting from them.

Pornhub is like YouTube in that it allows members of the public to post their own videos. A great majority of the 6.8 million new videos posted on the site each year probably involve consenting adults, but many depict child abuse and nonconsensual violence. Because it’s impossible to be sure whether a youth in a video is 14 or 18, neither Pornhub nor anyone else has a clear idea of how much content is illegal.

Unlike YouTube, Pornhub allows these videos to be downloaded directly from its website. So even if a rape video is removed at the request of the authorities, it may already be too late: The video lives on as it is shared with others or uploaded again and again.” . . . . .

“So what’s the solution?

I had expected the survivors to want to shut down Pornhub and send its executives to prison. Some did, but others were more nuanced. Lydia, now 20, was trafficked as a child and had many rape videos posted on the site. “My stomach hurts all the time” from the tension, she told me, but she doesn’t want to come across as hostile to porn itself.

“I don’t want people to hear ‘No porn!’” Lydia told me. “It’s more like, ‘Stop hurting kids.’”

Susan Padron told me that she had assumed that pornography was consensual, until a boyfriend filmed her in a sex act when she was 15 and posted it on Pornhub. She has struggled since and believes that only people who have confirmed their identities should be allowed to post videos.

Jessica Shumway, who was trafficked and had a customer post a sex video on Pornhub, agrees: “They need to figure out who’s underage in the videos and that there’s consent from everybody in it.”

I asked Leo, 18, who had videos of himself posted on Pornhub when he was 14, what he suggested.

“That’s tough,” he said. “My solution would be to leave porn to professional production companies,” because they require proof of age and consent.

Right now, those companies can’t compete with mostly free sites like Pornhub and XVideos.

“Pornhub has already destroyed the business model for pay sites,” said Stoya, an adult film actress and writer. She, too, thinks all platforms — from YouTube to Pornhub — should require proof of consent to upload videos of private individuals.

Columnists are supposed to offer answers, but I struggle with solutions. If Pornhub curated videos more rigorously, the most offensive material might just move to the dark web or to websites in less regulated countries. Yet at least they would then not be normalized on a mainstream site.

More pressure and less impunity would help. We’re already seeing that limiting Section 230 immunity leads to better self-policing.

And call me a prude, but I don’t see why search engines, banks or credit card companies should bolster a company that monetizes sexual assaults on children or unconscious women. If PayPal can suspend cooperation with Pornhub, so can American Express, Mastercard and Visa.

I don’t see any neat solution. But aside from limiting immunity so that companies are incentivized to behave better, here are three steps that would help: 1.) Allow only verified users to post videos. 2.) Prohibit downloads. 3.) Increase moderation.

These measures wouldn’t kill porn or much bother consumers of it; YouTube thrives without downloads. Siri Dahl, a prominent porn star who does business with Pornhub, told me that my three proposals are “insanely reasonable.”

The world has often been oblivious to child sexual abuse, from the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts. Too late, we prosecute individuals like Jeffrey Epstein or R. Kelly. But we should also stand up to corporations that systematically exploit children. With Pornhub, we have Jeffrey Epstein times 1,000.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

Opinion | Trump, Polarization and Damaged Friendships – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“Many of my oldest friends are voting for President Trump on Tuesday.

They’re supporting Trump despite the arguments my pundit colleagues and I have been making — or perhaps because of them. My pro-Trump friends and readers complain that the mainstream media are biased against Trump, and thus they tune us out for being unfair and piling on.

“The picture painted by the media is a caricature of the person,” said my high school buddy Dave Richardson, who voted for Trump warily in 2016 but is supporting him enthusiastically this time.

The conundrum for those of us trying to change minds is that the more urgently we shout, the less we’re heard. “We’re not stupid, gullible sheep,” one reader, Frank J., complained. “Be fair and balanced in your reporting and it would have more power.”

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

My childhood friend Mary Mayor likewise supported Trump and is turned off by coverage that she regards as hostile. “I’ve never known a president who has gone through so much scrutiny, overlooking all the positives he has done,” she told me.

I understand why people like Mary voted for Trump. The loss of well-paying jobs devastated places like my hometown, Yamhill, Ore. Mary spent seven years homeless, lost four relatives to suicide, and herself once put a gun to her own head, before she pulled herself together with the help of a local church. Trump talked about bringing jobs back and helping ordinary workers — so she voted for the first time in her life, for Trump.

“We hoped Trump would help boost the economy and jobs,” my old friend Jani Sitton said, explaining her vote for Trump in 2016.

The challenge for opponents of Trump like myself is that our denunciations of the president sometimes backfire and help him, just as polls suggest that impeachment increased support for him (Gallup shows him with his highest presidential approval numbers after being impeached). As Jani said: “The condescension from very loud and aggressive Trump critics has contributed big time toward conservatives feeling sympathy for him.”

So in my last column before Election Day, let me explain as respectfully as I can why I’m so worked up about this election.

It’s partly because I believe that Trump is a charlatan who preys on my friends who trust him. Trump’s own sister has said he is a liar with “no principles,” and his former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly reportedly referred to him as “the most flawed person” he has known.

So if I’m passionate, it’s because I feel he has exploited my friends and then betrayed them with his policies.

How can a president be called “pro-life” when he has presided over the deaths of more than 225,000 Americans from Covid-19 and still doesn’t have a strategy to fight it? Trump is also working to take away health insurance from my friends: Already, the number of Americans with health insurance has dropped by 5.2 million since Trump took office, and he is trying to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act right after the election.

I’m a great believer in community, in the idea that what makes countries strong is “social capital” — the web of relationships, beliefs, trust, decency and identity that make a society work. Trump has taken this social fabric and acted as the Great Unraveler.

He replaces accepted facts with lies, baseless accusations, support for QAnon and even a conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama had SEAL Team 6 killed instead of Osama bin Laden. In both supporters and opponents, Trump nurtures hate. He is what Proverbs 6:19 calls “a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Trump has been a corrosive acid on America’s social capital. He has cost us trust. He has dissolved our connectivity.

I understand now why kindergarten teachers sometimes want to remove a loudmouth bully who disrupts the class and leaves it dysfunctional. That is what Trump has done to our democracy.

For much of my career, I’ve written about national security, from Afghanistan to North Korea, China to Iran. But great nations more often rot from within than suffer defeat from outside, and Trump is exacerbating longstanding divisions and weaknesses in this country.

So to those who think I suffer from “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” let me explain — with respect, but also urgency — that my intensity arises because I see Trump as not just a phony but also a threat. He has left the United States a more turbulent and divided nation, one close to war with itself.

Today the greatest threat I perceive to America’s national security isn’t from Qaeda terrorists, Russian cyberattacks or Chinese missiles. As I see it, it’s from Trump’s re-election.

This is when conversations with friends become awkward. I may think that Trump bamboozled my pals, and they may think I’m manipulated by leftist propaganda, but we all have agency — and we each think the other is using that agency to endanger a country we all love.

I doubt I’ll change many minds. But the only thing I can do is reach out in a good-faith effort to undecided voters.

Sometimes it works. Jani, a committed Christian, has worried about Democrats and abortion. But this time she will vote for Biden because she’s appalled at Trump’s policies toward migrants, Black Lives Matter and health care, and because “God cares about oppression, justice, the voiceless.”

As Jani goes, so, I hope, will the nation.”

Opinion | Er, Can I Ask a Few Questions About Abortion? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Alex Wong/Getty Images

“Millions of American Christians are likely to vote for President Trump on Tuesday because they believe it a religious obligation to support a president who will appoint “pro-life” judges.

But as I’ve observed before, there is an incipient rethinking underway in evangelical and Catholic circles about what it means to be “pro-life,” and let me try to add to that ferment. For the truth is that the litmus test approach to abortion on the part of many conservative Christians is anomalous, both religiously and historically.

Historically, evangelical Christians supported allowing abortions in some situations, such as rape or the well-being of the mother or family.

Christianity Today, the newspaper founded by Billy Graham, held a symposium in 1968 that endorsed a right to some abortions. The National Association of Evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention both backed a limited right to abortion in the early 1970s, and an article in The Baptist Press welcomed the ruling in Roe v. Wade for advancing “religious liberty, human equality and justice.” A 1970 poll found that about two-thirds of Southern Baptist pastors supported allowing abortion in cases such as rape, deformity or a risk to the mother’s physical or mental well-being.”

Opinion | Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court Could Take Us Backward – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Amy Coney Barrett has been following recent precedent in her confirmation hearing before the Senate, pretending that she has never had an interesting thought in her life.

Is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls? She didn’t want to weigh in. A president postponing an election? Hmm. She’d have to think about that.

What about climate change? “I have read things about climate change,” she acknowledged, warily emphasizing that she is not a scientist. “I would not say I have firm views on it.”

If she had been asked about astronomy, she might have explained: “I have read things about the Earth being round. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

But for all the obfuscation, which nominees of Democratic presidents have engaged in as well, there is no hiding the essential truths that Barrett: A) is very bright; and B) would solidify a conservative Supreme Court majority whose judicial philosophy has been on the wrong side of many of the great issues of my lifetime.

We sometimes distinguish between “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” Perhaps the divide instead is between forward-thinking judges and backward-thinking judges.

Partly because of paralysis by legislators, partly because of racist political systems, forward-thinking judges sometimes had to step up over the last 70 years to tug the United States ahead. Those judges chipped away at Jim Crow and overturned laws against interracial marriage, against contraception, and fought racial and sexual discrimination.

Just this week, Bernard Cohen, the lawyer who won the interracial marriage case in the Supreme Court in 1967, died — a reminder of how recent such progress is. In that case, Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who married in Washington, D.C., had moved to Virginia, where the police barged into their home at 2 a.m. and arrested them in bed for violating an anti-miscegenation law. Forward-thinking justices struck down such laws — and that wasn’t about “activist judges” but about decency, humanity and the 14th Amendment.

It was as recent as 2003 that enlightened Supreme Court judges struck down state sodomy laws that could be used to prosecute same-sex lovers. Three backward-thinking justices, including Antonin Scalia, Barrett’s mentor, would have allowed Taliban-style prosecutions of gay people for intimacy in the bedroom. (Barrett refused in the hearing Wednesday to say whether the case was rightly decided.)

It is true, as some conservatives argue, that this path toward social progress would ideally have been blazed by legislators, not judges. But it is difficult for people who are denied voting rights to protect their voting rights, and judicial passivism in these cases would have buttressed discrimination, racism, sexism and bigotry.

That brings us to another historical area where conservatives, Barrett included, have also been on the wrong side of history — access to health care.

Over the last hundred years, advanced countries have, one by one, adopted universal health care systems, with one notable exception: the United States. That’s one reason next month’s election is such a milestone, for one political party in America is trying to join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care, and the other is doing its best to take away what we have.

The G.O.P. is succeeding. Census data show that even before the Covid-19 pandemic the number of uninsured Americans had risen by 2.3 million under Trump — and another 2.9 million have lost insurance since the pandemic hit. Most troubling of all, about one million children have lost insurance under Trump over all, according to a new Georgetown study.

I’m not trying to scare readers about Barrett joining a conservative majority to overturn the Affordable Care Act. My take is that Democrats are exaggerating that risk; the Republican argument in the case, to be heard next month, is such a legal stretch that it’s unlikely to succeed fully, even if Barrett is on the court.

But it is possible, and that would be such a cataclysm — perhaps 20 million Americans losing insurance during a pandemic — that it’s worth a shudder. It should also remind us of the importance of renewing the imperfect, on-again-off-again march of civilization in America, away from bigotry and toward empowerment of all citizens.

Barrett is not a horrible person; on the contrary, she seems to be a smart lawyer with an admirable personal story. Yet she’s working with a gang of Republican senators to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. This grand larceny may well succeed. But for voters, this hearing should underscore the larger battle over the direction of the country.

Voters can’t weigh in on the Barrett nomination, but they can correct this country’s course.

Here’s the fundamental question: Will voters reward the party that is working to provide more health care, or the party that has painstakingly robbed one million children of insurance? Will voters help tug the United States forward, or will they support the backward thinkers who have been on the side of discrimination, racism, bigotry and voter suppression?

At the polls, which side of history will you stand on?”

Opinion | Trump’s Diagnosis Is a Wake-Up Call for Americans – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“. . .  A second point is also straightforward: Let’s learn from the president’s infection. Let’s make this a wake-up call that leads to mask-wearing and social distancing, saving lives.

The United States has lost 208,000 people to the pandemic in part because we as a country didn’t take the virus seriously. We’re seeing a rise in new infections, which now exceed 40,000 a day, roughly twice the level of early June, and many epidemiologists warn that it will most likely get worse. One reason for the uptick in numbers is increased testing, but another is simply that people in the United States and all over the world are suffering pandemic fatigue.

We’re sick of isolation. We crave human contact. We want hugs. We are social animals, and the virus exploits that instinct.

I’m now in Oregon, and I sense that we are all becoming more lax, particularly in parts of the country where the virus never hit hard and people didn’t lose friends or see refrigerator trucks parked outside hospitals. That laxity is lethal.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that 363,000 Americans will have died of Covid-19 by Jan. 1. That would amount to more Americans dying in nine months from the virus than the total number of combat deaths over four years in World War II.

Yet the institute’s model also suggests that if 95 percent of Americans just wore masks (the level in Singapore), then nearly 100,000 lives could be saved between now and the end of the year.

Think about that. As a country, we’re still seared by the nearly 3,000 deaths in the 9/11 attacks. But the institute’s model warns that by the end of December, we’ll be losing that many each day.

Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who early in his career helped eradicate smallpox, argues that we can crush this virus as well. We’ve seen the toolbox that other countries employed to do so: universal mask use, social distancing, testing, contact tracing and so on.”

Opinion | Trump Calls on Extremists to ‘Stand By’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

President Trump didn’t hurt Joe Biden in Tuesday’s debate, but he badly damaged our country.

“Trump harmed the United States in three ways, reminding us that the biggest threat to America comes not from desperate migrants, not from “socialists” seeking universal health care and not from “anarchists” in the streets — but from the White House itself.

The first way in which Trump damaged the country was in his salute to violent extremists.

“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists?” Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who moderated the debate, asked Trump. Trump initially dodged the question but finally asked petulantly, “Who do you want me to condemn?”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a militant group that is fervently pro-Trump.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump declared.

Stand by?

The Proud Boys, founded in 2016, are part of what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a fascistic right-wing political bloc.” The Anti-Defamation League compares it to a gang. The Proud Boys’ founder once said, “I cannot recommend violence enough,” and its members have brandished guns, committed criminal assaults and engaged in rioting. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have banned Proud Boys.”

Opinion | A Cataclysm of Hunger, Disease and Illiteracy – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“We think of Covid-19 as killing primarily the elderly around the world, but in poor countries it is more cataclysmic than that.

It is killing children through malnutrition. It is leading more people to die from tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. It is forcing girls out of school and into child marriages. It is causing women to die in childbirth. It is setting back efforts to eradicate polio, fight malaria and reduce female genital mutilation. It is leading to lapses in vitamin A distribution that will cause more children to suffer blindness and die.

The U.N. Population Fund warns that Covid-19 may lead to an additional 13 million child marriages around the world and to some 47 million women being unable to get access to modern contraception.

In short, a pandemic of disease, illiteracy and extreme poverty is following on the heels of this coronavirus pandemic — and it is hitting children hardest.”

David Lindsay:   This column makes me uncomfortable in several dimensions. The following comment in the NYT covers the elephant in the room:

USA

11m ago
Times Pick

Rampant overpopulation sets the stage for poverty, malnutrition, disease spread, and societal breakdown. Mr. Kristof needs to do more than mention population control in passing. He needs to address the cultural and religious factors that prevent women and the fathers of their children from limiting the number of children they bring into the world, often with no means of providing them with food or shelter. The pandemic will eventually be brought under control. Overpopulation is a far more widespread, destructive, long-term catastrophe.

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