2020年7月31日 星期五

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The Daily: Life Without Sports?

It’s “deeply boring,” our producer reports.
Author Headshot

By Daniel Guillemette

Baseball kicked off its long-delayed season last week.Davide Barco

Our producer and sports enthusiast Daniel Guillemette on last Friday’s episode:

When the world moved into quarantine in March, I began to wonder: What would I do with all the time I normally spent watching, reading, talking and thinking about my favorite sports? It’s been an interesting experiment to go without them — and by “interesting” I mean deeply boring.

So it was only natural I’d want to fill the void by telling a sports story on The Daily. Thankfully, Mike Schmidt, a Washington correspondent, was thinking the same thing.

Mike’s a regular on The Daily; he has been our guide through all things politics, including the special counsel investigation and the impeachment hearings. But Mike’s first beat at The Times was baseball. He has a long history with Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s commissioner — a relationship that began back when Mike was, in his words, an “overaggressive young reporter” and Manfred was a labor lawyer for the M.L.B. It started with them mostly yelling at each other on speaker phone, Mike said (it was the steroids era — lots to yell about), but later developed into a more civil reporter-source relationship.

In March, Mike thought it would be interesting to periodically check in with Manfred, who was home in Florida, trying to figure out how to make the baseball season happen. I got to listen in on these calls, along with a producer, Clare Toensikoetter, and two of our editors, Dave Shaw and Lisa Tobin.

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In our first conversations, Manfred was focused on the health protocols for coronavirus-era baseball (no high-fives). But as the weeks went on, Manfred became consumed by salary negotiations with the players’ union — the primary obstacle, beyond the pandemic, to restarting the season. A sign of how tense those salary negotiations got? Mike had seen Manfred in countless stressful situations over the years. But Manfred claimed this was the first time he had actually felt stress in his professional career.

To learn more about the players’ perspectives on the negotiations, we interviewed Travis Shaw of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. He started by telling us that his life without baseball was fairly dull (that day, he was planning to make dinner at 2 p.m.). Still, he explained why he didn’t want the players’ union to back down on the salary negotiations: The average career for an M.L.B. player is a little less than 6 years, so for Shaw it was only fair that the players maximized each year they had.

After months of negotiations between Manfred and the union, the players got the salary deal they wanted, and Manfred got his season. A few hours before the first game, Mike got through to Manfred at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. In all of the calls I listened in on, I hadn’t heard Manfred in a mood like this before: The guy was downright cautiously optimistic.

I doubt that mood lasted long, though. Since our episode ran last Friday, 19 (19!) players on the Miami Marlins have tested positive for Covid-19, and the team has suspended play. All of which, understandably, has led to a lot of unease throughout the M.L.B. and has put the season in some doubt. So who knows what’ll happen with baseball this year? At least I’ve still got the N.B.A. Go Raptors!

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Introducing Nice White Parents

The New York Times

We spend most of our time covering the news on The Daily, but this week our team has some news to share: Serial Productions is now a New York Times company.

We’re excited to introduce you to our first podcast from Serial: Nice White Parents, a five-part series exploring the complicated relationship between white parents and the public education system.

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For the past five years, Chana Joffe-Walt, a reporter and producer, has been examining inequality in education. In the process, she saw that most reforms focused on who schools were failing: Black and brown kids. But what about who the schools are serving? In this show, she turns her attention to what is arguably the most powerful force in our schools: White parents.

You can listen to the first two episodes of Nice White Parents now, and if you’re interested in learning more about the history and research behind this series, here are some of the books Chana recommends.

On The Daily this week

Monday: Surviving the coronavirus in New York had a lot to do with which hospital a patient went to, Brian M. Rosenthal reports.

Tuesday: Nicholas Fandos takes us inside the battle over unemployment benefits in Congress — and explains the identity crisis the fight has created for Republicans.

Wednesday: China and the United States have tried to play nice for over half a century. Edward Wong examines why that status quo is changing now.

Thursday: Are tech giants too powerful? Four C.E.O.s were grilled on this question in congress this week, and Cecilia Kang was in the room.

Friday: Jennifer Steinhauer tells the story of 20-year-old Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen — and why her death has incited a #MeToo reckoning inside the military.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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A lightning round of hot takes

Well, not that hot.
Mourners listen to Barack Obama’s eulogy for John Lewis via video outside Ebenezer Baptist Church. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Jamelle Bouie

This was an incredibly busy week for news, but I had time to write only one column. The upshot, for you, is that I have a lot of thoughts I want to share! So instead of writing one longer take, I bring you shortish comments on a couple of news items of note.

President Obama calls the Senate filibuster a “Jim Crow relic”

While speaking at the funeral service for Representative John Lewis, former President Barack Obama called for passing a new Voting Rights Act. “If all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American,” he said, “then that’s what we should do.”

Now, Obama is a little off on his history. The origins of the filibuster lie in the early 19th century, where in tweaking the rules to streamline debate, Senate lawmakers accidentally gave members the ability to hold the floor without interruption, so long as they were speaking. The filibuster wasn’t actually used until the 1830s and didn’t become a regular tactic of political combat until the 1880s and 1890s. The modern history of the filibuster begins in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was infamously used to stop or delay civil rights bills. That, as well as filibusters against anti-lynching legislation in the 1920s, is almost certainly what Obama was referring to.

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History aside, Obama is right. It is time for the filibuster to go. Progressives who think they need the filibuster to protect the social safety net from Republican attempts to slash key programs are mistaken, even granting that Democrats will not always, or even frequently, hold a majority. Much of the Republican agenda under Donald Trump (and before him, under George W. Bush) has been accomplished through regulation and executive orders. Outside of tax cuts, the Republican Party just isn’t that interested in drafting legislation. Democrats, on the other hand, need to pass legislation to meet their goals, and the filibuster works to make that almost impossible. Fear that Republicans will undermine progressive gains should be tempered by the fact that even with unified control of government and a 50-vote threshold for the bill, Republicans couldn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act. The idea of repealing it was just too unpopular.

Progressives should feel confident that if they can make their priorities law, Republicans will have a hard time unraveling them. And moderates worried about a Senate shorn of its “cooling function” should consider how without the filibuster, the pivotal Senate vote under a Democratic majority is a centrist member like Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Kirsten Sinema of Arizona. Indeed, if there’s a reason to think the filibuster will go, it’s that those moderate members want to pass legislation, and a 60-vote-threshold makes that as impossible for them as it is for Bernie Sanders.

Jared Kushner’s coronavirus task force let “blue states” suffer for political reasons

Vanity Fair has the story:

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert. That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

There’s a lot to say about Trump, Kushner and the administration’s handling of the pandemic. But I want to use this news item as an opportunity to make a point about the Electoral College.

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Most Americans think of presidential election results in terms of the Electoral College map, which colors each state based on who won its electoral votes, blue for Democrat, red for Republican. That map creates an impression of uniformity. Democrats won Virginia in the 2016 presidential election, so it is a solid blue; Republicans won North Carolina, so it is a solid red. The West Coast appears as an unbroken bloc of Democratic majorities. The Deep South looks like an arch-Republican stronghold.

But if you look at the actual results, it’s obviously not that simple. Virginia went 49.8 percent for Hillary Clinton and 44 percent for Donald Trump. North Carolina was nearly the reverse, with 46 percent for Clinton. In deep-red Mississippi, 40 percent of voters cast a ballot for Clinton; in solid-blue California, 31.5 percent of voters — or four and a half million people — voted for Trump. Because most states are winner-take-all for electoral votes, the Electoral College map gives us no sense of the proportion of Democratic or Republican votes.

This is no small thing. Viewed in isolation from any other information, that map leaves a false impression of the state of the country. It can make you think entire regions are lost to one party or the other, when the opposite is true, and both parties have voters in every area of the country.

Setting aside questions of competence and disposition, it’s beyond clear that Kushner’s decision to disregard the crisis in “blue states” was a function, in part, of treating the Electoral College map as an accurate picture of the country’s political geography, versus a convenient way to illustrate the outcome of four dozen winner-take-all contests. It’s a choice that grimly illustrates the ways in which an electoral system can influence the governing process in addition to choosing who gets to govern in the first place.

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What I Wrote

I read a lot of John Dewey in college, and 11 years later, I finally have a chance to use it.

Americans have lived with democratic institutions for so long that it’s become easy to think of democracy as something that is defined and embodied by those institutions. But the Constitution and Congress and elections and courts aren’t democracy themselves as much as they’re instruments for its realization. Democracy itself is something larger and more expansive; it is an ethic, a way of living and, as Lewis wrote, an act, something that you must do in order to summon it into existence.

Now Reading

Richard Kreitner on Roger Sherman in The Baffler.

Talia Lavin on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” at the official Star Trek website.

Sol Stern on the “cancel culture” in conservative institutions in Democracy Journal.

Brink Lindsey on what the pandemic has revealed about libertarianism, at the Niskanen Center.

Alison Willmore on the action movie career of Charlize Theron in New York magazine.

Feedback

If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week’s newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at jamelle-newsletter@nytimes.com.

Photo of the Week

James River State Park in Buckingham County, Va.Jamelle Bouie

The family and I took a short trip to James River State Park in Buckingham County, Va., to rest and relax in one of the cabins available for rental. My plan was to bring a few cameras and take a lot of pictures, but I forgot the cameras. I did, however, remember to bring my iPhone, which worked surprisingly well as a replacement. I can see the places where it fell short, but given the technical limitations, I’m impressed with the output.

Anyway, this is a photo of the state park from where our cabin was. As you can see, it was nice!

Now Eating: Greek Salad

I made this for lunch yesterday with the goal of using the bounty of cucumbers and tomatoes we have from the garden. It’s good! Be sure to use the best-quality olive oil you can find; it makes a difference. Recipe comes from The New York Times Cooking section.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated or finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 pound ripe red tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges (2 or 3 tomatoes)
  • 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced ½-inch thick
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, halved lengthwise and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • ¾ cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • ½ medium yellow or red onion, very thinly sliced into rings
  • 8 ounces Greek feta cheese, sliced ½-inch thick

Directions

In a bowl or small glass measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then set aside.

Arrange the tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper in a large shallow serving bowl. Scatter the olives, capers and onions on top, then drizzle about half the dressing evenly over the salad.

Place the slices of feta on top of the salad and drizzle with additional dressing to taste. Serve at room temperature.

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