Opinion | E Tu Jim Mattis?

If almost any other member of President Trump’s cabinet had sought to justify his deployment of thousands of troops to the border by talking about the threat of Mexican revolutionaries more than a century ago, it probably would have sailed right past me. Hyperbole, hysteria and convenient invocations of history are the native tongue of this administration, whose members were either fluent in it beforehand or picked it up quickly.

But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who recently evoked that specter, was supposed to speak a better language. He was known to be a saner sort — not just the proverbial adult in the room but the conscience amid the corruption and the barricade against disaster. I like to think that millions of American parents instructed their children to expand their bedtime prayers. Watch over Mommy. Protect Daddy. And don’t let anything bad happen to General Mattis.

Well, something bad happened to General Mattis.

On Wednesday he traveled to southernmost Texas to visit those troops. The trip was a good and necessary thing. President Trump, for all his lip service to venerating the military, doesn’t go out of his way to mingle with or pay tribute to servicemen and servicewomen; somebody has to make them feel appreciated and important. That was Mattis’s noble goal. He was trying to assure them that if they missed Thanksgiving, it wouldn’t be for naught.

But that wasn’t doable without dabbling in deception, because the propping up of this president requires it.

In Mattis’s case, it required Pancho Villa.

Pancho Villa was a Mexican revolutionary who, along with hundreds of armed followers, attacked an American border town, burning houses and killing people, before retreating back into Mexico, where President Woodrow Wilson ordered him pursued. Mattis revisited that episode in remarks to reporters on his way to Texas.

“I think many of you are aware that President Wilson 100 years ago — a little over 100 years ago — deployed the U.S. Army to the southwest border,” he said. “The threat then was Pancho Villa’s troops, a revolutionary, raiding across the border into the United States — New Mexico — in 1916.”

Interesting. Also irrelevant. There’s no Pancho Villa in the caravan of migrants proceeding north through Mexico. Trump has admitted as much. He didn’t say so explicitly, but it’s beyond obvious in his near-total silence about the situation since the midterms.

Before Election Day, the caravan was a Trojan Horse for jihadists. It was an “invasion” of such menace that soldiers might have to respond to any rocks thrown by the invaders with bullets. Trump used such overheated imagery in an effort to activate his base. To lend credibility to this scaremongering, he dispatched the troops.

Now they’re laying concertina wire when they’re not twiddling their thumbs, and Trump has pretty much stopped mentioning the supposed enemy heading their way. Just like that — poof! — the caravan ceased to be an emergency. Apart from a rare, terse reappearance on Friday night, it exited his tweets.

Many journalists have noted that, correctly deeming it proof that the deployment was a baldly, cynically political move. So Mattis told the troops on the border to ignore them. “There’s all sorts of stuff in the news,” he said. “If you read all that stuff, you know, you’ll go nuts.” Yes, because it’s true. And to hint otherwise is to bolster Trump’s dangerous demonization of the media and his branding of reporters as the “enemy of the people.”

Mattis knows better. According to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” he sees Trump clearly because he has seen Trump in private situations where his ignorance and recklessness were bare. Mattis had to explain to Trump that the American military presence in South Korea was a deterrent to North Korea. He had to ignore Trump’s suggestion that American officials set in motion the assassination of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. He compared Trump’s comprehension and acuity to those of “a fifth or sixth grader.”

And then he felt Trump’s lash, which confirmed for him what a petty creature the president is. On “60 Minutes” last month, Lesley Stahl asked Trump about Mattis’s future in the administration, and Trump answered dismissively. “I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” he said, as if that designation discredited any opinion — especially of him — that Mattis held. “He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves.” Que sera sera. He’s only the defense secretary. Only the most seasoned, qualified member of a cabinet whose average talent level is raised exponentially by his presence.

Mattis, who subsequently told reporters that he doesn’t belong to either political party, has stuck with Trump for what seem to be the best reasons. More than his predecessors, the president needs competent, even-keeled people around him, and there’s no surfeit of A-list takers for even the administration’s highest-ranking jobs. The working environment leaves something to be desired. So does the boss.

But there’s a fine line between taming the president and enabling him — between tempering the way he governs and implicitly validating it. To stand beside him is to signal assent. To gloss over his motives is to launder them. And that’s what Mattis did during his visit to the troops, who no doubt yearned to hear that their presence made sense but could be told that only if Mattis lied for the president and to all of us.

Or fibbed, at least. Misdirected. Blabbered. He suggested to the troops that they were really there at the behest of Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, to support the Border Patrol. “What does that mean?” he said. “It means that her people do all the work, but we’re standing behind them as a confidence builder, and that sort of thing.”

A confidence builder? That sort of thing? He couldn’t hide the dubiousness of their charge even as he tried to sell it. “A moral and ethical mission” was how he described it to the journalists who accompanied him. If that were so, Pancho Villa wouldn’t have had to ride in.

Mattis didn’t lurch anywhere near as far into fiction as others in the administration routinely do. But the spectacle was somehow sadder for its subtlety, which underscored the bind that even the most cautious and conscientious administration official is in, the impossibility of finding some honorable balance of principle and obeisance, prudence and deference.

It’s not true, as the Republican strategist Rick Wilson wrote, that everything Trump touches dies. But everything wilts, at least if it’s in his employ long enough. That’s why Nikki Haley announced that she’d leave her post as ambassador to the United Nations around the two-year mark. Miraculously, she has managed to fill a big hole in her résumé without putting a big dent in her reputation, and she knows that the longer she stays, the more she tempts fate.

Mattis just proved her right.

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Frank Bruni has been with The Times since 1995 and held a variety of jobs — including White House reporter, Rome bureau chief and chief restaurant critic — before becoming a columnist in 2011. He is the author of three best-selling books.  @FrankBruni Facebook

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Opinion | Trump and Acosta: When Showboats Collide

Getting into a public feud with the Trump White House is the best thing that could happen to CNN.

The drama started when two of the nation’s biggest showboats collided. Like all nautical disasters, the wreck happened slowly, then all at once. Knowing it was coming didn’t make it any less mesmerizing. You’ve probably seen the footage: an unwelcome question to the president from CNN’s Jim Acosta, a tussle over a microphone, and then a testy denunciation from the bully pulpit. Later, a pulled press credential for Mr. Acosta, a series of recriminations, a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, and then everyone called their lawyers.

On Friday, a United States District Court judge temporarily restored Mr. Acosta’s access to White House grounds. The ruling, however, was just the first stage of a long legal fight, and only a fool would underestimate Donald Trump in a drawn-out, vindictive lawsuit.

Both sides are eager to paint the battle as a contest of good versus evil, where the very fate of truth and the future of the republic hang in the balance.

In fact, what we are witnessing is a sick symbiosis, in which Mr. Trump is a golden goose and the Washington press corps is operating a 24-karat omelet station.

This codependent love-hate relationship between the president and journalists was not invented when Mr. Trump rode an escalator down toward his destiny in 2015. While dealings between the press and the president were unusually smooth during the Obama administration — for reasons of both ideology and temperament — even the previous occupant of the White House was hardly a model of transparency. He clamped down on photography, for instance, issuing carefully curated images instead of allowing the previous free-for-all.

And as far back as 1936, Franklin Roosevelt complained that “85 percent” of newspapers were against him and called the press “poisonous propaganda.” Mr. Trump is a punter so far compared with President Roosevelt in his war on the press.

What is markedly different now is the medium through which the public experiences these snipe-fests. We are all watching them. In real time, and then over and over again on repeat. And with a president as polarizing as this one, who never finds a shortage of sparring partners in the media, the temptation to binge watch is irresistible.

For a sense of how much this can change what we’re seeing, it’s useful to look back at how cameras changed another piece of Washington business: Congress.

The House opened to full-time video cameras on March 19, 1979, and the Senate followed in 1986. Congressional showmanship increased so significantly from that point on that it actually managed to break previously functional institutions. Tasks that had once been accomplished by putting brief remarks on the record became an opportunity to hold the floor in an otherwise empty room, ranting for the cameras — and generating footage for campaign ads. High-profile confirmation hearings, conceived as an attempt to elicit relevant information about nominees, were never entirely without controversy, but now include an entire opening day of blustery speeches by senators, who see the airtime as their due.

Other than the outcomes of actual votes, vanishingly little news occurs where cameras are present. The real work of lawmaking is done elsewhere.

Likewise, actual scoops are rarely obtained in the White House briefing room. Looking for news in a televised news conference is like looking for your lost contact lens under the streetlamp because that’s where the light is. We all stare mesmerized at our screen, trying to slake the endless thirst for political news in our need to understand this administration’s actions. The vital function of actually inquiring into the doings of the president and receiving information about the same has been shunted into side rooms and private chats. (Where, by the way, many very talented and undercompensated journalists labor valiantly.)

Instead, for some, the briefing room has come to serve as a weird hybrid contraption for self-promotion — part soapbox, part springboard. Reporters can burnish their credentials before heading off to gigs as talking heads.

Even after two years of this administration, it is alarming to hear a president refer to the press as “the enemy of the people” and to consistently attack and undermine the media as it tries to hold him to account. It’s especially jarring when he singles out individual reporters for criticism.

In an interview after their confrontation, Mr. Trump strongly suggested that Mr. Acosta’s aggressive style was motivated by personal financial gain. “He gets paid to do that,” the president said. Mr. Trump said of reporter April Ryan, “she gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise or she gets a contract with CNN.” This is ungenerous, to say the least.

But, as usual, there is more than a nugget of truth smothered under Mr. Trump’s helping of ad hominem sauce: The ferocity of today’s politics does seem to have been good for the bottom lines of the news industry as a whole. A report by the advertising research firm Borrell Associates estimates that television spending on political advertising in the midterms was $4.5 billion, perhaps triple what it was in the last off-year election. That infusion of unexpected cash has caused stock prices of media conglomerates to rise.

When the story of Mr. Acosta’s martyrdom is told by the popular press and eventually Hollywood, it will certainly have a hero, and it won’t be the president. If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s that George Clooney is the best person to play Jim Acosta in the eventual feature film — assuming that Mr. Clooney continues to not age. The role of Donald Trump will be played, of course, by Donald Trump. Or perhaps Alec Baldwin, assuming Mr. Baldwin does continue to age.

But this isn’t an epic drama. It’s a reality show. And like reality shows, it doesn’t have a hero.

The continual presence of cameras has a way of eroding public affection for whatever they are trained on, while paradoxically increasing appetite for the subject matter. (See: The Real Housewives of Every Single City in America.)

The advent of C-SPAN coincided with a huge decline of public trust in the legislature. Gallup finds that 46 percent of people say they have “very little” confidence in Congress, double the 23 percent reported in 1979. Newspapers followed a similar trajectory over the same period (38 percent today compared with 12 percent). Gallup started asking about television news only in the early 1990s, but the decline is evident there as well.

Was there ever a time when Americans believed their elected officials to be benevolent and omnipotent and their journalists to be objective and omniscient beings? Those 1979 confidence figures aren’t exactly overwhelming. But the benevolent and objective myth benefits the powerful, not the people. Puncturing it is not a loss for civility; it’s a gain for reality.

Lies need to be countered by truths, certainly, and that’s something Americans have looked to the press to do in the past. But the same forces that buoyed Mr. Trump’s campaign have distorted news coverage toward sensationalism and away from sobriety.

The best-case scenario, of course, would be for both elected officials and the Fourth Estate elites to be as pure as driven snow, in both action and intention. But that’s unlikely to happen, as all of those positions are occupied by human beings.

There are genuinely serious questions at stake right now about civil rights, debt, redistribution and the future of state power. But neither the press nor the politically powerful stand to gain much by grappling with those problems on TV, and they are tacitly willing to remain locked in a vicious cycle as long as it means they don’t have to deal with the really sticky stuff.

Which leaves us in a second-best scenario: If powerful politicians and powerful journalists can all, on occasion, be venal, petty and vain, it’s far better that the American people should have every opportunity to see that for themselves. That way, they will know to take every bite they are spoon-fed with a grain of salt.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is the editor in chief of Reason magazine.

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Opinion | Praise for Nancy Pelosi: An ‘Accomplished Warrior’

To the Editor:

Re “‘Pink Wave’ May Complicate Race for Speaker” (news article, Nov. 16):

Why do Democrats internalize and parrot Republican smear campaigns against our party’s accomplished women? After such a critical blue wave, why squander the savvy, tenacity and expertise that Nancy Pelosi would bring to steering the Democratic agenda? Her deft skills are unquestioned. Republicans cast Ms. Pelosi as evil incarnate, as they did Hillary Clinton, precisely for fear of her effectiveness.

There’s nothing progressive — or wise — about discarding Ms. Pelosi; it’s downright ludicrous to sideline your most formidable and accomplished warrior, especially when the battle has just begun.

Lisa Shoglow
Weston, Conn.

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Opinion | What the Dutch Can Teach Us About Wildfires

MOSCOW, Idaho — In one of his first public statements about the forest fires devastating California, President Trump tweeted that “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”

His comment reveals something pervasive and dangerous about how Americans have treated wildfire for more than 100 years: not as the natural hazard that it is, but as something we humans can control.

It’s an understandable mentality, the product of considerable success at putting out fires for decades. But because it has created an abundance of fuel scattered across many of our forests, that mentality is also making the fires that do rage out of control — like the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles — much deadlier. At last count 63 people have died in the Camp Fire, and it is only a matter of time before we have our first three-digit fatality wildfire since the 1918 Cloquet Fires in Minnesota killed hundreds.

With hotter and drier weather on the way, forest fires will be a part of life for tens of millions of Americans for the foreseeable future. We need a new way to deal with them — not just better management, as the president suggests, but an entirely different approach to where and how we live in fire-prone areas.

The most common call, especially right after a major fire, is to restrict growth entirely in fire-prone areas. Practically speaking, that won’t work: In the United States, we build and rebuild on earthquake faults, in tsunami zones, in Tornado Alley, along the hurricane-plagued Gulf Coast and in floodplains. New Orleans sits below sea level and it’s not going anywhere.

California is already one of the most expensive states in the country because of a housing shortage, and restricting growth in fire-prone areas — which includes most of the state — will only exacerbate that shortage, raise prices and further marginalize the most vulnerable populations. Many residents of Paradise, the town at the center of the Camp Fire, lived there specifically because they had been priced out of nearby cities.

Instead, we should take a cue from the Dutch. Much of the Netherlands sits below sea level and is therefore prone to flooding, but the Dutch can’t exactly move en masse next door to Germany. So they have learned over the centuries that the solution is to stop fighting the sea, and build their cities and towns to maximize saving lives through smarter planning and infrastructure. We could do the same with wildfire.

Some parts of the country already follow the Dutch model, intentionally or not. The southeastern United States has not lost significant numbers of homes or lives to fire, despite its vast expanse of the “wildland-urban interface” — the mixture of rural homes and towns with wild vegetation. That’s not because the region is immune to fire. It’s because, in part, the Southeast uses prescribed fire across millions of acres each year to reduce how much vegetation is left to burn, effectively using intentional fires to limit out-of-control wildfire.

In California, some communities aggressively prepare residents for the eventuality of wildfire. Montecito, a community east of Santa Barbara, saw the need to address wildfire risk following the 1990 Painted Cave Fire nearby, which killed one person and consumed 427 homes. The Montecito Fire Protection District works with residents to reduce vegetative fuels along roadsides, create “fuel breaks” — essentially areas where native shrubs have been thinned or removed — at strategic locations on private property, and harden homes against embers by putting screens over vents and replacing siding and roofs with less flammable materials.

Fire personnel help residents create “defensible space” around their homes by removing brush and dead trees. (As the name suggests, defensible space is an area where a home can be defended by firefighters.) The district also set up a neighborhood chipping program to help residents dispose of excess logs and branches.

It created a robust evacuation plan and educated residents on how it worked. And it changed certain codes, requiring new driveways to be wider and with enough turnaround space for large fire engines. Those things make it safer and easier for residents to evacuate and firefighters to get in to protect lives and homes.

All of this preparation was tested in the Thomas Fire last December. The ongoing drought had primed the vegetation for explosive growth. Downhill winds developed, gusting over 60 miles per hour, pushing the fire into the community and raining embers down on homes. It was the worst-case scenario imaginable. Fire-behavior models projected that hundreds of homes could be lost in such conditions. When it was over, however, Montecito emerged with no fatalities, no injuries and only seven homes lost.

I was part of a team that reviewed how Montecito’s preparation paid off, and I saw how well the multipronged approach had worked. Yes, firefighters still had to protect homes. But they were able to do so safely, and many homes withstood the flames without any firefighter support. A lot of things went right, and there is no question that the changes Montecito made over many years contributed to the outcome. As a former wildland firefighter, what I saw in Montecito was a community that prioritized life safety and made sure firefighters could do their jobs safely and effectively, and it made all the difference.

Other communities in the West are implementing their own strategies. In San Diego, new subdivisions are being built with fire-resistant designs and materials so residents can stay safe in their homes while the fire burns around them, instead of risking evacuation and the perils of clogged roads. San Diego Gas and Electric has also focused on strategic blackouts during high wind events to reduce the risk of power line ignitions.



In Colorado, communities are building fire breaks and “greenbelts” of fire-resistant green grass that completely surround the community, creating the equivalent of a moat that fire can’t easily cross. In the inland Northwest, rural farmers and ranchers have developed rangeland fire protection associations to prepare for and combat fast-moving rangeland fires with farm and construction equipment.

The social science of fires has shown us that there is no panacea, no one fix that will work everywhere — some communities have different needs, others have different levels of resources. The key to solving the wildfire problem is to develop local solutions that work for a given location and topography and a given community.

Fire isn't something we can stop completely; it's like a hurricane. Treating wildfire like the natural hazard it is will allow us to focus on saving lives and infrastructure. Science has demonstrated that wildfire occurs naturally in our fire-adapted forests and wildlands. But that doesn’t mean people need to die from it.

Crystal Kolden is an associate professor of forest, rangeland and fire sciences at the University of Idaho and a former wildland firefighter.

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Opinion | America Is Blaming Pregnant Women for Their Own Deaths

Thea was 35 years old and 40 weeks pregnant when she went to her doctor for her final prenatal appointment. She was in good shape, didn’t smoke and had received regular prenatal care, though she wasn’t thrilled with the obstetrics practice she’d chosen in Chicago. The doctors were “more interested in protocols than people,” she said.

On that day, she was surprised to learn that her amniotic fluid was low, though the baby’s vital signs remained strong. The doctor informed Thea that she’d need to be induced right away. Thea questioned this directive, asking about the success rates for induction and whether she should consider a cesarean section instead. The doctor said she had no choice. She then asked if she could go home to get her overnight bag. She was told, she said, that if she left she could be “arrested for endangering the life of a child.”

Thea asked that I refer to her only by her first name because the details of her story are so personal. She also cautioned that “in trauma, memory can be fragmented and skewed.” But over a decade later, she remembers this confrontation with her doctor as the moment it became clear to her that in becoming a mother, she was no longer seen as a person: “I really felt like I was a piece of meat, like I was not being considered in this. It was all about the baby.”

I’ve been thinking lately about the remarkable ways in which American women continue to be devalued and disempowered through the prism of motherhood, even as we insist on the pre-eminence of mothers’ status. Alabama voters have just approved a constitutional amendment recognizing “fetal personhood,” a measure that could be used to further curtail the rights of pregnant women in favor of the safety of fetuses.

Seventy years ago, Simone de Beauvoir wrote that pregnancy can be both “an enrichment and a mutilation;” the mother “feels as vast as the world, but this very richness annihilates her — she has the impression of not being anything else.”

For experts studying the United States’ maternal mortality and injury rates — which are estimated to far surpass those in other developed countries — and for women in labor, the failure to treat mothers as people is neither antiquated nor dystopian, but absolutely pressing.

In September, USA Today published a major investigation into recent efforts to curb maternal death rates. A number of states have assigned panels of experts to review what went wrong in cases where mothers die. This sounds promising. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked — rates have continued to rise — and the reason is hard to fathom.

“At least 30 states have avoided scrutinizing medical care provided to mothers who died, or they haven’t been studying deaths at all,” the newspaper said. “Instead, many state committees emphasized lifestyle choices and societal ills in their reports on maternal deaths. They weighed in on women smoking too much or getting too fat or on their failure to seek prenatal medical care.” Mothers, it seems, in addition to being held solely responsible for every facet of their child’s well-being, are also being held responsible for their own deaths.

Talk about blaming the victims.

According to USA Today, when asked about their decision not to scrutinize medical care, some doctors on the panels said they didn’t have the resources, and that hospitals don’t like to (and aren’t required to) hand over their dead patients’ charts. Lawmakers claimed that it wasn’t the job of the state to meddle with doctors’ decisions. And state officials argued that it was more important to focus on broader issues surrounding maternal health than on what may have gone wrong in specific women’s cases.

But it is hard to imagine some other scenario in which patients are dying in hospitals from complications of routine procedures — appendectomies, say — and instead of studying the care the patients received leading up to their deaths, review panels focus on the patients’ lifestyles in the year before their procedure.

The problem isn’t that we don’t know how to make childbirth safer. Stephanie Teleki, who leads the maternity care portfolio at the California Health Care Foundation, put it this way: “Women know what they want when it comes to labor and delivery, and it turns out the things they want (midwives, doulas, fewer unnecessary interventions and cesarean sections) are less expensive and produce better outcomes.” The problem is not that pregnant women are uneducated or uninformed; the problem is that those in charge aren’t listening to them.

I wanted to know what it is like to experience this — to face one’s death during childbirth in the richest country in the world in the second decade of the 21st century. Obviously, I couldn’t talk to women who had died in childbirth. So I spoke to women who had almost died. That’s what led me to Thea.

After 36 hours of pitocin, a drug that induces labor, and three hours of pushing, Thea required a cesarean because the baby had turned sideways. Prolonged exposure to pitocin can increase the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging. And that’s what happened a few minutes after her daughter was delivered. Thea bled for three hours, while she got intravenous drugs to promote clotting and signed forms in case she ended up needing an emergency hysterectomy.

“They kept telling me how healthy the baby was,” she told me, “but that only made me more terrified that now I might die.” She spent a week in the hospital.

“They did save me in the end,” she says, “but after they almost killed me.”

When Serena Williams spoke out about the medical emergency she endured after the birth of her child last year, and the psychological trauma she suffered as a result, she began a long-overdue debate on America’s abysmal rates of maternal death and injury, as well as the ways that women of color bear the brunt of subpar care.

African-American women are nearly 3.5 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related conditions. “Women are not being listened to,” Dr. Teleki told me. “But black women are the least listened to and it’s costing them their lives at a much higher rate.”

Ms. Williams’s story offered a personal glimpse into an epidemic of preventable deaths that has long been ignored in this country.

In 2000, United Nations member states issued a Millennium Development Goal of, by 2015, cutting the 1990 maternal death ratio by 75 percent. Through a large-scale international effort, maternal mortality was reduced by 43 percent worldwide during that period, and by almost 50 percent in developed countries. Meanwhile, the rates of American women dying from pregnancy rose.

Marian MacDorman, a research professor at the University of Maryland, told me that the United States was barely involved in the United Nations effort. “Nothing was being done, partly because nobody knew what was going on,” she said. “The data we had was bad, and people weren’t studying the data.”

It wasn’t until 2003 that states started adding a pregnancy check box to death certificates, and some didn’t do so until the past two years. “This created a data mess where nobody could figure out what the national trends were,” she said. She described this as “a huge missed opportunity for intervention in conjunction with the Millennium Development Goal.” At the same time, “the National Center for Health Statistics, which is the government agency responsible for publishing maternal mortality data, completely stopped publishing it.”

The only exception in the United States was California, where, in 2006, the Stanford University School of Medicine worked with the state to create the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. The initiative developed “quality improvement tool kits” that doctors and hospitals could download. They included detailed instructions about best practices for various preventable complications that can arise during or after pregnancy, like hemorrhaging and pre-eclampsia.

This sounds simplistic, but it had a powerful effect. “What you have to understand,” Dr. MacDorman explained, “is that these emergencies are horrible and they happen too often, but still, they’re not common. An O.B. might easily go a year without encountering such an emergency.”

As a result of this initiative, between 2006 and 2013, California saw a 55 percent decrease in the maternal mortality rate, from 16.9 to 7.3 deaths for every 100,000 live births. During that same period, according to The Washington Post, the national rate increased — from an estimated 13.3 to 22 deaths in 100,000.

These numbers, disturbing as they are, don’t account for the far greater number of women who are injured during delivery or suffer the trauma of near-death experiences. For many, this trauma can last a lifetime.

Claire, who also asked that I use only her first name, was 38 weeks into her fourth pregnancy in 1992 when she went into the hospital certain she was in active labor. She protested when the doctor decided that the baby wasn’t full-term and gave shots to halt the labor. A few weeks later the baby’s head descended and Claire returned to the hospital, but the baby was now so big that she labored unsuccessfully for 24 hours before undergoing an emergency C-section.

This is how she described her experience: “They gave me an epidural and asked me if I could feel the knife and I said, ‘Yes, I can,’ and they didn’t believe me. They said that’s impossible. But I kept saying, ‘No, I can feel it.’” Then her blood pressure dropped. “I hear my husband say, ‘Look at her blood pressure.’ And the doctor said, ‘Oh, that must be a malfunction of the machine.’ Then I hear, ‘Oh, my God, she’s going into shock,’” she explained. “At one point I heard them say, ‘We’re going to lose her, we’re going to lose the baby’.”

Claire still remembers it as one of the most terrifying experiences of her life. “I never completely got over it,” she told me. “I have a daughter now who’s pregnant. I’d like to just be happy about it but I can’t be.”

Thea’s daughter is now 13. She decided not to tell her how terrible the experience of her birth was, for fear she won’t want to have kids herself.

There was another reason, though, she told me, in a follow-up email to our conversation: “I didn’t want my daughter to know that the joy of her birth was mixed with trauma and the fear of my own death.” She still finds herself feeling guilty for that fear, for “caring about myself and my mortality.” This, she wrote, “speaks to the way I, and probably many other women, was dehumanized and demeaned during the delivery,” and told that “our babies are much more important than we are.”

“I was invested in maintaining that narrative as a way to love her,” Thea wrote.

Kim Brooks is the author of “Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear.”

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Bob Layton: Olympic fallout

It was the Rolling Stones who issued us a friendly reminder back in 1969 that You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

Calgary’s Mayor Neheed Nenshi and his Olympic supporters may have been humming that Tuesday night as people in that city voted over 56 per cent not to bid on the 2026 winter games.

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Switzerland‘s canton of Valais said no with a 54 per cent majority.

Austria said no because it lacked political support.

Calgary had political and financial support from all three levels of government.

But, Calgary people are not sheeple.

The “Yes” side had a million-dollar positive ad budget.

The no side had 400 buttons and the power of social media and the overriding fear of a cost over-run driving them.

Some were concerned about previous alleged cases of IOC corruption.

Mayor Nenshi was gracious in defeat, saying people who loved Calgary had thoughtful questions and he would like to continue the conversation.

Global’s famous poetic weather specialist Bill Matheson, looking down from above, is probably saying, “The Mayor proposed — and the people disposed.”

Now, if Edmonton could only get a plebiscite, say, on the West LRT?

Let me know what you think.

Bob Layton is the news manager of the Corus Edmonton group of radio stations.

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Visa to take minority stake in India's BillDesk

(Reuters) – Payments processor Visa Inc (V.N) said on Friday it is taking a minority stake in Indian payment gateway BillDesk to expand its footprint in the south Asian country.

The investment will be subject to statutory approvals and is expected to have no direct bearing on Visa’s existing India business, the company said in a statement.

Visa’s latest move comes a week after India’s finance minister said here Mastercard and Visa were losing market share to domestic payments networks.

Earlier Mastercard had complained here to the U.S. government that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was using nationalism to promote a local rival.

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Opinion | How Trump Is Worse Than Nixon

When President Richard Nixon decided in late October 1973 to force out the attorney general and replace him with someone who would fire the special prosecutor haunting his life, he went through the chain of command until he got to the third person in line, the solicitor general, who did the deed. Now here we are again, with another president wanting to be rid of an investigation by a special counsel that threatens his presidency.

But rather than follow the regular order, as Nixon had, President Trump selected as acting attorney general a lackey who had been chosen as chief of staff to the attorney general because of his TV appearances as a private citizen in which he echoed the president’s position on the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. Among other things, he’d parroted Mr. Trump’s obsessive line, “There was no collusion.” It has been broadly assumed that this man would, one way or another, end the special counsel’s investigation.

Whether, as some legal scholars argue, Mr. Trump’s choice was unconstitutional, since the new acting attorney general has never been confirmed by the Senate, or was simply unwise since his choice was blatantly self-serving, the differences in the ways the two presidents have approached getting rid of an inconvenient prosecutor are informed by their different backgrounds.

Nixon, a lawyer who had been a member of the House of Representatives, a senator and a vice president, was more accepting of the political order. Mr. Trump, with no government experience, and little knowledge of how the federal government works, has been a free if malevolent spirit, less likely than even Nixon to observe boundaries.

As president, Nixon tried to bend the constitutional and political systems to his will. He interfered in the Democratic Party’s process for picking his future opponent. And he challenged the separation of powers — setting off the constitutional crisis that Watergate was. But as far as Nixon moved toward fascism, Mr. Trump has been going further.

This isn’t to suggest that Nixon was a sweetheart, or meek in his efforts to save himself. But his background as a creature of the establishment inhibited his actions.

One systemic and critical difference between Nixon’s situation and Mr. Trump’s is that Nixon faced a Democratic Congress, while Mr. Trump has enjoyed a completely Republican-controlled one. (That changes when the Democrats take control of the House in January.) Under Mr. Trump there has been more reluctance to allow top figures to testify before congressional committees than there was under Nixon.

Each president tried to stir up public impatience with his perceived persecution and thus pressure investigators to hurry up, but Mr. Trump makes Nixon look like a pussycat.

Nixon officials were prone to saying things like, “Enough wallowing in Watergate,” while, for example, in early August, Mr. Trump tweeted, “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now.” Mr. Trump has done much more than Nixon did in trying to damage public trust in whatever their prosecutors might come up with.

Mr. Trump’s allies among Republican leaders of House investigatory committees have sought to undermine the jobs of not just the special counsel but also key figures in the Justice Department and the F.B.I. Such goings-on didn’t happen in Watergate.


Mr. Trump has other structural advantages over Nixon. Nixon’s base nearly melted away in the face of evidence of his guilt in a cover-up. Mr. Trump’s base has yet to be so tested, but it’s larger and more cohesive than Nixon’s. And Nixon had nothing remotely like the propaganda organ that Mr. Trump has in Fox News. (There was no cable TV in Nixon’s time.)

Though both men have shown hatred of the press, Mr. Trump has gone much further by encouraging violence against it. And, as far as we know, Mr. Trump has been less prone than Nixon to using levers of the bureaucracy to punish his perceived “enemies,” but he may be catching up. For example he appears to have moved to raise postal rates to hurt Amazon, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post.

The big question is whether there will turn out to be a major difference between the two men when it comes to honoring the decisions of the law, or of the public. Nixon shied from challenging John F. Kennedy’s narrow electoral victory in 1960 not out of magnanimity but because he concluded he couldn’t make the charge of fraud stick. Mr. Trump, as we’re seeing, needs no evidence before charging election fraud.

When the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the White House tapes, he obeyed. And after Republican elders went to the White House to tell him that he lacked the political support to survive as president, Nixon yielded to their implication that he should leave office. Nearly impossible as it is to imagine a similar scene involving the current president and his pusillanimous party, Mr. Trump has given us reason to wonder whether he would defer to legal findings against him or even to a re-election loss in 2020 — if, that is, he’s still in office then.

Elizabeth Drew, a political journalist who covered Watergate for The New Yorker, is the author of “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall.”

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Opinion | The Rise of the Resentniks

There’s a powerful moment at the start of Anne Applebaum’s recent essay in The Atlantic. She’s recalling a party she threw on Dec. 31, 1999, at her home in Poland. Many of the hundred-odd guests were Polish, but others flew in from around the world for a weekend together, to greet the new millennium.

Most of the guests were conservatives — which in those days meant being anti-Communist and pro-market, but also believing in international alliances like NATO. The party was a great success, lasted all night and continued into brunch the following day. Everybody felt a part of the same team.

“Nearly two decades later,” Applebaum writes, “I would now cross the street to avoid some of the people who were at my New Year’s Eve party.” She estimates that half the people at that party are no longer on speaking terms with the other half.

For example, in recent years Applebaum has not had a single conversation with a woman who was once one of her closest friends and is godmother to one of her children. She tried to reach out to this woman and suggested they get together, but the woman refused. “What would we talk about?” she texted.

Those of us who came of age in conservative circles know exactly what Applebaum is talking about. The same kinds of rifts have opened up among conservatives around the world, in Britain, Italy, Germany and the U.S.

Some conservatives stayed on the political trajectory they were on in 1999. Others embraced populist nativism. They wandered into territory that is xenophobic, anti-Semitic, authoritarian. Still others were driven leftward by the reactionary revival.

What happened? This is the story I would tell.

During the Cold War, being a conservative was a moral cause. You were fighting Communist tyranny — aligned with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa. But you were somewhat marginalized in your own society. Liberals controlled the universities, the news media, the cultural high ground, so the right attracted many people with outsider personalities.

Then with the election of Reagan and Thatcher and in the years afterward, conservatives built their own counter-establishment — think tanks, publications, broadcasting outlets. As conservatism professionalized, it despiritualized. After the Soviet Union collapsed, conservatism no longer had a great moral cause to rally around. It became a technocratic, economics-focused movement concerned with small government and entitlement reform. Compassionate conservatism and the dream of spreading global democracy were efforts to anchor conservatism around a moral ideal, but they did not work out.

Many conservatives simply could not succeed in the new conservative counterestablishment. In any meritocracy, there are going to be a lot of people who lose out and do not get the glittering career they think they are due. Sooner or later those people are going to rise up to challenge the competition itself and to question its idea of excellence. “Resentment, envy, and above all the belief that the ‘system’ is unfair — these are important sentiments among the intellectuals of the Polish right,” Applebaum writes.

At the same time, they resent how spiritually flat conservatism has become. “The principles of competition, even when they encourage talent and create upward mobility, don’t necessarily answer deeper questions about national identity, or satisfy the human desire to belong to a moral community,” Applebaum continues.

In such a situation, you’re almost bound to get a return of blood-and-soil nationalism. The losers in the meritocratic competition, the permanent outsiders, seize on ethnic nationalism to give themselves a sense of belonging, to explain their failures, to rally the masses and to upend the meritocracy.

In office, what the populist nationalists do is this: They replace the idea of excellence with the idea of “patriotism.” Loyalty to the tribe is more important than professional competence. In fact, a person’s very lack of creativity and talent becomes proof of his continued reliability to the cause, as we’ve seen in the continued fealty to King Trump.

While there is a sprinkling of good professionals in the Trump administration, they are there by accident, not by intent. Many of those staffing the White House could not get a job in any normal Republican administration, which selected people according to any traditional criteria of excellence.

And now, as Trump reshuffles his administration yet again, we see the remnants of the B and C teams replaced by members of the D team. Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of gossip over whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will keep his job. But it almost doesn’t matter, because from here on out, it’s Whitakers all the way down.

If conservatism is ever to recover it has to achieve two large tasks. First, it has to find a moral purpose large enough to displace the lure of blood-and-soil nationalism. Second, it has to restore standards of professional competence and reassert the importance of experience, integrity and political craftsmanship. When you take away excellence and integrity, loyalty to the great leader is the only currency that remains.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

David Brooks has been a columnist with The Times since 2003. He is the author of “The Road to Character” and the forthcoming book, “The Second Mountain.”

 

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Specialized wheelchair giving injured dog new lease on life in Springhill, N.S.

A dog that suffered serious nerve damage when he was attacked by another dog is back on his feet again, all thanks to the work of an animal hospital in Springhill, N.S.

Tyson, a seven-year-old miniature pinscher, was sent from Texas to the Save A Life Canada Animal Rescue Society over six months ago. The society takes in local dogs and fundraisers to rescue dogs in the United States, specifically in San Antonio and Los Angeles.

Becki Carpenter, who is a member of the animal rescue society, says Tyson was in pretty rough shape when he came into their care.

“He’s not paralyzed. He can feel things, but he couldn’t actually move his front legs,” she says.

“He wasn’t able to walk because he couldn’t actually bend his front legs.”

That’s where Eddies Wheels for Pets stepped in. They created a custom-fit wheelchair for Tyson, which helps him scoot around all on his own.

“The vet was incredible. They worked extensively with Eddie’s Wheels to make sure that all the measurements were correct and that it would fit properly,” says Carpenter.

Carpenter says Tyson’s situation was unique, as most dogs with mobility problems have to be fitted for their back end rather than their front.

It’s taken some time for Tyson to become accustomed to his new wheels, but Carpenter says he’s starting to get the hang of it.

“He loves that cart,” she laughed. “He’s doing really, really well with it, I’m pretty sure he’s in it most of the time now.”

“He’s very happy now.”

The Save A Life Canada Animal Rescue Society says Tyson is in much higher spirits since his arrival.

Tyson has been doing water therapy, acupuncture and different physiotherapy exercise to regain strength in his front and back legs. Carpenter truly believes the work and the wheelchair saved him from being euthanized.

Tyson remains in foster care and is waiting to be adopted. He’ll continue working with the vet and his foster mom until that day comes. Carpenter says he’ll need ongoing treatment for the rest of his life, but he should be up for adoption within the next month or two.

The society is accepting donations towards his care, which can be found here.

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