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New York Times Opinion presents
Strongly-held opinions. Open-minded debates. A weekly ideas show, hosted by Jane Coaston.
October 20, 2021
If Cannabis Is Legalized, Should All Drugs Be?
Medical marijuana is now legal in more than half of the country. The cities of Denver, Seattle, Washington and Oakland, Calif., have also decriminalized psilocybin (the psychedelic element in “magic mushrooms”). Oregon went one step further, decriminalizing all drugs in small quantities, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Attitudes toward drugs have changed considerably over the years. But the question of whether all drugs should be legalized continues to be contentious. How much have attitudes toward illegal drugs changed? And why? This week, Jane Coaston talks to Ismail Ali, the policy and advocacy director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and Jonathan P. Caulkins, a professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, about the pros and cons of legalizing all drugs. Mentioned in this episode: “Is there a Case for Legalizing Heroin?” by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker “The Drug-Policy Roulette” by Jonathan P. Caulkins and Michael A.C. Lee in the National Affairs Summer 2012 edition “Michael Pollan’s ‘Trip Report,’” on The New York Times Opinion podcast “Sway”
October 13, 2021
What Biden Is Still Getting Wrong on Immigration
Our immigration system is broken. So is the way we talk about it. Most conversations about immigration come down to a yes-or-no debate. Two sides talking over each other with very little constructive and achievable propositions. That might be part of the reason that little effective reform has made its way through Congress in the past 20 years, despite calls from both Democrats and Republicans for an overhaul. In reality, immigration is a complicated system and there’s no easy answer to the problems it entails. This week, Jane Coaston breaks down one group of approaches that could have a significant impact on individuals and families who want to enter the United States: temporary work programs. These programs allow migrants to come to the United States to work based on the labor needs of certain industries. And because their legal status is tied to employment, workers are beholden to their bosses and the companies that hire them. Oftentimes, the companies use that power to take advantage of workers. The guests today analyze these programs and debate whether they should be expanded without other changes or what reforms are necessary to ensure workers aren’t exploited. Michael Clemens is an economist and the director of migration, displacement and humanitarian policy at the Center for Global Development. Daniel Costa is a human rights lawyer and the director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute. Mentioned in this episode: Daniel Costa’s paper “Temporary Migrant Workers or Immigrants? The Question for U.S. Labor Migration” Michael Clemens’s study on the Bracero program in a paper he co-wrote called “Immigration Restrictions as Active Labor Market Policy” “Making President Trump’s Bed: A Housekeeper Without Papers” in The New York Times “The Fixer: Visa Lottery Chronicles” by Charles Piot with Kodjo Nicolas Batema Love listening to New York Times podcasts? Help us test a new audio product in beta and give us your thoughts to shape what it becomes. Visit nytimes.com/audio to join the beta.
October 6, 2021
Are You Contributing to America’s Affordable Housing Crisis?
Rent is soaring, but close to two-thirds of renters remain on leases because of financial reasons. In 2019, nearly 70 percent of millennials surveyed said that they could not afford to buy a home on account of rising prices, and the number of people in the United States without shelter has increased by about 30 percent in the past five years. We’re in a housing crisis. There’s a ton of debate on how we should go about solving these issues, particularly in dense cities. People who are for building more housing units in cities argue that zoning restrictions should be reduced, which would increase the number of homes, ideally allowing supply to keep up with demand. On the other hand, some residents support strict land use regulations that prevent further development in their areas. Today, Matt Yglesias, a D.C. resident, and Joel Kotkin, who lives in California, join host Jane Coaston to talk about the pros and cons of building more housing and single-family zoning and why moving to the suburbs isn’t the only answer. Also, the Times columnist Jamelle Bouie tells Jane about zoning policy in his city, Charlottesville, Va. Mentioned in this episode: “Building Housing — Lots of It — Will Lay the Foundation for a New Future” by Matt Yglesias on Vox “In Defense of Houses” by Joel Kotkin, published in City Journal “How Blue Cities Became So Outrageously Unaffordable,” an interview with the Vox policy reporter Jerusalem Demsas on “The Ezra Klein Show”
September 29, 2021
What We Get Wrong About Online Sex Work
This episode contains strong language. The online content-hosting platform OnlyFans declared in August that it would ban all “sexually explicit content” from its website. After immense backlash from users, the company reversed that decision just six days later. OnlyFans isn’t the only site to come under fire for providing a platform for adult content. Pornhub and Backpage have been threatened with restrictions over child exploitation and trafficking allegations. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation filed a lawsuit against Twitter, accusing it of allowing and profiting from human trafficking. But a big part of this conversation includes legal sex work and the rights of sex workers. The move to online work has made it possible for performers to have a direct line to their clients and to the general public. And with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, such sites have provided an avenue for content creators to continue earning money. In today’s episode, Jane Coaston speaks with two women who are intimately aware of the workings of the sex industry. Jamie Rosseland is an advocate for victims and survivors of trafficking. And Cherie DeVille is a 10-year porn veteran and a contributor to The Daily Beast. Mentioned in this episode: “What We Can Really Learn From the OnlyFans Debacle,” by Jessica Stoya on Slate “OnlyFans Is Not a Safe Platform for ‘Sex Work.’ It’s a Pimp,” by Catharine A. MacKinnon in New York Times Opinion “OnlyFans and the Future of Sex Work on the Internet,” an episode on NPR’s “1A” podcast
September 22, 2021
How They Failed: C.A. Republicans, Media Critics and Facebook Leadership
In a special Opinion Audio bonanza, Jane Coaston, Ezra Klein (The Ezra Klein Show) and Kara Swisher (Sway) sit down to discuss what went wrong for the G.O.P. in the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. “This was where the nationalization of politics really bit back for Republicans,” Jane says. The three hosts then debate whether the media industry’s criticism of itself does any good at all. “The media tweets like nobody’s watching,” Ezra says. Then the hosts turn to The Wall Street Journal’s revelations in “The Facebook Files” and discuss how to hold Facebook accountable. “We’re saying your tools in the hands of malevolent players are super dangerous,” Kara says, “but we have no power over them whatsoever.” And last, Ezra, Jane and Kara offer recommendations to take you deep into history, fantasy and psychotropics.
September 15, 2021
Is Being a Football Fan Unethical?
It’s the start of another N.F.L. season, the time of year Americans turn on their televisions to watch their favorite teams make spectacular plays and their favorite players commit incredible acts of athleticism. But is America’s favorite pastime actually its guiltiest pleasure? Can fans ethically enjoy watching a football game? The effects of the tackles on players’ brains is one reason you might feel guilty for watching. The injuries come on top of long-running disagreements between players and the league. How do you balance the brutality of the sport with the athleticism and beauty? Steve Almond gave up watching football because of the values he sees it embracing. Kevin Clark watches football as part of his job as a writer and reporter at The Ringer. Mentioned in this episode: “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback” by George Plimpton (1966) “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto” by Steve Almond Kevin Clark’s recent reporting at The Ringer
September 8, 2021
'I Fear for My Country Today:' Vets Reflect on 9/11
As the world reflects on the anniversary of Sept. 11, what does the day of the attacks — and the 20 years of war it precipitated — feel like to America’s veterans? With the Afghanistan withdrawal suddenly reclaiming attention for the “forever” wars, is the 9/11 era finally over, on the home front and in America’s foreign policy? Jane Coaston brings together Kenneth Harbaugh and Michael Washington, two friends and veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, to discuss the pax Americana, the 9/11 roots of today’s divide in the veteran community and the political weaponization of service members’ patriotism. Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot and is a podcaster and veterans’ advocate. Washington is a former Marine and firefighter who today works as a licensed therapist for veterans and emergency workers.
September 1, 2021
Is It Time to End Capital Punishment?
The death penalty — and the morality behind it — has long divided America. Joe Biden is the first sitting president in our nation’s history to openly oppose capital punishment. By comparison, his predecessor oversaw the executions of 13 people between July 2020 and the end of his tenure. In light of the Department of Justice’s recent moratorium on federal executions, Jane and her guests question the morality of capital punishment through a religious lens. Elizabeth Bruenig, a staff writer at The Atlantic, is Roman Catholic and stands against it, while David French, the senior editor of The Dispatch, argues that there are situations where it is the only just form of punishment. Mentioned in this episode: “The Man I Saw Them Kill,” by Elizabeth Bruenig for The New York Times Opinion section in December 2020. “Not That Innocent,” by Elizabeth Bruenig for The Atlantic in June 2021. “The Death Penalty Helps Preserve the Dignity of Life,” by David French for National Review, published in August 2018. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
August 25, 2021
Vaccine Mandates Won’t Save Us
Requiring proof of vaccination isn’t a novel idea. Schools across the United States require students to get certain vaccinations before the age of 6. You need a yellow fever vaccine to travel to parts of Africa and South America. Now, with a global pandemic, the conversation has shifted to Covid vaccination requirements. With little more than 50 percent of the United States fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and the Delta variant leading to increased case counts, it’s no surprise that our focus has shifted to vaccine mandates. This week, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration, which likely means more mandates and boosters. Cities like New York and San Francisco already have mandates in place, for accessing indoor dining, gyms and concerts. But do these requirements really help those on the fence? Will the F.D.A.’s declaration sway the roughly 30 percent of Americans who said they’d be more likely to get the vaccine after it was fully approved? Or will it just alienate an entire population of people already hesitant to get the vaccine? In this episode, Jane Coaston and her guests discuss the benefits and risks of vaccine mandates. Angela Rasmussen is a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan. And Marcella Tillett is the vice president of programs and partnerships at the Brooklyn Community Foundation, an organization that’s helping those in the area get vaccinated.
August 18, 2021
What Should We Be Teaching When It Comes to Racism and America’s Past?
For many politicians and parents, there’s growing concern over critical race theory. It maintains that race and racism in America are about not individual actors and actions as much as bigger structures that lead to and maintain gaps between racial groups. The theory started in the legal academy, and some fear that it has begun to take over the American education system. How concerned should you be? Jane Coaston and her guests disagree. Chris Rufo is a senior fellow and the director of the initiative on critical race theory at the Manhattan Institute. Professor Ralph Richard Banks is a co-founder and the faculty director of the Stanford Center for Racial Justice. Mentioned in this episode: “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, published in 2001 “How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory” in The New Yorker “Does Teaching America It’s Racist Make It Less Racist?” podcast episode by “The Argument” “Critical Race Theory: On the New Ideology of Race” panel discussion from the Manhattan Institute
August 11, 2021
Are Workplace Diversity Programs Doing More Harm Than Good?
It’s time to rethink what’s working in the modern workplace and what’s failing. Amid a pandemic that overturned how so many work, increased calls for racial and social justice put a new pressure on companies to ensure — or at least to seem as if they ensure — equality among their employees. Diversity, equity and inclusion (D.E.I.) programs are an increasingly popular solution deployed by management. But do these initiatives do marginalized employees any good? And who are the true beneficiaries of diversity programs, anyway? Jane Coaston has spent years on the receiving end of diversity initiatives, and for that reason, she’s skeptical. To debate D.E.I. programs’ efficacy, she brought together Dr. Sonia Kang, who does research on identity, diversity and inclusion at the University of Toronto, and Lily Zheng, a D.E.I. strategy consultant and public speaker, to argue what works and doesn’t when it comes to making workplaces fair for all.
August 4, 2021
Should We Stop Talking Politics at Work?
The ousting of Donald Trump, the election of Joe Biden, a ransacking of the Capitol, a summer of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and a pandemic that is still raging in parts of the United States and abroad. It has felt like a very political few years. But should we not be allowed to talk about it at work? Some bosses would strongly prefer that you stayed away from politics at work. A number of companies have proposed policies that would ban or significantly reduce political discussions at the workplace. But who gets to decide what’s political? And does it really benefit the company or its employees to keep these conversations from happening? Liz Wolfe is an editor at Reason and Johnathan Nightingale is an author and a co-founder of Raw Signal Group. They join Jane to debate whether eliminating politics is possible and how it would change the future of the workplace. Mentioned in this episode: “Basecamp Becomes the Latest Tech Company To Ban Talking Politics at Work,” by Liz Wolfe at Reason. “Fundamentally, this is a story about power,” in Johnathan Nightingale’s newsletter. “Breaking Camp,” by Casey Newton at The Verge.
July 28, 2021
The Great Debate of 2021: WFH or RTO?
You might be someone who has spent a majority of the past year working from home. A survey from October 2020 found 71 percent of American workers turned their apartments into office spaces. But starting this fall, companies are opening up their offices again. The C.E.O. of Morgan Stanley made it clear that its employees have to be back by September. Amazon is hoping for the same. But is returning to in-office work the right move for everyone? Over the next three weeks, we’re going to be focusing on what work could and should look like as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. This week, Jane Coaston is joined by Sean Bisceglia, the C.E.O. of Curion, a consumer insights company, and Anne Helen Petersen, the writer of the newsletter “Culture Study” and the author of “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” to debate the pros and cons of returning to the office. Mentioned in this episode: Sean Bisceglia’s interview with CNN: “Why Some Companies Want Everyone Back in the Office” “Imagine Your Flexible Office Work Future,” by Anne Helen Petersen The Slate podcast episode of “What Next: TBD”: So, What Happens to WFH Now?
July 21, 2021
No, But Really. Should We Contact Aliens?
With the U.S. government puzzling over U.F.O.s, and potentially habitable exoplanets in our telescopes, earthlings are closer than ever to finding other intelligent life in the universe. So the existential question is: Should we try to communicate with whatever we think might be out there? That’s the argument this week between Douglas Vakoch and Michio Kaku. Vakoch, the president of the research and educational nonprofit METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International, has dedicated his life’s work to intentionally broadcasting messages beyond our solar system. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and a co-founder of string field theory, thinks reaching out to unknown aliens is a catastrophically bad idea and “would be the biggest mistake in human history.”
July 14, 2021
Joe Biden and the Communion Wars
Could the Catholic Church pressure a politician into changing his or her stance on abortion? A debate has erupted in the Catholic community over whether a politician, like President Joe Biden, should be denied communion for supporting abortion rights. This week, Jane Coaston debates the pros and cons of using communion as punishment with Ross Douthat, a Times Opinion columnist, and Heidi Schlumpf, the executive editor of National Catholic Reporter.
July 7, 2021
Sway: Exercise, and Accept Your 'Inevitable Demise'
We're off this week! So we're bringing you an episode of another great Times Opinion podcast, Sway. The fitness industry has exploded into a nearly $100 billion sector, and Alison Bechdel is among the exercise-obsessed. Bechdel, the cartoonist whose comic strip inspired the Bechdel Test for female representation in Hollywood, says she has found transcendence in everything from yoga and karate to weight lifting and biking. Her new book, “The Secret to Superhuman Strength,” examines the exercise craze, and what it exposes about our attitudes around self-care, the booming fitness economy and even our mortality. In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Bechdel discuss the evolution of workout culture (“yoga boom” included), the politics of art (especially during the Trump era) and how mainstream cultural norms have finally caught up to, as Bechdel puts it, “where lesbians were back in the ’80s.”
June 30, 2021
Is Fox News Really All That Powerful?
Sometimes, it takes just one tweet to spark a debate. This month, the journalist Matt Taibbi suggested that the “financial/educational/political elite” hold real influence in America — not Fox and its viewers. According to Taibbi, America is controlled by the sensibilities of the few — especially those who run tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. But where does that leave politicians, or the media, in the struggle for power in America? This week, Jane Coaston debates who’s really wielding power in America right now and to what ends, with Matt Taibbi, author of several books, including “Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another,” and writer of the newsletter “TK News”; and Michelle Cottle, a member of the Times editorial board.
June 23, 2021
Not Everyone Is Worried About America's Falling Birth Rates
U.S. birthrates have fallen by 4 percent, hitting a record low. And it’s not just America — people around the world are having fewer children, from South Korea to South America. In some ways, this seems inevitable. From an economic standpoint, there’s the expensive trio of child rearing, education and health care in America. From a cultural perspective, women have more financial and societal independence, delaying the age of childbirth. What might be troubling are the consequences on our future economy and what an older population might mean for Social Security. This week, Jane Coaston talks to two demographers who have differing levels of worry about the news of our falling birthrate. Lyman Stone is the director of research at the consulting firm Demographic Intelligence, an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, a Robert Novak Journalism fellow and a Ph.D. student in population dynamics at McGill University. Caroline Hartnett is a demographer and an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina. You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts. A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.
June 17, 2021
Trevor Noah: ‘We Live in a World Where Having a Conversation Is Punished’
In this bonus episode of “The Argument,” Jane Coaston has an extended chat with the late-night host Trevor Noah. They discuss taking on the mantle of “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart, cancel culture and why you can’t take old jokes out of the context of the society in which they were made.
June 16, 2021
Should It Be This Hard to Sue the Police and Win?
One of the strongest calls for police reform is to end a legal doctrine called qualified immunity. Advocates for change argue it would be one of the most immediate ways to hold officers more accountable for their actions. But critics say it would leave police vulnerable when they’re faced with life-threatening situations. Qualified immunity protects government officials from some lawsuits if they violate a person’s constitutional rights in the course of their duties. If you’ve heard of police officers getting away with unconstitutional behavior and wondered how, it might have been because they had qualified immunity. This week, Jane Coaston talks to two lawyers who strongly disagree about whether qualified immunity needs to go. Lenny Kesten is a leading defender of police officers with Brody Hardoon Perkins & Kesten, and Easha Anand is the Supreme Court and appellate counsel for the MacArthur Justice Center.