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In Politics, Some Things Really Are Rigged – The New York Times

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Readers say there is plentiful evidence of influence peddling, back- room deals and conflicts of interest. Also: How to make children become lifelong readers; New York’s Paris movie theater.

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Illustration by Nicholas Konrad, Photograph by Christopher Lee for The New York TimesCredit 

To the Editor:

Re “The Cynicism of ‘Everything Is Rigged’” (Op-Ed, Aug. 26):

Greg Weiner does a disservice to reality by arguing that corruption is somehow a lonely stranger to America’s political system these days. An Everest of evidence exists of the corrosive impact of influence-peddling and special-interest money, of back-room deals in which insiders manipulate bills voted on by Congress and state legislatures, of blatant self-dealing and conflicts of interest spinning out from the revolving door between industry and the regulatory community.

This is about systemic “legal graft” — nuanced, insidious and widespread — and to suggest otherwise is actually shallow and cynical.

Lee C. Seglem
Princeton, N.J.
The writer is executive director of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation.

To the Editor:

Greg Weiner is correct: Not everything is rigged in our political system. Only the most important things — like one person, one vote. He makes a point that policies come from politicians who must get the votes of their constituents. But he neglects to point out that voter suppression and gerrymandering are sometimes the reason those politicians are elected.

He defends using money to influence lawmaking, pointing out that this is effective only when voters aren’t paying attention. Really? Voters have things on their minds other than the arcane minutiae of lawmaking. But powerful corporations and influence groups are paying constant attention.

To them, changing one word in proposed legislation is well worth the lobbying costs and campaign contributions that put them into a position to get that word changed.

So the system is rigged in important ways, and most ordinary people know it.

David Blake
Santa Rosa, Calif.

To the Editor:

The notion that voters inevitably favor whoever spends the most money brainwashing them can be traced to the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who in 1958 postulated that advertisers can create demand for any product they might wish to sell.

A marketing landscape littered with the graves of New Coke, Segway and Google Glass long ago disproved Galbraith’s assertion. Greg Weiner correctly cites Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign to refute its applicability to politics. Earlier examples include Meg Whitman’s 2010 gubernatorial bid in California ($177 million) and Linda McMahon’s two failed Senate runs (nearly $100 million).

While lack of money can guarantee failure in politics, no amount of money guarantees success.

Michael Smith
Georgetown, Ky.

To the Editor:

Greg Weiner writes, “It is difficult to identify instances in American history of an electoral majority wanting something specific that it has not eventually gotten.”

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to think of one: The electoral majority has, since President Ronald Reagan was shot, supported common-sense gun safety measures, including universal background checks.

Ellen Simon
Jersey City

To the Editor:

If I had not been living in Georgia during the last election, I might have appreciated the valid points made by Greg Weiner a bit more.

In my state, Brian Kemp, who was then secretary of state, oversaw an election in which he was running for governor. He won after invalidating large numbers of voter registrations, removing voters from the rolls if they had not voted in recent elections, closing numerous polling places in poor and mostly minority areas and refusing to update the old voting machines.

Similar poll closings happened in other parts of the country, and I haven’t even mentioned the Russian efforts documented by the Mueller report and the demands for proofs of identity that are often costly, or even impossible, for many to produce.

Linda A. Bell
Decatur, Ga.

 CreditNishant Choksi

To the Editor:

Re “How Do You Raise a Literature Lover?” (Sunday Review, Sept. 1):

Pamela Paul asks how you create a literature lover, and the answer is simple. Read to your children.

My husband read to our three children long before they knew what words were, when they could not even “pat the bunny,” and long after they could read perfectly well to themselves. Nothing interfered with that nightly ritual.

It did not matter what he himself was writing or reading, what demands there were on his time; that reading each evening was an inviolate time. It was his way of binding his children to him, of letting them know what mattered, of showing them how he valued their opinions and their company.

Whether it was figuring out, along with Sherlock Holmes, the solutions to the mysteries or celebrating the adventures of P.G. Wodehouse’s characters, the television set was never on A and there was always a book in progress. And when those children had children of their own they followed the same example. They read to them.

My children and grandchildren are all avid readers. It has just been an integral part of everyday life, like breathing.

Elaine Yaffe
Denver

 CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Paris Theater, a Victim of Progress and a City Ever in Flux, Goes Dark” (news article, Sept. 2):

Au revoir, Paris Theater! I fondly remember a New York when style and intellect — not moneyed status — meant joining the young and old on line flocking to see a French or other foreign film at the Paris. Or perhaps another quality art film at the Beekman, the Sutton or Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

When you said you saw a film “at the Paris,” it was greeted with a smile. Now what? Going to a multiplex flick or a “private screening” in someone’s media room? How gauche!

Steven Cohen
New York

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