Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The speech we would have heard if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin couldn't return from the moon

50 years ago today, July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin embarked on the first-ever trip to the moon, where they would land days later, on July 20, before returning to earth on July 24.

Because they were risking their lives, a speech had to be prepared for President Nixon to read in the event they got stuck on the moon with no way back.

Here's the full speech, written by future New York Times columnist William Safire. The last sentence ... oh man! 😢

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

(Photo credit: Universal History Archive/UIG/SH. Photo via Variety.)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Conan O'Brien improvises a whole episode when his only guest cancels at the last minute

"So much TV today is pre-programmed, worked out ahead of time . . . but that's not this show tonight! . . . We're figuring it out as we go. . ."

Friday, July 5, 2019

My 20 favorite Seinfeld episodes

The pilot of Seinfeld first aired 30 years ago today, July 5, 1989.

Here are my 20 favorite Seinfeld episodes (with the season number in parentheses):

1. The Pez Dispenser (3)

2. The Fix-Up (3)

3. The Opposite (5)

4. The Red Dot (3)

5. The Soup (6)

6. The Soup Nazi (7)

7. The Outing (4)

8. The Junior Mint (4)

9. The Deal (2)

10. The Invitations (7)

11. The Big Salad (6)

12. The Limo (3)

13. The Contest (4)

14. The Bizarro Jerry (8)

15. The Cartoon (9)

16. The Hamptons (5)

17. The Library (3)

18. The Stall (5)

19. Male Unbonding (1)

20. The Reverse Peephole (9)

And the winner is: season 3, with 5 of the 20 episodes.

Why we hear about gay pride and not straight pride

If you’re straight, and you’ve told everyone all you want about how great your spouse/marriage/relationship is without worrying you might be ostracized over it, then you don’t need to ask: Why can’t I take pride in my sexual orientation? You’ve already enjoyed the freedom to express your pride, without having to feel the burden of simultaneously representing not only yourself but also a lot of other people in a fight against discrimination. And if you’ve only thought of straight pride as a rhetorical response to gay pride rather than as a genuine response to a real need, that stands in contrast with gay pride, which is not just a talking point but a way to counteract how people have been shamed and attacked for being gay.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

My post-debate thoughts on the presidential race

I want to vote for a Democrat in the primary and general. I’ve never voted for a Republican for president, and I’ve voted in every presidential election since I voted for Gore in 2000, without regretting any of my general-election votes. (I went into more details in this Facebook post.)

The candidates who made the best impression on me in the two nights of the first Democratic debate were Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Those aren’t necessarily my favorite candidates; there are others I’ll seriously consider. I don’t know who I’ll support, and many candidates are sure to drop out before the New York primary, which could force me to adjust my preferences. But I have ruled out several candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

I want the Democrats to be ready to make a strong case in the general election that while they might be pretty liberal, they’re not socialists, and they understand the importance of pragmatism and compromise. Klobuchar and Hickenlooper have given the impression they’d be able to convey this to America.

Too many other candidates have not. An example is the candidates who’ve suggested they would abolish all private health insurance in America. That would move us further left than most developed countries. (Contrary to what’s sometimes said, few countries have single-payer health care; most countries with universal health care have a multiple-payer system involving government and private insurers. See this 2014 Washington Post article by Ezra Klein.) America is badly in need of sweeping reform to health insurance, but destroying every private health insurer in the country would seem radical and extreme to most Americans. Donald Trump couldn’t ask for a more generous gift.

Nominating one of the relatively moderate candidates is the way to win over swing voters in swing states, and make the Trump presidency rightly go down in history as a mistake that America corrected at the first available opportunity.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Live-blogging the top-tier night of the first 2020 Democratic debate

The first 2020 Democratic debate continues tonight, with four of the five leading candidates on the stage, starting at 9 Eastern.

As I did last night, I'll be live-blogging the second night of the debate. Keep reloading this post for more updates!

Again, since I'll be doing this without a pause or rewind button, any quotes I write down might not be correct word-for-word, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate. (I also might go back later and make corrections.)

[Interactive transcript of the debate.]

My mom, Ann Althouse, is also live-blogging it.

You should be able to watch the debate live online at MSNBC.

Here are the 10 out of 20 candidates who are debating tonight (and here are the Wikipedia pages of all the candidates):

9:07 — Sen. Bernie Sanders is asked if taxes will go up under his administration. Without answering the question, he says the "vast majority" of Americans will be paying less for health care, and student debt will be relieved. "Every program I have put forward is fully paid for." The moderator asks again, and Sanders says "yes" — but it'll be made up for with health savings.

9:09 — Vice President Joe Biden is asked about his recent comments to rich donors that "we shouldn't demonize the rich," and "nothing would fundamentally change" in his administration. Biden says he'd "eliminate Donald Trump's tax cuts for wealthy."

9:12 — The moderator points out that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate on the stage who's called himself a "democratic socialist." Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says Democrats should "clearly define that we are not socialists," so Republicans can't label them as socialists. "You can't promise everyone a government job! … You can't eliminate private health insurance for 180 million people, many of whom don't want to give it up."

9:13 — When asked about Hickenlooper's answer, Bernie Sanders points out that he's ahead of President Trump in the polls.

9:14 — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand cuts in without being asked a question, and seems to be trying to bridge the divide between the Bernie Sanders side and the more moderate (Hickenlooper) side.

9:15 — Sen. Michael Bennet says we need to enhance Obamacare with a public option, but looks at Bernie Sanders while pointing out that "Vermont rejected Medicare for All!"

9:17 — Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, says he's for "free college for low- and middle-income students" — but poor people shouldn't need to subsidize "the children of billionaires."

9:18 — Rep. Eric Swalwell jumps in without being asked a question, to say we need "a new generation" to address the student debt issue.

9:18 — Andrew Yang — wearing no tie! — is asked how he'd pay for his plan to give a universal basic income of $1,000 a month to every American adult. He says companies like Amazon are paying no taxes, and he'd fix this by creating a value-added tax (VAT), creating "a trickle-up economy." [VIDEO.]

9:21 — Swalwell talks about being 6 years old when Biden came to his school to say we need to "pass the torch" to a new generation. Biden comes back: "I'm still holding onto that torch!"

9:22 — After Biden answers a question about education, there's some wild, extended cross-talk among Buttigieg, Sanders, and Gillibrand. Finally, Kamala Harris plays the role of the parent stepping in to break up the fight: "America does not want to witness a food fight — they want to know how we're going to put food on their table!"

9:24 — They're all asked the same question from last night about whether they'd replace private health insurance with a government plan. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris raise their hands. Kirsten Gillibrand says she wouldn't do that right away, but she expects that we'd quickly transition to "single-payer" because government would out-compete private insurers.

9:27 — Biden says we need to "build on what we did with Obamacare," cleverly reminding us that he was Obama's veep. He talks about how important health care was to his family when "my wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident," and his sons were seriously injured; and he talks about his late son's cancer.

9:29 — Bernie Sanders promises to cut the costs of prescription drugs "in half."

9:31 — Marianne Williamson says she generally agrees with the other candidates on health care — but: "If you think we're going to beat Donald Trump with all these plans, you've got another think coming, because he didn't win by having plans; he won by saying make America great again!"

9:33 — Bennet mocks Bernie Sanders for saying private health insurance would be allowed only for "plastic surgery."

9:34 — Kamala Harris tells a moving story about a parent in the familiar situation of taking their child to the hospital with a high fever, but waiting in the car and thinking about the thousands of dollars they'll need to pay if they go through the hospital doors.

9:36 — All the candidates raise their hands to say their health-care programs would cover illegal immigrants.

9:41 — Kamala Harris is asked what "specifically" she would do with people trying to enter the US to apply for asylum. "I will release children from cages! I will get rid of private detention centers."

9:43 — Hickenlooper says ICE is "kidnapping" children. Williamson agrees and says it's "child abuse." "These are state-sponsored crimes."

9:46 — Gillibrand talks about how she'd reform immigration enforcement to be more "community-based."

9:47 — They're all asked if illegally crossing the border should be a "civil, not a criminal offense." I think everyone but Bennet raises their hands (though I might have missed someone else). Buttigieg points out that the criminal nature of the offense isn't just a technicality, but the basis for family separations. Buttigieg adds that Republicans give up any claim to be the party of religion if they think "God smiles upon" the family separations.

9:49 — Biden is asked about Obama's millions of deportations. He says "they should be deported" if they "committed a major crime." He doesn't directly address the millions of deportations, but simply asserts that Obama "did a heck of a job" and it's ridiculous to compare him to Trump. [Added: Reason rakes Biden over the coals for this.]

9:51 — Sanders would take his "executive-order pen" and "rescind every damn thing on this issue Trump has done."

9:52 — Swalwell flatly says that if someone's only offense is being in the country without documents, they shouldn't be deported. Biden hedged his answer to that question, saying that kind of person "shouldn't be a focus of deportation."

9:53 — Kamala Harris talks about how she resisted Obama's deportation policy when she was Attorney General of California. "I want a rape victim to be able to run out into the street and flag down a police officer without fear of being deported."

9:55 — Bennet starts his answer to a question on China in an unexpected way: "The president's been right to push back on China … but he's done it in the wrong way." Similarly, Yang says it's a "massive" problem that "China pirates our intellectual property," but "the tariffs and the trade war are the wrong way to go."

9:57 — Buttigieg tries to make his opposition to Trump's tariffs more personal by talking about how they're especially hurting soy farmers near him in the Midwest.

10:04 — Buttigieg is asked about a white police officer who shot a black man in South Bend. He admits he tried to fix police bias but didn't get the job done. "I have to look into his mother's eyes, and nothing that I say will bring him back." "I am determined to bring about a day when a black person driving a vehicle and a white person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching, feels the exact same thing: a feeling not of fear, but of safety." [VIDEO.]

10:07 — Swalwell tells Buttigieg: "The officer's body camera wasn't on? You should fire the chief of police." [Added: Mediaite's verdict on the debate sees this as a crucial moment:]
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, like Biden, did not get the job done. He not only didn’t shine, the pall over him regarding the events in his hometown over racial tensions and the police was noticeable. When Eric Swalwell, otherwise unremarkable in the debate, landed a blow saying Buttigieg should fire his police chief, he basically lost the whole night.
10:08 — Harris cuts in and says: "As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race." She goes after Biden: "I do not believe you are a racist … but … it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two Senators who built their careers on the segregation of race in this country. You also worked with them to oppose busing." Biden calls this "a mischaracterization of my position across the board." He says busing decisions, including that Harris was bused, would have been made at the local level. "I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education." Harris scoffs at this, saying the feds had to step in when the states weren't integrating schools when they should. No matter who you agree with on substance, Harris seemed to win this back-and-forth on theatrics: she seemed personal and impassioned, while Biden looked dazed and kept falling back on what must seem to most viewers like procedural details. [VIDEO.]

[Added: My mom says: "Kamala Harris is doing pretty well, but I didn't like her yelling at Biden. She did kind of get under his skin though." I'm not sure if that's about the same thing as my 10:08 update.]

10:14 — Why voters should believe that with a new president, "gridlock will magically disappear," as candidates always promise. Bennet: "Gridlock will not magically disappear as long as Mitch McConnell is still the Senate Majority Leader." But Biden comes back: "I got Mitch McConnell to raise taxes, $600 billion!"

10:19 — Sanders makes the kind of statement about the Supreme Court that presidential candidates usually shy away from: "My litmus test is I will never nominate any Justice to the Supreme Court unless that Justice is clear that she or he will defend Roe vs. Wade."

10:22 — Gillibrand seems to be trying to have her moment with an impassioned speech on abortion rights: "I have been the fiercest advocate for women's reproductive rights for over a decade."

10:23 — Harris on climate change: "I don't call it 'climate change'; it's a climate crisis. This president has embraced science fiction over science fact."

10:24 — Buttigieg, who hasn't talked for a while now, gets specific on climate change: "I had to activate the emergency operation center of our city twice. The first time was a 1,000-year flood; the second time was a 500-year flood." (I'll have to check that quote for exact accuracy later.)

10:25 — Hickenlooper on climate change: "I'm a scientist, so I recognize that we're 10 or 12 years away from suffering irreversible damage."

10:27 — Rachel Maddow asks Biden if he can address climate change without any support from Congress. He lists the Obama administration's accomplishments: "We built the largest wind farm in the world.…"

10:29 — Biden cringes when Swalwell repeats his mantra: "Here's the solution: pass the torch!"

10:38 — Swalwell is asked about his "unique" proposal for a mandatory federal buy-back of every "assault weapon" in America. "I propose this as a parent, in a generation where we look at what our children are wearing as they go to school, in case we have to identify them later."

10:39 — Rachel Maddow asks Sanders about a past quote where he seemed to say guns should be decided by the states. Sanders: "That's a mischaracterization." Maddow: "It's a quote of you!"

10:41 — Harris makes it sound like she could adopt Swalwell's plan.

10:42 — Buttigieg talks about how being the only candidate with military experience informs his view of guns: "We trained on some of these kinds of weapons.… There are weapons that have absolutely no place in American cities in peacetime, ever."

10:44 — Biden: "We should have smart guns," with biometric measures on the trigger.

10:45 — Bennet seems to be vying to be the boringest, slowest candidate. "I appreciate … the candidates who are up here tonight."

10:46 — Chuck Todd asks which alliance has been most harmed by President Trump and which one they'd work on restoring first. Buttigieg: "We have no idea which are the most important allies he will have pissed off between now and then!"

10:48 — Biden is asked why we should trust him after he recanted his vote for the Iraq War. As usual, he focuses on what he did as Obama's Vice President. Biden also says Bush abused the congressional authorization Biden voted for … and I'm having flashbacks to John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

10:53 — Now they're doing closing statements. Swalwell: "I'm a father of a 2-year-old and an infant. When I'm not changing diapers, I'm changing Washington. Most of the time, the diapers smell better."

10:54 — Williamson: "Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk.… He's reached into the psyche of the American people, and he's harnessed fear for political purposes.… I'm going to harness love for political purposes … and love will win."

10:55 — Hickenlooper seems to have saved up his whole pitch till the end: "We expanded reproductive health to reduce teenage abortion.… We were the first state [Colorado] to legalize marijuana.… We got to near universal health care coverage."

10:56 — Gillibrand: "Women are on fire!"

10:57 — Yang says he'll build "a broad coalition" including "libertarians" — the only time they're mentioned by any of the Democratic candidates.

10:58 — Harris tries to convince us that she should be the nominee based on her prosecutorial background, saying she'll "prosecute the case against 4 more years of Donald Trump."

10:59 — I missed Buttigieg's closing statement because the dumb NBC News Roku channel interrupted to ask if I'm still watching.

11:00 — Sanders, seeming to draw inspiration from President Eisenhower, says he'll fight "the military-industrial complex."

11:01 — Biden goes last. He promises to "restore the soul of this country — the president has ripped it out." "This is the United States of America! We can do anything if we're together — together."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Live-blogging the first night of the first 2020 Democratic debate

I'll be live-blogging the first 2020 Democratic debate here. Keep reloading this post for more updates.

I'll be doing this live, without the benefit of a pause or rewind button, so I'll be writing quotes on the fly which might not be verbatim, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate. (It's also possible I'll go back later and make some corrections.)

[Interactive transcript of the whole debate.]

Ann Althouse (my mom) is also live-blogging.

These are the 10 out of 20 candidates who are debating tonight (from Politico):

9:06 — Sen. Elizabeth Warren gets the first question. "You have many plans…" But most Democrats say "the economy is doing well." Warren says it's "doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top" — private prisons companies, drug companies, etc. — but not for people who want to get their drug prescriptions filled.

9:08 — Sen. Amy Klobuchar is asked about her comment that "free college" is "a magic genie," and she suggests that Warren's plan would be "paying for college for rich kids." Still, Klobuchar would "make community college free."

9:10 — Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke answers the first question in both English and Spanish! [ADDED: He apparently made several grammatical errors in Spanish, including that he "used masculine adjectives to describe 'economy' and 'democracy,' which are feminine nouns in Spanish."] After all that, the moderator offers him an extra 10 seconds "if you want to answer the question" about if he supports a 70% marginal tax rate. He says we should raise corporate taxes.

9:12 — Sen. Cory Booker uses his first answer to remind us, "I live in a low-income black and brown community," and he sees that they're not benefiting from the economy.

9:15 — Julián Castro is asked: "What would you do to ensure that women are paid fairly in this country?" He accepts the dubious implication of that question, and says we should "pass legislation" to make sure that happens (even though that's already the law). Here's a 2013 piece from the liberal Slate debunking the idea that “women make $.77 to every dollar men make on the job.”

9:17 — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is asked about the fact that his city has the most severe income inequality in the country. He says Democrats are "supposed to be for" 70% income taxes and "free college" — an obvious call-out of the candidates who wouldn't clearly take those positions: Beto and Klobuchar.

9:19 — Former Rep. John Delaney says he's different from everyone else on the stage because he's been an entrepreneur, not just a politician. "I know how to create jobs." He smartly supports improving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

9:20 — Washington Governor Jay Inslee: President Trump "says wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs!"

9:22 — Elizabeth Warren says the country's "industrial policy" is: "Let giant corporations do whatever they want to do." "Giant corporations have exactly one loyalty: to profit. If they can profit by sending jobs to Canada or China, they will."

9:23 — Moderator Lester Holt asks all the candidates who would "abolish" private health insurance in favor of a government program. Only Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio raise their hands.

9:24 — Amy Klobuchar says Trump's policy on health-care prices is "all foam and no beer."

9:25 — Elizabeth Warren says she spent much of her career "studying why families go broke" — including people who do have health insurance. She describes the perverse incentives of health insurers, and says: "Medicare for All solves that problem."

9:28 — Beto O'Rourke confirms that he wouldn't get rid of private insurance. He starts to explain: "Choice is fundamental to…" But Bill de Blasio immediately interrupts and lambastes Beto: "It's not working! … Why are you defending private insurance?!"

9:30 — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard points out that every other country with universal health care still has "a role for private insurers."

9:31 — Cory Booker again brings up his own low-income neighborhood, this time to underscore that he gets how the health-care system holds back kids from getting an education.

9:32 — Jay Inslee says he's "the only candidate here who's passed a law protecting women's reproductive rights and a public option." Amy Klobuchar shoots back: "There are 3 women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose!"

9:34 — Julián Castro is asked if he wants his government health-care program to cover abortion, and he says yes: "I don't believe only in reproductive freedom; I believe in reproductive justice."

9:35 — Elizabeth Warren says on the right to an abortion, we shouldn't "just depend on the courts"; Roe v. Wade should be codified in "federal law."

9:36 — Asked about the opioid crisis, Beto O'Rourke points out that 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, including for possession of marijuana despite the trend toward decriminalization — yet not one person from Purdue Pharma has done any jail time.

9:40 — Castro is asked about the tragic story of the father and his infant daughter who both drowned on their way to America. "Watching that image is heart-breaking. It should also piss us all off." My mom says this must be the first time any presidential candidate has said the word "piss" in a debate.

9:41 — Booker responds to the same question — in Spanish first, and then in English. Castro says he was the first candidate to propose a comprehensive immigration plan, and he's glad Booker "agrees" with him.

9:45 — De Blasio attributes that tragedy to Americans' political views about immigrants, and he passionately tells people who've been "left behind": "The immigrants didn't do that to you! Big corporations did that to you! The 1% did that to you!"

[The libertarian Reason magazine responds: "It's almost as though de Blasio's role in this race is to just say the harshest, most unacceptable position against private property ownership to make candidates like Warren seem more reasonable."]

9:46 — Castro attacks Beto's record as too harsh on immigrants, and says Beto would understand this "if you did your homework on this issue." [VIDEO.]

9:50 — Klobuchar emphasizes how much immigrants contribute to economic growth. She's positioning herself as a progressive yet relatively moderate candidate who makes arguments that can appeal to swing voters and Republicans.

9:54 — Who would go back to President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran? Everyone but Booker raises their hands. He clarifies that Trump shouldn't have pulled out of the deal — but he wouldn't "unilaterally" say the old deal should be reinstated. He'd try to re-negotiate a better deal. (Klobuchar and Gabbard agree the deal was "imperfect"; for instance, Klobuchar says there should have been "longer sunset periods.")

9:56 — Gabbard says Trump has "led us to the brink of war with Iran," which would be even worse than the Iraq War. "Trump and his chickenhawk cabinet" "are creating a situation where just a spark would get us into war."

10:05 — Technical issues create an embarrassing situation for new moderators who take over halfway through — Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. Todd keeps trying to ask his first question (about guns), but he and the candidates keep laughing about weird chatter in the background. Apparently some microphones were still on, but Todd can't seem to decide if it's an "audience" mic or the mics for the moderators who have left the stage! Todd tells the control room to turn off the mic, but that doesn't work, so they take another commercial break before any candidates can get a chance to answer. This was especially awkward since it led to candidates like Klobuchar cracking up while Todd was talking about the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

10:10 — Warren says the hardest question out of 2,000 she's been asked while running for president was "one from a little girl and one from a little boy": "How are you going to keep us safe?"

10:12 — Booker says he's gotten the same questions as Warren, but "what's even worse is I hear gunshots in my neighborhood." He mentions the shooting of "someone I knew at the top of my block."

10:16 — Rep. Tim Ryan (who might have spoken the least of anyone so far) cuts in without being asked a question to talk about the need for mental health care to address school shootings, because kids feel "shamed, traumatized, or bullied."

10:17 — Beto says the gun issue "must be led by young people." So he's no Dianne Feinstein!

10:19 — Booker says not all the candidates agree with him about this even though 70% of Americans do: "If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy a firearm."

10:20 — De Blasio points out: "I've been raising a black son in America." He talks about the conversations he's had to have with his son about race. (De Blasio is a white man married to a black woman.)

10:22 — Todd asks what the plan is if Mitch McConnell is still Senate Majority Leader and blocks the Democratic president's Supreme Court nominee. Warren passionately but vaguely says she would "make this Congress reflect the will of the people."

10:24 — Delaney positions himself as a pragmatic uniter: "All the big transformative things we've ever done in this country have only happened when big majorities of the American people get behind them." So we shouldn't aim for "impossible promises" like getting rid of private health insurance.

10:26 — Rachel Maddow asks Inslee, who has said that climate change is "all the issues," if he would "save Miami." He says he would; his climate plan has been called "the gold standard."

10:28 — Beto, who's been taking a consistently earnest and concerned tone throughout the debate, answers a climate change question by saying he'll "put farmers and ranchers in the driver's seat" with renewable and sustainable energy.

10:31 — Tim Ryan is asked how we "pay for climate mitigation." He glosses over that question briefly, then reels off a list of issues that he wasn't asked about (guns, etc.), and says the Democrats need to change their image from "coastal elites" to a "working-class," "blue-collar party" that represents "the forgotten communities." (Ryan is from Ohio.)

10:32 — Delaney chimes in to give a stronger answer to the question that was posed to Ryan: we need to "put a price on carbon, and give a dividend back to the American people."

10:33 — Chuck Todd asks Gabbard why Americans should trust her on gay rights after she made anti-gay statements years ago. She says many Americans can "relate to" her as someone who "grew up in a conservative community" and had views about gays that she no longer holds.

10:34 – Klobuchar sums up her whole life and career as being "about economic opportunity," including better child care. In what she calls "a first" on the debate stage, she touts her own legislation that Trump signed.

10:38 — John in New York (not me!) asks if the US has a "responsibility to protect" victims of genocide, even when it doesn't implicate our national interests. Beto says: "Yes," but always with "our allies." "When the United States presents a united front, we have a much better chance of achieving our foreign-policy ends."

10:40 — De Blasio jumps in and stresses "the War Powers Act," which requires the president to get congressional approval before going to war. De Blasio talks about how his dad lost his leg in war, leaving "physical and emotional scars"; "he did not recover, he took his own life."

10:43 — Ryan makes a rather dull statement on how the US needs to be "engaged" against terrorism, but Gabbard says that answer is "unacceptable" to military families. Ryan mentions September 11, but Gabbard says "al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11; the Taliban didn't." Ryan says the Taliban was supporting al Qaeda.

10:45 — Everyone is asked to name the biggest geopolitical threat to the United States. Many candidates say "climate change" along with something else, especially nukes and China. Only one candidate says "Russia" — de Blasio.

10:48 — Rachel Maddow points out that "no US President has ever been prosecuted for crimes after leaving office." Delaney says: "There's always a first!" But he quickly pivots away from that topic, saying it isn't what Americans have been asking him about.

10:54 — Now they're doing closing statements. Delaney: "I don't just want to be your president to be your president. I want to do the job." Um, OK, but how does that distinguish you from any of the other candidates?

10:55 — In his closing statement, de Blasio notes that he passed a $15 minimum wage, "universal health care," and "universal pre-K."

10:55 — Inslee decided to run for president so that on his "last day on earth," he could look his kids in the eye and say he "did everything possible" to fight climate change.

10:58 — Gabbard says we have "government of, by, and for the rich and powerful," and this "must end."

10:59 — Castro talks about his grandmother coming to the US from Mexico at age 7.

10:59 — Klobuchar admits she doesn't have the most progressive platform — "I don't make all the promises everyone up here makes" — but she'll get things done.

11:02 — Warren makes the last closing statement. She paints a picture of her upbringing in Oklahoma, when she never expected to run for president. "My dream was to be a public school teacher."

What was the most striking thing about this debate? The top candidate in the polls, Elizabeth Warren, seemed to do what she wanted to do — and no other candidate ever attacked her. It was Warren's night.

Winners: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Julián Castro

Losers: Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan, NBC

Check back at this blog tomorrow for the other 10 candidates!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What's so insidious about Trump's "She's not my type" defense

By now, we're so used to Donald Trump making insulting public comments on a daily basis that it's easy to dismiss his "She's not type" response to E. Jean Carroll's allegation of sexual assault as just the latest one of those. The media gets multiple stories out of this when the person he insulted has a comeback, and so on. What else is new?

But it's worth stopping to consider just how bad this particular comment is, regardless of whether Trump is guilty or innocent. President Trump has had this kind of reaction to multiple women who've accused him of sexual assault. He knows what he's doing. He's sending an implicit message to victims: Don’t go public, or you’ll be subjected to scrutiny and ridicule about your physical appearance.

Even someone who denied allegations of sexual assault as vehemently as Justice Brett Kavanaugh didn't stoop to making personal or insulting remarks about Christine Blasey Ford.

There's a twisted logic that says you can brush off practically any allegations of sexual assault in one of two ways:

(1) “But look how unattractive she is! Why would he want to sexually assault her?”

(2) “But look how attractive she is! Why was she going around being so attractive if she didn’t want sex? Doesn't she know how men are?”

Saturday, June 15, 2019

30 years of Nirvana's Bleach

Nirvana released their debut album, Bleach, 30 years ago today, on June 15, 1989.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can listen to the remastered version with bonus material for free here.

Most of Bleach was relentlessly heavy and dark, before the band opened itself up to more varied approaches on Nevermind and In Utero. The exception is the poppy "About a Girl," which has been compared to the Beatles.

While that's the most obviously commercial song on the album, the band's knack for hooks is also clear on "Blew" (the first song on the first Nirvana album and the second-to-last song they ever played live) and "School" (showing the power of minimal lyrics with just 16 words: one line each in the verse, chorus, and interlude).

"Mr. Moustache" is dominated by fast metal riffs, but occasional vocal harmonies give a taste of what's to come on Nevermind (compare it with "On a Plain," for instance).

The most overlooked song on the album is "Sifting," which lumbers along ominously before rushing headlong into a gloriously catchy chorus.

Bleach inevitably didn't put Nirvana in its best light: the album's budget was just $600, and the drummer's choppy feel made it clear why he was later replaced by Dave Grohl. But for all its flaws, Bleach gives us the original intensity of the greatest rock band of their all too brief time.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

If you want better politicians, pay them more

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agrees with Thomas Sowell, maybe they’re worth taking seriously.

I agree with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, that members of Congress should get cost-of-living salary increases.

Of course the salary for members of Congress ($174,000 for most of them) is more than most people in the country make, but it’s surprisingly low for someone with such an important job, who’s raising a family in an expensive city, and could probably be making more elsewhere. That’s not the kind of salary that lets them get rich off government; that’s a sacrifice for public service.

And I agree with Sowell, a conservative economist who rarely calls for any expansion of government, but who argued in 2014 that raises for members of Congress (and other government officials) would improve government at a tiny cost:

What do we do when we want a more upscale product — a better house or car for example? We pay more to get it!

If we want better people in government, we are going to have to start paying them enough that people would not be sacrificing their families' well-being by going to Washington or a state capitol, or serving as a judge.

It is not a question of whether the people currently serving in Congress, the courts or as chief executives at the municipal, state or national level deserve a raise. Most of them don't. It is a question of whether we need far better replacements for them.

That means drawing from a wider pool, including people with real knowledge and expertise in the private sector, who currently make a lot more money than we are paying government officials. Cheap politicians turn out to be very expensive politicians, in the way they waste money, even if they are not stealing it.

We could pay every member of Congress a million dollars a year — for a whole century — for less than it costs to run the Department of Agriculture for one year.

The least we can do is make it harder to bribe them. Trying to bribe a millionaire would at least be harder than bribing some government official with a modest salary and a couple of kids going to expensive colleges.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What does "Medicare for All" really mean?

"Medicare for All" really means "Repeal and Replace Medicare and Obamacare."

This Wall Street Journal piece from last month explains:

More than 100 House Democrats have endorsed Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All Act of 2019. Fourteen Democratic senators have co-sponsored a similar bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The title is deeply misleading. It implies that the current Medicare system would be extended to all Americans. In fact, Medicare for All differs from Medicare in fundamental ways—with much broader coverage, no cost sharing, and fewer choices of health-care plans. . . .

Medicare for All would cover a panoply of dental, vision and mental-health services not covered by Medicare. Under the latest version of the House bill, the federal government would also pay for all long-term nursing and home care—estimated by the Urban Institute to cost roughly $3 trillion over the next decade.

The program would replace Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as all employer-sponsored insurance and direct individual insurance (including the ObamaCare exchanges). It would cover not only uninsured American citizens but every U.S. resident. . . .

Despite this substantial expansion of coverage, Medicare for All would not require beneficiaries to contribute premiums, deductibles or copayments. By contrast, most parts of Medicare require some form of cost sharing by patients. . . .

Because of the broad coverage of services and patients without cost sharing, Medicare for All would entail dramatically higher federal spending on health care than Medicare and other programs. . . .

Finally, Medicare for All would eliminate the plan choices Medicare now allows. . . . Medicare for All would prohibit any insurer or employer from privately offering any services covered by this legislation—which means essentially all medical services.

Medicare for All allows even less in the way of plan choice than other single-payer systems. In the United Kingdom, patients may purchase private insurance for medical services even if they are available through the National Health Service. Canada does not cover dental, vision or long-term care, so two-thirds of Canadians purchase these services through private health insurance.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Veteran remembers D-Day in emotional interview

From an interview with a 95-year-old veteran on Fox News:

Cpl. John McHugh on D-Day: It's hell. It's just hell on earth. . . . I don't think anybody can really describe it. . . . I had my pistol, but look, you're not gonna shoot, you can't see 'em. I just kept crawlin' up, see how far we could go. . . . You just keep going up, gotta keep moving. But there were a lot of dead bodies. . . .

Shepard Smith: When you found out we're going to invade, did you think about the big picture — the fighting for freedom — or was it a matter of, well I have to do this, or . . . ?

McHugh: None of those thoughts about freedom! I was in the Army, and they told me to go that way, and I went that way. It was all automatic. Not a lot of thought. A lot of thought about gettin' killed!
[Click the link to watch the video — I removed the embed from this post because it was starting automatically when people went to my blog.]

When he talks about seeing all the dead bodies around him, it's like something from a movie. I was thinking he could have been played by Jimmy Stewart (another WWII veteran).

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Knock Down the House (2019 documentary)

Just watched Knock Down the House, the Netflix documentary about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic candidates who challenged incumbents in 2018. Wow. It was better than I expected, even knowing it got universally positive reviews. I cried more than once, including after one line from AOC which you'd never guess would cause that reaction.

I wish every American would watch this movie back to back with Mitt, the Netflix documentary about Romney's presidential campaigns, and realize there are good people on both sides.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Ben Wikler wins the election for head of the Wisconsin Democratic Party

Congratulations to my friend Ben Wikler on winning the election for Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

He ran a positive campaign against David Bowen, a State Representative who’s also the Party’s outgoing Vice Chair.

Congratulations also to Ben Wikler’s running mates, Felesia Martin and Lee Snodgrass, who’ll be Vice Chairs.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Former MoveOn.org leader Ben Wikler has been chosen as the new leader of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the party announced Sunday.

Wikler will lead Democrats into the 2020 campaign in which Wisconsin is widely viewed as potentially decisive in the race for the White House.

“The Democratic Party of Wisconsin voted today to embrace a vision that can defeat [President Donald] Trump, elect Democrats up and down the ticket and end the GOP’s assault on Wisconsin values and Wisconsin families,” Wikler said.
It’s too early to know the full consequences of this, but Wisconsin is obviously a state to watch. As we’ve seen in one election after another, my home state can’t be pigeonholed as “blue” or “red.” Wisconsin is a purple state, and the great decision that was made today has the potential to be a big deal for Wisconsin and beyond.

I did this post about Ben's campaign on March 24. Here’s what I said:
I've known Ben Wikler for over 25 years. We don't agree on all issues; I consider myself a political independent, while he's a solid Democrat. But I've spent hours and hours having civil discussions of politics and policy with him, not on social media but in person, one on one. For years, we worked closely together on a monthly student publication in high school.

So I wasn't surprised in 2014 when I heard Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, say during a TV appearance with him: "I happen to know Ben, and he's one of the smartest people under 35 in the entire country." (He's now 38.)

If you know Ben, you know he's an incredibly hard worker who's passionate about putting his progressive ideals into action. I'm confident that Ben Wikler is the right person to lead the Democrats in our home state.
As Wisconsin’s one-word motto says: Forward!

Friday, May 31, 2019

A paraphrase can make all the difference

Sometimes paraphrasing is the most useful thing you can do. For instance, putting tariffs on imports to your country is the same thing as imposing sanctions on your own country. (That point is from this 2018 Reason article.) Let’s start calling them “sanctions” instead of “tariffs,” and see how we feel about them.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

50 years of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"

50 years ago today, on May 29, 1969, Crosby, Stills & Nash released their self-titled debut album, which includes one of the gems of '60s music, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." Stephen Stills wrote that 7-and-a-half-minute song near the end of his 2-year relationship with another great singer, Judy Collins. She said this in 2000:

[Stills] came to where I was singing one night on the West Coast and brought his guitar to the hotel and he sang . . . the whole song. And of course it has lines in it that referred to my therapy. And so he wove that all together in this magnificent creation. So the legacy of our relationship is certainly in that song.

While that's easily the standout track, my second-favorite song from the album is the anti-war epic "Wooden Ships":

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest turns 10

10 years ago today, Grizzly Bear released their breakthrough album, Veckatimest. Below are a few songs, though I hate to select just a few, because this is an album that should be listened to from start to finish. Veckatimest (named after Veckatimest Island in Massachusetts) is one of those rare albums that's consistently wonderful, without a single weak song.

This Brooklyn band gets called "indie rock," but part of what I love about Veckatimest is the way it defies labeling. Much of the album is less raucous than what we think of as "rock" — more ethereal, with more open spaces. Grizzly Bear isn't a band known for wild screaming or guitar solos. But aside from the lead single, "Two Weeks," the music is too asymmetrical and enigmatic to be called "indie pop." Whatever you call it, Veckatimest stands as one of the high points in '00s music.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Are carbon offsets doing more harm than good?

"An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth: Why Carbon Credits for Forest Preservation May Be Worse Than Nothing" is a new report (from the invaluable ProPublica) about the unintended consequences of a trendy idea for fighting climate change:

In case after case, I found that carbon credits hadn’t offset the amount of pollution they were supposed to, or they had brought gains that were quickly reversed or that couldn’t be accurately measured to begin with. Ultimately, the polluters got a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO₂, but the forest preservation that was supposed to balance the ledger either never came or didn’t last.

“Offsets themselves are doing damage,” said Larry Lohmann, who has spent 20 years studying carbon credits. While we’re sitting here counting carbon and moving it around, more CO₂ keeps accumulating in the atmosphere, he said. . . .

California’s cap-and-trade program allows companies to offset a small percentage of their carbon output with forest preservation projects in North America. But this year, the state’s Air Resources Board could approve its proposed Tropical Forest Standard — a blueprint for how carbon offsets could be awarded for intercontinental programs. . . .

If the world were graded on the historic reliability of carbon offsets, the result would be a solid F.

The largest program, the Clean Development Mechanism, came out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, when dozens of nations made a pact to cut greenhouse gases. European leaders wanted to force industry to emit less. Americans wanted flexibility. Developing nations like Brazil wanted money to deal with climate change. One approach they could agree to was carbon offsets.

The idea worked marvelously on paper. If a power plant in Canada needed to shave 10% off of its emissions but didn’t want to pay for technology upgrades, it could buy offsets from projects in the developing world. . . .
Read the whole in-depth report here.

(Photo by Snežana Trifunović, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Should you use your head or your heart when picking a presidential nominee?

Michelle Goldberg writes this in the New York Times, after talking with people at a Joe Biden rally in Philadelphia:

“My heart still belongs to Howard Dean because of his passion, but my head says Kerry is the one who can get elected,” a voter told The New York Times in 2004, when Democrats were desperate to unseat George W. Bush. Many Democrats thought that John Kerry, a war hero, could puncture the puffed-up commander-in-chief aura that surrounded Bush, who’d kept himself out of Vietnam. It didn’t work out that way.

Four years later, Democrats decided to follow their hearts and nominate Barack Obama, who spoke to their most sublime hopes for their country. Republicans, meanwhile, went with John McCain, who’d often infuriated the party’s base, but whose campaign emphasized his general election viability. A poll in January 2008 showed that he was seen as the most electable of the Republican candidates, and one of his advertisements claimed that he could “rally the conservative Reagan coalition while appealing to independent voters to win in November.” He picked the risible Sarah Palin as a running mate to whip up energy on the right, but still lost.

By the time of the next presidential cycle, Republicans were even more obsessed with besting Obama, leading them to once again put a premium on electability. “The only reason I’m supporting Romney is because he can win the election,” a conservative voter in Iowa told The Washington Post in 2011. Romney, of course, couldn’t win the election.

It wasn’t until 2016 that a plurality of Republican voters defied the electoral wisdom of party elites, nominating a clownish demagogue who channeled the id of the far right and was supposed to have no chance of victory. We all know what happened next.

Democrats are now in a complicated spot as they make their electoral calculations. If what you care about most is a candidate’s chances next November, then pretending otherwise is an artificial exercise, particularly if it’s just in the service of making a better judgment about electability. And some enthusiasm for Biden is genuine, if not passionate; often, when people I spoke to at the rally described him as “safe,” they meant both as a candidate and as a potential leader. “I don’t want an exciting president,” said Sue Kane, a 58-year-old commercial real estate appraiser. “We have a lot of excitement right now, in a bad way.” . . .

Given the existential stakes in 2020, it’s tempting for Democrats to put their own preferences aside and strike mental bargains with groups of people they may have never met. But being attentive to how candidates make us feel gives us valuable information. . . .

During the 2004 Democratic Convention, I wrote this in an email to my mom, Ann Althouse:
You wrote about how everyone watching the convention is imagining how the speeches will seem to someone else, even though it might be that none of those "someone elses" are actually watching the speeches. The same thing happened when Kerry won the primaries. Everyone was voting for him because they thought he would appeal to someone else. And those voters believed at the time that that was the politically savvy thing to do. But it was actually politically disastrous: if everyone was just voting for him because they thought someone else would like him, then NO ONE ACTUALLY LIKED HIM.

One problem is that if you're trying to choose the most "electable" person, I would imagine that you'd be likely to do it by process of elimination -- by ruling out all the candidates with obvious political liabilities. I think this is the number-one reason why Kerry won the primaries: he was the only candidate who didn't seem to have anything particularly wrong with him. Edwards was too inexperienced; Clark was a poor campaigner; Dean seemed kind of insane; Gephardt was too liberal; Lieberman was too conservative. So they choose the one candidate who has no qualities that would really make anyone hate him. The problem is that he also has no qualities that would really make anyone like him either.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The SAT "adversity score" and unintended consequences

News of affluent parents scamming to get their kids into top universities has again stoked complaints that college admissions are rigged. To level the socioeconomic field, the College Board now plans to assign students an “adversity score” on their SAT admissions tests. This demographic handicap may instead fuel more public cynicism and harm middle-income kids.

The College Board’s new adversity score will include 15 variables such as a student’s neighborhood crime rate, housing values and poverty. These variables will feed into an algorithm with weights assigned to each variable. Out will pop a score that students won’t be able to see or challenge before it goes to colleges.

That's from this Wall Street Journal editorial, which foresees some disturbing unintended consequences:
Middle-class kids whose parents sacrifice to send them to private schools or move to neighborhoods with better public schools would score as relatively privileged. Regardless of their own resources and opportunities, they might be compared to more affluent peers who have access to SAT prep, tutors and summer camps. The score could thus prompt families to make perverse decisions. For instance, parents may refrain from moving to marginally wealthier neighborhoods or sending their kids to parochial schools.

"I turned the radio on, I turned the radio up, and this woman was singing my song"

25 years ago today, Lisa Loeb charmed America with the unpretentious simplicity and emotional directness of her debut song, "Stay (I Missed You)." The single (by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories) was released on May 17, 1994, from the soundtrack to Reality Bites.

American Songwriter magazine says:
Loeb rants and rails through much of the song with barely contained emotion only to pull back for some tenderness in the refrain. It’s an outstanding performance of an enduring song.
The lyrics have the feel of a rambling, stream-of-consciousness letter to a former lover, but they're cleverly crafted. Notice how she heightens the poignancy near the end by saying the title word — "stay" — for only the second time in the song. You might have missed it the first time, but you can't miss it at the end, with her emphatic hesitance. Then, to bring the song full circle, she closes with the first line.

Lisa Loeb recently played the song solo at a Reality Bites reunion:

Watch Lisa Loeb perform "Stay" at our 25th anniversary reunion celebration of REALITY BITES
‪We surprised the #Tribeca2019 audience at our 25th anniversary reunion celebration of Reality Bites with a special Lisa Loeb Official performance of “Stay,” the iconic song that closes Ben Stiller’s Gen X touchstone. Check it out:‬
Posted by Tribeca on Saturday, May 4, 2019

(If you want to explore more of her work, try her song "I Do" or check out The Very Best of Lisa Loeb.)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Wrong message, right messenger?

Donald Trump said all AR-15 rifles that are sold in America should be “made in America.” Progressives were aghast at Trump’s toxic nationalism.

I’m sorry, did I say Donald Trump? I meant Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris proposed a ban on imported AR-15 rifles. Progressives praised Harris for her bold stand against gun violence.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Why now is not the time for Democratic candidates to be getting specific on policy

In the early days of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, it was supposed to be this great thing that she was going on a long "listening" tour to hear from us, rather than starting out by telling us exactly what needs to be done. Now, I'm seeing a lot of Facebook posts saying Elizabeth Warren is the most impressive candidate because she's released a large number of specific policies very early on. I don't find that impressive, and I've never heard of this idea that the candidates should race to publish as many policy specifics as early as possible in the primaries. Also, if starting your campaign with a focus on listening to voters is such a good idea, couldn't it be better to hold off on getting too specific about your policy proposals at the very early stages of the primaries? Shouldn't the candidates be open to the possibility that listening to voters could change what policies they want to propose?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

West Side Story (1961)

Netflix subscribers: This is the last month to watch West Side Story. It will be gone from the streaming part of the site on June 1.

Last night I watched all 2 and a half hours of the movie with high-quality headphones, which was a wonderful audio experience. The music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim are the star of the show. Aside from that, the movie has many flaws, some of which were pointed out in this insightful review by Roger Ebert. (That review gives away much of the plot including the ending, so I don't recommend reading it unless you've seen West Side Story — which has a significantly different story from Romeo and Juliet even though that was the inspiration.)

Rita Moreno, as Maria's friend Anita, is the standout actor of the original. Ebert points out that it was fitting that she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but that the two lead actors weren't nominated for Oscars (even though the movie won 10 Oscars overall including Best Picture — the most ever for a musical).

Now Rita Moreno is 87 years old, and she's going to play a different role in a remake of West Side Story directed by Stephen Spielberg, which is supposed to come out in December 2020. She'll be a female version of Doc, the drugstore owner.

If you watch the 1961 movie on Netflix, as soon as the closing credits start, the site will quickly shrink the screen and tell you another movie is about to start. I recommend overriding this by clicking back to West Side Story and watching it to the very end of the inventively done closing credits.

An idea to address censorship by Google and Facebook without excessive government intrusion

This letter to the Wall Street Journal (by Emeritus Adjunct Prof. Stephen M. Maurer) suggests a way for government to do something about Google's censorship (which could also be applied to Facebook's censorship), in a way that would seem to get around the typical line of "they're a private company, they can censor whoever they want and government can't do anything about it":

Google’s suppression of [conservative think tank] Claremont Institute ads for speech that Google’s own employees couldn’t identify is terrifying. The problem is what to do about it. Asking government to look over Google’s shoulder would likely be worse.

There is an easier way. Before inviting regulators to intervene, Congress should first ask how a search engine that suppresses such organizations can exist at all. Why haven’t consumers demanded better? The answer, as [Claremont Institute President Ryan P. Williams] explains, is that nobody—apparently including Google itself—has any clear idea of when and how censorship occurs.

But that suggests a simple fix: Require platforms to generate an automated record each time their employees suppress speech, along with the in-house rule(s) they purportedly relied on. Then make the data widely available to regulators, congressmen, scholars and (especially) any competitor who promises to do better.

The cynics will say that Google will go on censoring regardless. Perhaps, but Silicon Valley monopolies are surprisingly sensitive to competition that might unseat them.

Elizabeth Warren's Fox News snub reveals a pre-2016 mindset

Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes:

Fox News has invited me to do a town hall, but I’m turning them down — here’s why[.] Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists — it’s designed to turn us against each other, risking life & death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class. . . .

Fox News is welcome to come to my events just like any other outlet. But a Fox News town hall adds money to the hate-for-profit machine. To which I say: hard pass.
In contrast, Bernie Sanders did a Fox News town hall last month.

Elizabeth Warren is going in exactly the wrong direction here. She doesn't seem to have learned the lessons of the 2016 election. Democratic politicians have to be willing to have conversations with conservatives. In a huge, diverse country like this, a national politician can't afford to broadly cast the other side as villains. I know her statement on its face is denouncing a corporation, but Fox News isn't just a corporation; it also represents a certain kind of voter. Calling your opponents deplorable is more effective at galvanizing your opponents than winning people over to your side.

Of course, shunning Fox News is a way for liberals to signal their own purity. But when you're fighting an uphill battle to win back the presidency, purity is less important than trying to persuade any voters in the country who'll listen.

“And so far ... I’m very pleased with the results,” Beto lied.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke admits that he "can do a better job" of talking to America, which is refreshingly candid, but then he also tells an obvious lie:

"It will take a lot of time, a lot of miles. A lot of hours,” O’Rourke said. "But I’m willing to put in the work. And so far we have, and I’m very pleased with the results.”
Though it's still early and one of the lesser candidates could surge into first place, Beto must be disappointed to be seen as one of the lesser candidates, months into the race. He must have expected to be doing better than this: "Beto is polling worse than ever." (Here's an interactive chart of aggregated polls from RealClearPolitics.)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says Republicans take her too literally

This is a technique of the GOP, to take dry humor + sarcasm literally and fact check it. . . . But the GOP is basically Dwight from The Office so who knows.”

So AOC wants us to take her seriously, not literally?

Where have we heard that before?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pete Buttigieg on the problem with “identity politics”

"Buttigieg calls out Democrats for playing 'identity politics'" is the headline at NBC News.

Could this be Pete Buttigieg's Sister Souljah moment?

Here's the video of Mayor Buttigieg's speech to the Human Rights Campaign yesterday. I've cued this up to start just after 19 minutes in:

Here's some of what Buttigieg said. I know most of this doesn't seem unusual for a progressive Democrat. But precisely because he's mainly putting this in progressive terms, the parts where he deviates from the hard-left line have the potential to be that much more inflammatory (notice the boldface):

I'd like to comment on one of the buzz words of our time: so-called identity politics. No one knows quite what to make of it today. . . . It is true that each of us can see in our own identity all of the reasons we're misunderstood and then say, "You don't understand me because you haven't walked in my shoes" — something that is true, but it doesn't get us very far. Because we could also see in our differences the beginning of a new form of American solidarity, by recognizing that the one thing we do have in common may be the challenge of belonging in a society that sees us for what makes us all different. I'm not talking about pretending that there are equivalencies between the different patterns of exclusion in this country. . . .

We have a crisis of belonging in this country. When you do not belong, that doesn't just put you in a bad mood, it puts you in a different country. When black women are dying from maternal complications at triple the rate of white women it means for the purposes of public health they are living in a different country. It means that for a dreamer brought to this land at the age of two months old and putting herself through college without a path to citizenship and the only place she knows then even though she's as American as the rest of, us she finds her life playing out on paper in a different country. . . . When an auto worker 12 years into their career is no longer sure how to provide for their family, they're not part of the country we think of ourselves as all living in together. . . .

And these divisive lines of thinking have even entered into the consciousness of my own party, like when we’re told we have to choose between supporting an auto worker and a trans woman of color, without stopping to think about the fact that sometimes the auto worker is a trans woman of color, and she definitely needs all the security she can get. The wall I worry about the most is not the president’s fantasy wall on the Mexican border that’s not going to get built anyway. What I worry about are the very real walls being put up between us as we get divided and carved up — walls going up within the working class, within communities, even within families. . . .

I am not just like you. No two of us are like! But each of us has a story that can either separate us or connect us to those around us. Yes, I am gay and I am the son of an immigrant and an Army brat. And I'm a husband, and I am a musician, and I'm an Episcopalian, and I'm a Democrat. But above all, I am running as an American. I am here to build bridges and to tear down walls. And with your help, we can tear down those walls between fellow Americans.
When he says "these divisive lines of thinking have even entered into the consciousness of my own party" and talks about the limited usefulness of saying "you haven't walked in my shoes," he's gently but unmistakably pushing back against a strain of thought on the left that former President Obama criticized last year:
Democracy demands [that] we're able . . . to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds, but maybe they'll change ours. And you can't do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponent has to say from the start. And you can't do it if you insist that those who aren't like you, because they're white or because they're male, that somehow there's no way that they can understand what I'm feeling — that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.
Walter Olson has a column analyzing what Buttigieg said (the headline writer calls it "Mayor Pete's Sister Souljah Moment," which was published after I used that phrase in this post, but it's a common political term and a point that was just waiting to be made, so I'm not concerned with who said it first):
On one level, his comments critical of identity politics turned out to be pretty mild. Barack Obama has said most of the same things in slightly different words. It’s not as if Andrew Sullivan, Christina Hoff Sommers, or Claire Lehmann were ghostwriting his lines.

And what Buttigieg did say was interspersed with themes and language gratifying to social justice enthusiasts. He endorsed the sweeping Equality Act, which would federalize Main Street public-accommodations disputes while whittling down religious exemptions. He mentioned Stonewall and Harvey Milk. He even acknowledged his own “privilege.” (Though he left ambiguous the extent to which this referred to his white male-ness as distinct from, say, the fortunate path traced by his education and career.)

And yet the South Bend mayor immediately began taking flak for his HRC remarks from some social justice advocates, not a few of whom had already been caustic critics of his candidacy. They could detect from his choice of words that he is not 100 percent on board with their prescribed line—maybe not even 80 percent—and worse still, he is not afraid to say so.

One of his lines drawing fire is on the “my truth, your truth” notion. . . . Or as it might be put more aggressively: “we [members of a marginalized identity] are the only authorities on our experience.”

His response? That’s “true as far as it goes but it doesn’t get us very far.” To you or I, that might read like a platitude. To many on the identitarian left, it comes off as dire wrongthink: after some point that is not “very far” down the road, he intends to steer us all onto some other discourse in which identity is not a trump card. This doesn’t deny our subjective truth as marginalized individuals, exactly, but it does tend to dethrone it as The Truth of all truths.

Another example: Buttigieg’s comments were critical of what he forthrightly calls “white identity politics.” Again, a truism from one perspective, and forcefully stated too. But to some on his left, this will be seen as an attempt at false equivalence. Raising the idea that white and minority identity politics can resemble each other is deeply problematic to the identitarian left. . . .

Again and again in his speech, minor choices of wording that outsiders might not notice served as small—but real—signals of defiance to social justice scorekeepers. I disagree with much that Mayor Pete says here and elsewhere. But I’m glad that he seems to think for himself.

It will be interesting to see whether other Democratic contenders take issue with the mayor’s identity politics remarks. Or if, alternatively, Buttigieg has opened up space toward the center makes it possible for others to follow.

Presidential candidate Tim Ryan's weak response to Bill Maher on the economy

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio in this video seems to be positioning himself as one of the more moderate Democratic presidential candidates, and that's the kind of candidate I'm hoping will emerge as the nominee.

But Tim Ryan doesn't have a decent answer to Bill Maher's predictable question about how well the economy seems to be doing. In fact, Ryan repeatedly says that wages have been increasing! He says they should be increasing even more — but still, how did that make it into his talking points?

Democrats will have to do better than this shaky performance by Tim Ryan (on what should be favorable terrain) if they want to stop Donald Trump from being reelected.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A response to those who say: "Facebook is a private company, so it's free to censor"

If a private company is legally allowed to do all the censorship it wants, that’s why we should use more of our free speech to critique that company’s censorship. That is not a reason to stay silent about a corporation censoring people on a massive, global scale. If government can’t do anything about that problem, then it’s up to us.

Friday, May 10, 2019

25 years ago in music: Weezer, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sonic Youth

1994 was a great year for music, and May 10 was one of the better days that year. Three bands, all categorized as alt rock but all significantly different from each other, put out great albums 25 years ago today.

Weezer's debut album (self-titled but known as the Blue Album) introduced the world to a joyously poppy group that used the noisy guitar sounds of grunge rock but had no need for the angst associated with grunge.

Weezer also differed from many bands of the time by clearly articulating their lyrics, allowing vivid words to pop out from the songs: "destroy my sweater," "watch me unravel," "Mary Tyler Moore," "found Jesus," "ancient feelings," etc.

"Buddy Holly" is a tribute to that pioneer of nerdy rock songs.

In "Say It Ain't So," Rivers Cuomo tells us to "be cool." But we love Weezer because they never seem to care if they're seen as "cool."

Sunny Day Real Estate also released their debut album, Diary. The standout track, "Seven," is far from the comical quality of Weezer. In this song, Sunny Day Real Estate seems to convey a mini-drama even though they words are so slurred you can't understand them, making them all the more intriguing.

The legendary Sonic Youth put out their 8th album, and their most wordily titled album: Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star.

In the lead single, "Bull in the Heather," Kim Gordon talks more than sings. As usual for Sonic Youth, the main interest of the song isn't vocals but guitars, both noisy and melodic.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Slip-ups of the day

1. Australian currency misspells the word “responsibility.”

2. Kirk Hammett slipped and fell on his wah pedal at a rainy outdoor Metallica concert. 🎸 Apparently he wasn’t seriously hurt. 🤟🏻

What happened to Pete Buttigieg?

This New Republic piece explains the state of Mayor Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign:

It appears that the media’s . . . honeymoon with Pete Buttigieg is over. Gone are the days of flattering coverage from, well, pretty much everywhere—stories about Buttigieg’s love of Ulysses, his faculty with languages, and affection for Phish and the Dave Matthews Band (well, I guess they weren’t all flattering stories).

Over the last couple of weeks, Buttigieg has received scrutiny more appropriate to a leading presidential candidate instead of simply being rolled out like a new diet soda. There have been stories investigating his time as mayor of South Bend, and deep dives into his decision to demolish hundreds of homes and to fire the city’s black police chief. . . . Instead of wondering whether he can knock off Joe Biden, journalists are now asking questions about his failure to connect with black voters. . . . [Click through to the article for links on all those stories.]

Thus far, Buttigieg has been resistant to offer specific proposals. Asked about the lack of a policy section on his campaign website, he was dismissive. “I’ve been pretty clear where I stand on major issues,” he said last month. “But I also think it’s important we don’t drown people in minutia before we’ve vindicated the values that animate our policies. We go right to the policy proposals and we expect people to be able to figure out what our values must be from that.” The recipe here is probably right—articulate a broader message and then fill it in with specifics—but the justification still sounds like a hedge, the natural distillate of a presidential campaign rooted in a person, rather than in what that person would do as president. . . .

An early blitz of coverage turned the small-city mayor into a big-time contender, but that means there are now expectations he will act like one. The sketches he has drawn on Morning Joe, Today, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert deserve to be colored in with actual ideas. . . .

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

How much should we worry about the national debt?

Somewhat, but not too much, argues this Foreign Affairs article co-written by Lawrence Summers:

The deficit dismissers have a point. Long-term structural declines in interest rates mean that policymakers should reconsider the traditional fiscal approach that has often wrong-headedly limited worthwhile investments in such areas as education, health care, and infrastructure. Yet many remain fixated on cutting spending, especially on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. That is a mistake. Politicians and policymakers should focus on urgent social problems, not deficits.

But they shouldn’t ignore fiscal constraints entirely. The deficit fundamentalists are right that the debt cannot be allowed to grow forever. And the government cannot set budget policy without any limiting principles or guides as to what is and what is not possible or desirable.

There is another policy approach that neither prioritizes cutting deficits nor dismisses them. Unlike in the past, budgeters need not make reducing projected deficits a priority. But they should ensure that, except during downturns, when fiscal stimulus is required, new spending and tax cuts do not add to the debt. This middle course would tolerate large and growing deficits without making a major effort to reduce them—at least for the foreseeable future. But it would also stop the policy trend of the last two years, which will otherwise continue to pile up debt.

Policymakers must also recognize that maintaining existing public services, let alone meeting new needs, will, over time, require higher revenues. Today’s large deficits derive more from falling revenues than rising entitlement spending. More spending is not, by itself, something to be afraid of. The United States needs to invest in solutions to its fundamental challenges: finding jobs for the millions of Americans who have given up hope of finding them, providing health insurance for the millions who still lack it, and extending opportunities to the children left behind by an inadequate educational system.

Economic textbooks teach that government deficits raise interest rates, crowd out private investment, and leave everyone poorer. Cutting deficits, on the other hand, reduces interest rates, spurring productive investment. Those forces may have been important in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when long-term real interest rates (nominal interest rates minus the rate of inflation) averaged around four percent and stock market valuations were much lower than they are today. The deficit reduction efforts of Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton contributed to the investment-led boom in the 1990s.

Today, however, the situation is very different. Although government debt as a share of GDP has risen far higher, long-term real interest rates on government debt have fallen much lower.

As shown in the table, in 2000, the Congressional Budget Office forecast that by 2010, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio would be six percent. The same ten-year forecast in 2018 put the figure for 2028 at 105 percent.

Real interest rates on ten-year government bonds, meanwhile, fell from 4.3 percent in 2000 to an average of 0.8 percent last year.

Those low rates haven’t been manufactured by the Federal Reserve, nor are they just the result of the financial crisis. They preceded the crisis and appear to be rooted in a set of deeper forces, including lower investment demand, higher savings rates, and widening inequality. . . .

Low interest rates mean that governments can sustain higher levels of debt, since their financing costs are lower. Although the national debt represents a far larger percentage of GDP than in recent decades, the U.S. government currently pays around the same proportion of GDP in interest on its debt, adjusted for inflation, as it has on average since World War II. The cost of deficits to the Treasury is the degree to which the rate of interest paid on the debt exceeds inflation. By this standard, the resources the United States needs to devote to interest payments are also around their historical average as a share of the economy. Although both real and nominal interest rates are set to rise in the coming decade, interest payments on the debt are projected to remain well below the share reached in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when deficit reduction topped the economic agenda.

Government deficits also seem to be hurting the economy less than they used to. Textbook economic theory holds that high levels of government debt make it more expensive for companies to borrow. But these days, interest rates are low, stock market prices are high relative to company earnings, and major companies hold large amounts of cash on their balance sheets. No one seriously argues that the cost of capital is holding back businesses from investing. . . .

The eurozone debt crisis at the start of this decade is often held up as a cautionary tale about the perils of fiscal excess. But stagnant growth (made worse by government spending cuts in the face of a recession) was as much the cause of the eurozone’s debt problems as profligate spending. . . .

It’s true that future generations will have to pay the interest on today’s debt, but at current rates, even a 50-percentage-point increase in the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio would raise real interest payments as a share of GDP by just 0.5 percentage points. That would bring those payments closer to the top of their historical range, but not into uncharted territory.

Deficits, then, should not cause policymakers much concern, at least for now. But some economists adopt an even more radical view. Advocates of what is known as modern monetary theory (MMT), such as Stephanie Kelton, an economist and former adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, have been widely interpreted as arguing that governments that borrow in their own currencies have no reason to concern themselves with budget constraints. . . . This goes too far. . . . In truth, no one knows the benefits and costs of different debt levels. . . .

Although the U.S. government will remain solvent for the foreseeable future, it would be imprudent to allow the debt-to-GDP ratio to rise forever in an uncertain world. Trying to make this situation sustainable without adjusting fiscal policy or raising interest rates, as recommended by some advocates of modern monetary theory, is a recipe for hyperinflation.