Wednesday, November 25, 2015

This is why we need more philosophers!

If Marco Rubio had thought more carefully about the relationship of the state to the people, perhaps he wouldn't have made this ridiculous statement.

(See my live-blog of the last Republican debate at 9:11.)

"Cultural appropriation"

Cathy Young writes in the Washington Post:

At one time, . . . critiques [of "cultural appropriation"] were leveled against truly offensive art — work that trafficked in demeaning caricatures, such as blackface, 19th-century minstrel shows or ethnological expositions, which literally put indigenous people on display, often in cages. But these accusations have become a common attack against any artist or artwork that incorporates ideas from another culture, no matter how thoughtfully or positively. A work can reinvent the material or even serve as a tribute, but no matter. If artists dabble outside their own cultural experiences, they’ve committed a creative sin.

To take just a few recent examples: After the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy Perry was criticized for dressing like a geisha while performing her hit single “Unconditionally.” Last year, Arab-American writer Randa Jarrar accused Caucasian women who practice belly dancing of “white appropriation of Eastern dance.” Daily Beast entertainment writer Amy Zimmerman wrote that pop star Iggy Azalea perpetrated “cultural crimes” by imitating African American rap styles.

And this summer, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has been dogged by charges of cultural insensitivity and racism for its “Kimono Wednesdays.” At the event, visitors were invited to try on a replica of the kimono worn by Claude Monet’s wife, Camille, in the painting “La Japonaise.” The historically accurate kimonos were made in Japan for this very purpose. Still, Asian American activists and their supporters besieged the exhibit with signs like “Try on the kimono: Learn what it’s like to be a racist imperialist today!” Others railed against “Yellow-Face @ the MFA” on Facebook. The museum eventually apologized and changed the program so that the kimonos were available for viewing only. Still, activists complained that the display invited a “creepy Orientalist gaze.”

These protests have an obvious potential to chill creativity and artistic expression. But they are equally bad for diversity, raising the troubling specter of cultural cleansing. When we attack people for stepping outside their own cultural experiences, we hinder our ability to develop empathy and cross-cultural understanding.

It's time for cultural appropriators to proudly reclaim "culturally appropriative" as a positive, empowering term. When asked "Isn't that cultural appropriation?" you should enthusiastically answer: "Yes! I freely adopt any cultures I choose, and I wouldn't have it any other way!"

The pejorative use of the phrase "cultural appropriation" marginalizes historically oppressed groups by trying to scare others away from being anything like those groups. In everyday real life (as opposed to theoretical discussions on the internet), people normally go around emulating other people who they want to be like. In fact, it's often very beneficial to be emulated. For instance, Chuck Berry would not be such a huge rock star if white guitarists had ignored him rather than imitating him. Copying is not theft!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Happy 50th birthday to the great Björk!

I highly recommend her 3rd and 4th albums, Homogenic and Vespertine.

"You shouldn't let poets lie to you."

(Transcript and explanation.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why talk about "Islamic terrorists"?

Chris Matthews asks:

Why does [Marco] Rubio want to have this as a clash of civilizations? I though that was what ISIS wanted, what al Qaeda wants, to have the Islamic world fight with the Western world! Why would he want what they want — to see the world in a religious struggle? Why say "Islamic"? Why don’t we say "terrorist"?
I'd resist any suggestion that we should speak only in vague terms about terrorism/terrorists and constantly avoid mentioning the ideological underpinnings of those who have built an international network that threatens civilization as we know it. There are many other terrorists around the world with a variety of agendas, but we rightly don't put as high a priority on stopping them because they lack the global ambitions of groups like ISIL and al Qaeda.

It isn't convincing to suggest that the terrorists aren't really Islamic because they're evil, and Islam itself isn't evil. Using the adjective "Islamic" to apply to terrorists is not saying that all (or even most) Muslims are (or even support) evil. If you believe that, then to be consistent, you should object to describing the Crusades as Christian, or the Holocaust as German, etc. Well I'm sorry, but you're just not going to get anywhere by trying to erase the parts of history that make you feel uncomfortable. Someone else, who's in the habit of speaking or writing more bluntly, will always be able to come along and point out the truth in a more compelling manner than you have. If you believe in your message about terrorism — whatever that message is — you should want to communicate it in clear language that describes reality with precision. Instead of objecting to those who use such language when it's disturbing, we should be fighting against those who have made the use of such disturbing language necessary.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What to do about ISIL after the attacks on Paris

Roger Cohen writes in the New York Times:

The Paris slaughter claimed by the Islamic State constitutes, as President François Hollande of France declared, an “act of war.” As such, it demands of all NATO states a collective response under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This says that, “An armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” . . .

The only adequate measure, after the killing of at least 129 people in Paris, is military, and the only objective commensurate with the ongoing threat is the crushing of ISIS and the elimination of its stronghold in Syria and Iraq. The barbaric terrorists exulting on social media at the blood they have spilled cannot be allowed any longer to control territory on which they are able to organize, finance, direct and plan their savagery.

Hollande left no doubt that that [sic] the attacks were “prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside.” ISIS, or one of its affiliates, has also claimed responsibility for the recent downing of a Russian passenger jet, with the loss of 224 lives. The United States and Britain believe these claims are credible.

It was wrong to dismiss ISIS as a regional threat. Its threat is global. Enough is enough. A certain quality of evil cannot be allowed physical terrain on which to breed. Pope Francis declared the Paris attacks “not human.” In a sense he is right. But history teaches that human beings are capable of fathomless evil. Unmet, it grows.

To defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq will require NATO forces on the ground. After the protracted and inconclusive Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is reasonable to ask if this would not be folly. It is also reasonable to demand – and many will – whether military action will only have the effect of winning more recruits for ISIS as more lives and treasure are squandered. Terrorism, the old nostrum has it, can never be completely defeated.

Such arguments are seductive but must be resisted. An air war against ISIS will not get the job done; the Paris attacks occurred well into an unpersuasive bombing campaign. Major powers, including Russia and China, have vigorously condemned the Paris attacks. They should not stand in the way of a United Nations resolution authorizing military action to defeat and eliminate ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Regional powers, especially Saudi Arabia, have an interest in defeating the monster they helped create whose imagined Caliphate would destroy them. . . .

It is not enough to say, as the Obama Administration has up to now, that ISIS will be defeated. These words lack meaning without a corresponding plan. There is time pressure because time is being used precisely to plan new atrocities.

With each one, the possibility of a spiral of religious and sectarian violence in strained European societies increases. Hatred of Muslims seems to be on the rise. The Bataclan, the club targeted in the Paris attacks, has, as the French magazine Le Point pointed out, been a frequent meeting-place for Jewish organizations.

The killings occurred as hundreds of thousands of desperate Muslim refugees from Syria are streaming into Europe. This is not the time to turn on them, but to help them, even if extreme vigilance is needed. They, too, in their vast majority, are fleeing ISIS, as well as the indiscriminate violence of President Bashar al-Assad. Nonintervention in Syria has proved a policy fraught with bloodshed and danger, now seeping into Europe.

The battle will be long. . . . Crushing ISIS in Syria and Iraq will not eliminate the jihadi terrorist threat. But the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. Passivity is a recipe for certain failure. It is time, in the name of humanity, to act with conviction and power against the scourge of the Islamic State. Disunity and distraction undermined past military efforts to defeat the jihadis. Unity is now attainable and with it victory.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Live-blogging the second Democratic debate of 2016

I'll be live-blogging the debate here. Keep reloading for more updates.

This is the first Democratic debate after Biden announced he wasn't running, and after three candidates dropped out. There are only three candidates, so no one should need to complain about not having enough time in this two-hour debate.

As always, I'll be writing down quotes as I hear them, so they might not be verbatim, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate.

For more live-blogging, check out TPM, the New Republic, and Althouse (my mom).

[Here's the transcript.]

9:06 — First, each candidate is asked for their thoughts on the attacks on Paris yesterday. Sanders vows to "rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS."

9:08 — Hillary Clinton denounces the "radical jihadist ideology" of ISIS, a "terrorist group." The use of the word "jihadist" seems to mark a shift from President Obama, who shies away from referring to the Islamic nature of Islamic terrorism.

9:10 — Clinton is asked if Obama underestimated the threat posed by ISIS. Clinton fails to answer the question, and instead makes her standard points about ISIS and terrorism. The moderator calls her out on this, and asks the same question again. [VIDEO.]

9:13 — Martin O'Malley takes a hawkish tone, calling ISIS "evil" and saying "this is America's fight," though "not only America's fight." [Added later: O'Malley was responding to Clinton's repeated statement that "this cannot be an American fight." However, she added: "American leadership is essential."]

9:13 — Sanders is asked if he still believes climate change is the greatest threat in the world. He says yes — in fact, climate change leads to terrorism. [VIDEO.]

9:14 — Sanders and O'Malley both criticize Clinton for understating America's responsibility to defeat ISIS.

9:15 — Sanders notes that Clinton voted for the Iraq War, which led to ISIS.

9:16 — Clinton defends herself with a long-winded and confusing historical account going back to the '90s. As I understand it, she's basically emphasizing that terrorism was a serious problem well before the Iraq War — but how should that allay any Democratic voters' concerns that her vote to authorize the Iraq War made things worse rather than better?

9:17 — Sanders calls himself "more conservative than the Secretary" on "regime change" — meaning he's more cautious and aware of the unintended consequences. [VIDEO.]

9:21 — The moderator, John Dickerson, points out that Clinton "championed" Obama's invasion of Libya, and quotes Obama saying he learned from Libya that it's important to think in advance about what happens "the day after." Dickerson asks: shouldn't that lesson already have been learned by then, from the Iraq War?

9:23 — O'Malley is asked about his lack of foreign-policy experience. He says: "We are not so good at appreciating threats and building up stable democracies." He also talks about a mom who urged him not to use the phrase "boots on the ground" because she felt her son was diminished by the metonymy. (Of course, he didn't use the word "metonymy.")

9:26 — Clinton is asked if she agrees with Marco Rubio's statement that we're "at war with radical Islam." Clinton dodges the question by saying "we're not at war with all Muslims." As the moderator points out, that isn't what Rubio said — Rubio limited his statement to radical Islam. Clinton praises President Bush for speaking appropriately about this sensitive topic in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. [VIDEO.]

9:27 — Clinton is asked if we need to "understand" ISIS. This is a politically tricky question, but she gives a clever response: she first says it's "very difficult to put ourselves in their shoes," but then proceeds to do just that by describing ISIS's worldview as one of "nihilism," "a lust for power," and "rejection of modernity and human rights." [Added later:] I'm struck by how Clinton went straight for the hawkish view of ISIS (they're just a bunch of nihilistic, backward people who crave power), and passed up the opportunity to urge us to have a greater understanding of the "root causes" of terrorism. Clinton sounded much like the conservative Charles Krauthammer, writing in the month after the September 11 attacks:

It turns out that the enemy does have recognizable analogues in the Western experience. He is, as President Bush averred in his address to the nation, heir to the malignant ideologies of the 20th century. In its nihilism [the same word used by Clinton], its will to power [similar to the "lust for power" mentioned by Clinton], its celebration of blood and death, its craving for the cleansing purity that comes only from eradicating life and culture, radical Islam is heir, above all, to Nazism. The destruction of the World Trade Center was meant not only to wreak terror. Like the smashing of the Bamiyan Buddhas [in Afghanistan earlier in 2001], it was meant to obliterate greatness and beauty, elegance and grace. These artifacts represented civilization embodied in stone or steel. They had to be destroyed [that would be an example of the "rejection of modernity," as Clinton put it].
9:28 — O'Malley says our Muslim American "neighbors" are not our "enemies" — "they are our first line of defense."

9:33 — Clinton says she supports taking in 65,000 Syrian refugees. Of course, she says we should have a "careful" screening process to "prevent people who wish to do us harm from coming into our country." (Easier said than done.)

9:42 — Sanders is asked how high he'd raise taxes. He doesn't have an "exact number," but it will be lower than the highest rate under President Eisenhower — "I'm not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower!" [VIDEO.]

9:44 — Clinton vows to "defend" Obamacare, in contrast with Republicans, who will tear it up and throw us back into a "contentious debate" about health care. She says she disagrees with Sanders on health care, but Sanders retorts that he was on the committee that drafted Obamacare.

9:46 — Sanders says we need to "end the national embarrassment of being the only advanced country on earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege."

9:51 — O'Malley says that net immigration in the past year was "zero." He blatantly pleads for media attention: "Go ahead, fact-check me!" (Clinton says he's "basically" right.) [Update: The Washington Post's Fact Checker obliged.]

9:53 — Sanders is asked how much "job loss" he'd find an "acceptable" consequence of raising the minimum wage. Sanders vaguely acknowledges that any policy will have some negative consequences, but he'll "apologize to nobody" for supporting an increase to $15 an hour. For some reason, he suggests that this will especially help to reduce unemployment among black youths.

9:56 — O'Malley is asked why he raised Maryland's minimum wage only to $10.10, when he now calls for increasing the whole country's minimum wage to $15.

9:56 — Clinton admits that "there are no international comparisons" to what would happen if we raised the minimum wage to $15, so she only supports raising it to $12, which "would be the highest above the historical average we've ever had."

10:02 — Clinton is asked how she can rein in Wall Street when she's "indebted" to so many people on Wall Street since they've donated so much money to her. Clinton says this is obvious from the fact that two "billionaire hedge fund managers" have been putting out attack ads against her. Sanders says Clinton's answer is "not good enough," and asks why Wall Street has been such a "major contributor" to Clinton. "Maybe they're dumb! But I don't think so." [VIDEO.]

10:05 — Things really heat up between Clinton and Sanders over Clinton's connections to Wall Street. Clinton says: "He has basically used his answer to impugn my integrity." Sanders protests: "No I have not!" Clinton presses on: "Oh, wait a minute here . . ." She adds that Sanders's plan of "breaking up the big banks" is "not enough." Sanders seems like he's trying to turn down the heat: "I respectfully disagree with you, Madam Secretary." [VIDEO.]

10:08 — O'Malley repeatedly says, very slowly and emphatically, that Clinton's proposal on Wall Street is "weak tea."

10:09 — As in the last debate, Clinton seems to be trying to minimize any apparent difference between herself and the other candidates on financial regulations: "If the big banks don't play by the rules, I will break them up."

10:10 — Sanders says, in a thinly veiled swipe at Clinton: "Here's my promise: Wall Street representatives will not be in my cabinet."

10:11 — Clinton repeats what she said in the last debate about her disagreement with Sanders about lawsuits against gun manufacturers. The moderator shoots back: "If he can be tattooed by one vote . . . why can't you be tattooed by your vote on Iraq?" Clinton frankly admits: "I made a mistake on Iraq."

10:13 — On gun control, Sanders says, "I don't know that there's any disagreement here," and both of the other candidates laugh at him.

10:14 — O'Malley goes after Clinton on gun control: "You've been on three sides of this." She was for gun regulations at first, but then "painted [her]self as Annie Oakley, saying we don't need regulations at the federal level." Sanders tries to take the rug out from under O'Malley with the understatement that Baltimore, of which O'Malley was mayor, is "not the safest city in America."

10:16 — A viewer asks Clinton why she invoked "9/11" to defend against Sanders's charges of being too close to Wall Street. Clinton seems to suggest that the viewer misunderstood. (Well, I didn't understand Clinton's point either.)

[Added later:] Here's how Politico quotes Clinton:
I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan, where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country. [VIDEO.]
TNR tries to explain it. Politico reports on more negative reactions to what Clinton. David Axelrod, Obama's former adviser, mocks her on Twitter:
@HillaryClinton vehemently offers support for Wall Street as post-911 recovery effort. Does that fly?
O'Malley's deputy campaign manager, Lis Smith, gets personal:
My dad worked in WTC from the day it was built to the day it went down. @HillaryClinton, never invoke 9/11 to justify your Wall St positions
10:17 — Clinton says some stuff that I didn't catch about Glass-Steagall. She admits it's an "arcane" discussion, and I think she knows that talk of "Glass-Steagall" doesn't mean much to most viewers, especially when no one bothers to explain it. Even Ben Bernanke, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, doesn't understand why there's so much focus on it in the debates! I don't know if the candidates are even thinking about the fact that some of their viewers who will be eligible to vote in 2016 are teenagers; Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999, when they were babies.

10:25 — Sanders is asked about the apparent discrepancy between his statement in the last debate that he was "sick and tired" of hearing about Clinton's emails, and his later comments, but Sanders brushes this off as a media invention. We get a sequel to the Sanders/Clinton love-fest from the last debate, with Sanders saying: "I didn't know that I had so much power! We don't hear much about her emails anymore! . . . We've gotten off of Clinton's emails — good!" Clinton: "I couldn't have said it better myself!"

10:27 — Clinton: "President Obama deserves more credit than he's gotten for what he got done in Washington, despite Republican obstructionism."

10:28 — Dickerson brings up her recent congressional testimony on Benghazi, and asks if she can assure us the "other shoe isn't going to drop." Clinton: "I think after 11 hours, that's pretty clear!"

10:30 — When O'Malley is asked about criminal justice reform, he says he has more "graveside" experience than the other candidates.

10:32 — Sanders calls to "end minimum sentencing" and legalize marijuana at the federal level, so states can be free to legalize it.

10:35 — Sanders is asked why government should pay for tuition, when about 40% of college students don't graduate. Isn't the taxpayer money just "thrown away" on them? Sanders doesn't answer that question, but simply reiterates his support for "free" college (to the extent anything that would cost billions of dollars can be called "free").

10:38— Clinton: "I disagree with free college for everybody." Her rationale is that taxpayers should have to "send Donald Trump's kids to college." (Of course, Trump's kids went to private colleges, which wouldn't be affected by Sanders's plan.) Government and families should both "contribute."

10:40 — The moderator points out that Clinton's health-care plan back when she was First Lady was "Sanders-esque." Clinton seems wistful: "Revolution never came! . . . I have the scars to prove it!"

10:42 — As the moderator is starting to go to a commercial break, O'Malley begs for more time, but Dickerson blames it on technology: "I'm sorry, Governor, we've got to take a break, or the machine breaks down!" [Update: Out of the three candidates, O'Malley spoke the least — 25% of the time — and Clinton spoke the most — 40% of the time.]

10:46 — The candidates are all asked about "a time you've been tested," which they could draw on as president. Clinton says the time she had to advise Obama on the mission to kill bin Laden. Clinton gets personal: "It was an excruciating experience — I couldn't talk to anybody about it," including her husband. Sanders's answer is pretty dull by comparison: he says he'd draw on his experience compromising with Republicans when he was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

10:51 — In his closing statement, O'Malley says we shouldn't return to "polarizing figures of the past." I can't imagine who he has in mind!

10:52 — Clinton starts her closing statement with a good line: "I've heard a lot about me in this debate. I'm going to keep talking and thinking about you." At the end of her statement, she gets wild applause.

10:54 — Sanders's closing statement is evocative of Larry David's impersonation of him: "We need a political revolution! . . . Turn off the TV! . . . Please become a part of the revolution!"

O'Malley successfully baited Trump into giving him some much-needed publicity.

Peter Beinart, a liberal, thinks this debate showed troubling signs for Clinton:
imagine @marcorubio on that stage and u can imagine how far on the defensive @HillaryClinton will be on ISIS
So who won tonight? It's hard to say. Maybe the Republicans.

Update: Many are saying the winner was John Dickerson.

"What we affirmed by our mourning on September 11, 2001"

Apropos of yesterday's acts of war against France, here are Leon Wieseltier's comments on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001:

Though we encounter it as suffering, grief is in fact an affirmation. The indifferent do not grieve, the uncommitted do not grieve, the loveless do not grieve. We mourn only the loss of what we have loved and what we have valued, and in this way mourning darkly refreshes our knowledge of the causes of our loves and the reasons for our values. Our sorrow restores us to the splendors of our connectedness to people and to principles. . . .

Here is what we affirmed by our mourning on September 11, 2001, and by the introspection of its aftermath:

that we wish to be known, to ourselves and to the world, by the liberty that we offer . . . as a matter of right, to the individuals and the groups with whom we live;

that the ordinary lives of ordinary people on an ordinary day of work and play can truthfully exemplify that liberty, and fully represent what we stand for;

that we will defend ourselves, resolutely and even ferociously, because self-defense is also an ethical responsibility, and that our debates about the proper use of our power in our own defense should not be construed as an infirmity in our will;

that the multiplicity of cultures and traditions that we contain peaceably in our society is one of our highest accomplishments, because we are not afraid of difference, and because we do not confuse openness with emptiness, or unity with conformity; . . .

that we believe in progress, at home and abroad, in social progress, in moral progress, even when it is fitful and contested and difficult;

that just as we have enemies in the world we have friends, and that our friends are the individuals and the movements and the societies that aspire, often in circumstances of great adversity, to democracy and to decency.

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

(That's a photo of Paris's beautiful Cimetière du Père-Lachaise which I took 10 years ago.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Live-blogging the fourth main Republican 2016 debate

I'll be live-blogging the debate here, so keep reloading this post for more updates.

As everyone has been observing, there will be enormous pressure on Jeb Bush to do well tonight, after his widely panned performance last time. There will also be fewer people in this debate (8) than any of the previous main Republican debates.

As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly, so they might not be exactly right, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate (and I might correct some of them later).

For more live-blogging, check out National Review, the New RepublicTPMAlthouse (my mom), and Alex Knepper.

[Here's the transcript.]

9:06 — Donald Trump is asked if he has any sympathy with those calling for a $15 minimum wage. He says "we have to leave it the way it is," and he uses this as an opportunity to repeat his standard points: "we don't win anymore," etc.

9:08 — Ben Carson notes the high unemployment among "black teenagers" — "if you lower the minimum wage, that comes down." He mentions his early jobs — "no one would have given me those jobs if I had required a large amount of money." He uses my favorite metaphor on this issue: we need to let people "ascend the ladder of opportunity." My added comment: raising the minimum wage is like cutting off the lowest rungs on the ladder and feeling pleased with yourself for encouraging people at the bottom to jump higher. Not everyone is able to jump that high!

9:11 — Marco Rubio raises the specter of robots replacing workers: "If you raise the minimum wage, you're going to make people more expensive than a machine." He adds: "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers!" [VIDEO.] Alex Knepper responds:

The sentiment he's expressing here is precisely what's wrong with our nation's attitude toward education. Our politicians think the meaning and purpose of education is to make money. If something doesn't have an immediate economic purpose, it's treated as useless, even offensive. The irony that Rubio will never grasp is that this exceptional country — the country that made his life possible, and made it possible for the son of a maid and a bartender to run for president — was made possible by philosophy.
9:18 — Jeb Bush talks back at John Kasich for trying to jump in when the moderator is about to ask Bush a question. "You've already made two comments, John! It's my turn!" [Politico calls this one of the most "explosive" moments of the debate.]

9:19 — Bush tries to stand out as a conservative, noting that the Wall St. Journal said he's put forward the most pro-growth plan. Also: "We need to repeal every rule that Obama has."

9:21 — The moderator notes that far more jobs were created under Presidents Obama and Clinton than under President George W. Bush. Carly Fiorina doesn't directly address this, and instead goes into her standard speech about how Democrats have enlarged the government and made the economy worse. (See my update at 10:01.)

9:23 — Rand Paul is asked about income inequality. He points out that it's "worst" in places where Democrats are in control — so "let's look for root causes!"

9:30 — Neil Cavuto asks Carson about "potential inconsistencies in your life story." Carson's response: "I don't mind being vetted. I do mind being lied about." He pivots to attacking Hillary Clinton for her conflicting comments about the Benghazi attack. [VIDEO.]

9:33 — Trump praises the recent decision by a federal appeals court blocking President Obama's executive order on illegal immigration.

9:34 — Kasich lambastes Trump for his proposal to deport illegal immigrants: "Think about the families! Think about the children!" Trump repeats his same retort to Kasich that he used in the last debate: "You're lucky in Ohio that you struck oil." When Kasich starts to respond (though this whole exchange started with Kasich usurping someone else's turn), Trump says: "You should let Jeb speak!" Bush lobs some sarcasm at Trump: "Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate! What a generous man you are!"

9:37 — Bush bears down on his "lose the primary to win the general" strategy by saying we need to be more pragmatic and compassionate on immigration, and the Clinton campaign is doing high-fives when they listen to Trump.

9:38 — Rubio is asked about the problem of robots taking away jobs — though Rubio already made that point on his own in response to the earlier question about the minimum wage. It would be nice if the moderators had some flexibility to change their questions on the spot so that the same candidate doesn't get to make the same point repeatedly.

9:43 — Ted Cruz comes down hard against illegal immigration, pointing out that his family immigrated from Cuba legally.

9:44 — Carly Fiorina says Obamacare is hurting the people it's trying to help. "No one can possibly understand [Obamacare] except the big companies." She says we need to try the free market — and to do this, government should require health care providers to publish their costs and outcomes, because right now we don't know what we're buying. I'm glad to see her make the point that just repealing Obamacare wouldn't give us a "free market" system — there isn't nearly enough price transparency for that. When pressed by moderator Maria Bartiromo, she emphasizes letting the states come up with their own policies, and she gets passionate when saying: "I'm a cancer survivor. I understand: you can't have someone who's battling cancer become known as a 'pre-existing condition.'"

9:53 — Cavuto asks Paul about his comment that "you don't want your tax plan to be revenue-neutral, and that's the idea" — to deprive the government of money. Paul confirms: "I want lower taxes and much more money in the private sector." However, he claims that his tax plan will "balance the budget over five years." And he repeats his point from the last debate (which didn't seem to help his long-shot campaign) that he'd get rid of the payroll tax.

9:56 — Cruz quips: "There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible, and not a one of them is as good."

Alex Knepper correctly observes:
This debate is flowing much more smoothly with 8 people on the stage.
10:01 — Bush shows that he's decided to have a vigorous debate by going back to the moderator's earlier question about how more jobs are created under Democratic than Republican administrations: all those jobs created under the Democratic administrations don't pay as well.

10:02 — Rubio botches his attempt at a moving insight: "The most important job any of us can have is being president" — he meant "being a parent."

10:04 — Paul says Rubio's policies of cutting taxes while increasing military spending are "not very conservative." Rubio retorts that Paul is "a committed isolationist." Paul keeps up his attack: "How is it conservative to add a trillion-dollar expenditure that you're not going to pay for?" Rubio says we're safer when America's is the strongest country in the world, but Paul says we won't be "safer from bankruptcy court." Cruz chimes in to support Rubio: "You think defending this nation is expensive? Try not defending it!" [VIDEO.]

10:08 — At this point, almost every remaining candidate tries to jump in — Fiorina, Trump, Kasich. The moderators let Fiorina talk for a long time when no one had said anything about her, yet the moderator was about to prevent Rubio from defending himself against Paul's explicit attack! Trump positions himself as a hawk: "I agree with [Rubio], I agree with [Cruz]."

10:13 — For some reason, soaring orchestral music starts to accompany a discussion between the moderator and Paul on trade and China. [In-depth analysis!]

10:20 — Carson, who was asked in the first debate about the perception that he's not knowledge about world affairs, tries to show his foreign policy chops in talking about how to destroy ISIS. He slips in that he's talked with "several generals."

10:22 — "What does President Trump do in response to Russia's aggression?" Bush keeps cutting into Trump's answer, but Trump is firm: "Hold it! Wait a minute!"

10:26 — Bush scolds Trump for being naive in thinking we can just let Russia take care of the Middle East. "That's like a board game. That's like playing Monopoly or something. That's not how the world works."

10:27 — After Trump talks about meeting Putin when they were both on 60 Minutes, Fiorina remarks: "I have met Putin as well — not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting."

10:31 — Rubio calls Putin "a gangster" — "an organized crime figure."

10:41 — Bush talks about bank regulations, and contrasts himself with Hillary Clinton. In every one of his answers tonight, you can see him trying to be stronger to revive his campaign. I'm not his target audience so I'm not in a great position to say, but he seems to be doing this pretty effectively.

10:45 — Rubio takes a page from Fiorina's playbook: "You know why the big banks are so big? The government made them big by making thousands and thousands of pages of regulations." Only the big banks can afford the lawyers to navigate those regulations. It's a good point, but it's also a point that sounds a lot like what Fiorina said over and over in the last debate.

10:52 — Cruz says he would let Bank of America fail. Kasich counters that when people's livelihoods are on the line, you can't just rely on "philosophical concerns." So philosophy has really taken a hit in this debate (see 9:11). Kasich presents himself as "an executive" (a governor), who has to be more pragmatic than Cruz (a Senator). This leads to a fiery exchange between the two, and the audience loudly boos Kasich.

11:00 — Bartiromo asks Rubio how he can beat Clinton when she has so much more experience. Rubio laughs at first, then doesn't hold back from contrasting himself with Clinton based on age. Rubio says the election will be about "the future," and about "a generational choice." Clinton is offering "the tired ideas of the past."

11:01 — Cruz jumps in to make the obvious anti-Clinton argument Rubio failed to make: "She has a lot of experience, but her policies have proven disastrous."

11:05 — Paul sounds a note of skepticism on global warming, noting that the earth has been warmer and had higher levels of carbon at times in the past.

11:11 — Paul uses his closing statement to say he's the only fiscal conservative because he's the only one who'll cut both "welfare" and military spending. So he's been really coming down against military spending in this debate. I agree with him, but I find it hard to believe this will be effective in the Republican primaries.

11:13 — Fiorina's closing statement goes for Hillary Clinton's jugular, saying her presidency would "erode the character of this nation, because that is the Clinton way."

11:16 – Carson gives a chilling closing statement, listing the terrible things that have happened in the 2 hours they've been debating — the amount added to the federal debate, the number of Americans who have died of drugs, the number of abortions, and the number of veterans who have committed suicide. Some of the numbers seemed shockingly high, so I'd like to see a fact check.

11:17 — Trump says, in contrast with the several candidates who plugged their URLs tonight, "I don't have to give you a website, because I'm self-funding my campaign."

That's all. It was a much better Republican debate than the last one, but I don't expect it to change much, except perhaps to stop the media narrative about Bush's weak debating skills. We've gotten pretty used to all these characters, and it would be pretty hard at this point for any of them to surprise us anymore.

Jonah Goldberg's take:
Biggest loser on merits: Kasich. He’s done. He came across angry, condescending and unprincipled. By the end of the debate he came across as the drunk, obnoxious uncle everyone wishes hadn’t accepted the invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.

Biggest loser politically: Jeb Bush. On the substance, I thought his performance during the first half was the best he’s done. But by the second half he started to fade and grew more incoherent. On several occasions he gave passable answers if you could cut through the word clouds, but then Rubio came in and gave essentially the same answer better, both on substance and style. This was particularly true during the discussion of the bank bailouts. More than anything, Bush needed to outshine Rubio and lay the groundwork for a “Bush comeback” narrative. He simply didn’t do that. He didn’t do what he needed to do stop the slide of donors and voters to Rubio. . . .

Trump . . . has definitely become a better candidate and he’s still the best at the body language of these debates. His “Let Jeb speak” moment was a very unsubtle way of declaring he was the guy in charge on the stage. So was his peacemaking bit about how all the tax plans are good. Still, I don’t think he gave anyone who’s opposed to him (like me) a reason to change their mind.
The consensus among "insiders" interviewed by Politico:
Marco Rubio won the fourth Republican debate -- and John Kasich lost.

That’s the assessment of this week’s POLITICO Caucus, our bipartisan survey of the top activists, strategists and operatives in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Nearly 40 percent of Republican participants said Rubio won the debate in a survey taken immediately following Tuesday night’s contest -- no other candidate had more than 12 percent. . . .

For the second Republican debate in a row, the POLITICO Caucus named the Florida senator the biggest winner of the night, noting his vigorous defense of a muscular American foreign policy — one of the biggest applause lines of the evening — and forceful remarks concerning Wall Street as evidence of a strong and articulate candidate.

Forty-two percent of Democrats also agreed that Rubio won the night.

“He is engaging, articulate, comfortable in his own skin and has a hopeful positive message...he packages well for a party that is looking for change but still wants a foot in policy and politics,” a New Hampshire Democrat said. . . .

The runner-ups for best performance, according to the survey, were Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina with 12 percent each, followed by Rand Paul with 8 percent and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson at 6 percent, according to Republican insiders.

As for the biggest loser of the night, 38 percent of Republican insiders pointed to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. . . .

Kasich had a contentious evening, as the moderate conservative tussled with Donald Trump over immigration reform and was booed when he suggested there was room for government involvement in saving big banks from going under.

“Kasich's awkwardness was on full display, and his ideas are getting lost in the power of his peevishness,” a South Carolina Republican said.

“He was whining about not getting to speak, but actually had one of the highest [speaking] times,” said a non-partisan respondent from Iowa. “He came across as angry and kept trying to inject himself in the conversation. Not a good night for him.”


Betamax is still a thing

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Are Trump and Cruz right that "no tough questions" were asked of Clinton in the Democratic debate?

Donald Trump says (this is my transcript from watching the video embedded at that link):

We have to be treated a little bit fairly. As an example, Hillary Clinton — no tough questions! I mean, why didn't they ask about Bill? Why didn't they ask about all of the different things? No tough questions! Now, that was staged by the Democrats. And frankly, they did a very smart thing in the way they staged it. . . . Hillary had only softballs, all night long.
This is similar to what Ted Cruz said in the last debate — that the Republican debate stood in "contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, 'Which of you is more handsome and wise?'"

Well, Trump and Cruz must been watching some other Democratic debate that I haven't heard about. This was the first question in the Democratic debate I saw:
Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you're for it. You defended President Obama's immigration policies. Now you say they're too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the "gold standard". Now, suddenly, last week, you're against it. Will you say anything to get elected?
The moderator, Anderson Cooper, interrupted her answer to say:
Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you'd, quote, "take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values." Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, "being kind of moderate and center." Do you change your political identity based on who you're talking to?
Later in the debate, Clinton and all the other candidates were asked a series of questions about her emails — clearly not a topic she wants to discuss. That portion of the debate did end up helping her — but only because another candidate, Bernie Sanders, made a big show of coming to her defense. Even after that, Cooper kept trying to get other candidates to attack Clinton over her emails.

But even aside from the fact that Trump and Cruz are counting on people not remembering or not having watching the Democratic debate, I don't understand why Republican candidates are wasting their time whining about getting tough questions. It might be momentarily uncomfortable for the candidate getting the question, but that's what they signed up for. Even if you think some of the questions are unfair, they still help the party overall, by making sure the eventual nominee is someone who can take the heat. After all, they're sure to face even tougher questions in the general.

Look at it this way: who should want the Republicans to avoid being asked any tough or questionable or unfair or biased questions during the primaries? A staunch Democrat. Because if that ever happened, the Democrat could look forward to going up against a paper tiger.

Even if every single question was hostile in the Republican debate, that wouldn't show a liberal bias. That would help the Republicans. The harsher the scrutiny is now, the better the nominee will end up being — both because the voters will make a better choice (they won't vote for a candidate who failed all those tests) and because the nominee will be well-practiced in defending against the attacks (and if they are reprised in the general, the nominee will be better-positioned to brush them off as "old" and "discredited").

Forget all you've heard about how Bush is a candidate from the past . . .

He's hired the same campaign coach who helped his father and Dan Quayle win their one-term presidency!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Human trafficking" is a meaningless phrase

The New Republic explains:

[I]n practice, trafficking does not mean "modern-day slavery." Nor does it mean being transported across borders for purposes of sexual exploitation. Instead, it usually refers to one or more of the following: being underage and selling sex; illegally immigrating; being subjected to any kind of forced labor or abusive labor practices; engaging in consensual sex work.

"The public seems to believe that sex trafficking means forced prostitution,” researcher Tara Burns told me, “but when you sit down and read charging documents for sex trafficking charges, that is very very rarely the case." Sex workers are often charged with having trafficked themselves, Burns said. "Under different state laws, sex trafficking can also mean sex workers advertising for their own services or renting their own hotel rooms, or adults abusing children well outside of the commercial sex industry."

The word “trafficking,” then, becomes a way to leverage the image of young women kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. After 9/11, [Alison Bass, author of Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law], the State Department was eager to embrace the language of trafficking as another way to justify immigration restrictions and surveillance inspired in the first place by anti-terrorism—which is why initiatives like the State Department "Human Smuggling and Terrorist Center" lump together "Human smuggling, trafficking in persons, and clandestine terrorist travel" as "transnational issues that threaten national security." "Trafficking" can also be used to make anti-prostitution laws seem compassionate rather than punitive, as in the New York trafficking courts, which frames those arrested as trafficking victims in need of help, even though in practice you still end up with police arresting people (especially minority women) on prostitution charges. In either case, the word is a way to target marginalized groups like immigrants and sex workers in the name of a (confused or cynical) humanitarianism."