Thursday, February 21, 2019

This mural was painted upside-down on purpose . . .

. . . so it looks right when it's reflected in the water.

Is free speech on campus in a "crisis," and if so, who's most affected?

The Wall Street Journal has a weekly feature called Future View, where college students answer a question. This week, the question is whether there's a "campus free-speech crisis."

Here's a response by Sam Wolfe, a comparative literature student at Stanford University:

Ask a liberal student about the “campus free-speech crisis,” and watch him roll his eyes. He’ll tell you it’s a figment of the conservative imagination—a handful of racist speakers have been protested or shut down, but the overwhelming majority proceed without incident. Speak your mind, he’ll insist. No one will punish you for it.

Ask a conservative student, however, and you’ll hear her stories: how she couldn’t speak up in her classes, scared to admit that the shibboleths of the left aren’t her own; how she had to self-censor in her dorm and in her academic papers; how she couldn’t imagine revealing her true positions on abortion, affirmative action or gun control.

They’re both right. Rarely do colleges formally punish students for expressing conservative opinions. But when one’s peers and professors are overwhelmingly left-wing, students reasonably fear that they could be ostracized for sharing their beliefs.

Occasional protests against controversial guest speakers are the least important manifestation of the problem. Instead, worry about the intellectually curious student who is afraid to question the prevailing views. If not in college, when?
And you know who’s especially hurt by this? Liberals. They don’t get exposed to as many different points of view. The more conservative students receive greater opportunities — opportunities to consider more ideas, because they know what they hear/read plus what’s in their heads! After graduation, who’s going to be better-equipped to go out in the world and interact with intellectually diverse groups of people?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Bernie Sanders

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the New York primary in 2016.

I do not intend to do so in 2020.

My vote for Sanders in 2016 was a protest against the lack of adequate competition. That doesn’t seem like it will be a problem this time.

Sen. Sanders says this while announcing on Vermont Public Radio that he's running for president:

"It turns out that many of the ideas that I talked about – that health care is a right, not a privilege, and that we've got to move toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system: very, very popular. The idea that we have got to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour," he told Vermont Public Radio. "When I talked about making public colleges and universities tuition-free and lowering student debt, that was another issue that people said was too radical. Well, that's also happening around the country. . . ."

Asked by Vermont Public Radio how he will pitch his candidacy in such a diverse and progressive field, Sanders argued, "We have got to look at candidates not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or gender, and not by their age. I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society that looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for."
Here are some highlights from Bernie Sanders in my live-blogging of the 2016 primary debates (I was writing this live, with no pause or rewind button, and I tried to make the quotes reasonably accurate but they weren't necessarily verbatim):

Oct. 13, 2015:
9:06 — [Anderson Cooper] asks Sanders if he's a capitalist. "Do I consider myself a part of the casino-capitalist process? . . . No, I don't."

9:39 — Sanders is asked how he could be Commander in Chief after he applied for "conscientious objector" status during the Vietnam War. "When I was a young man — I'm not a young man today — I strongly opposed the Vietnam War. . . . I am not a pacifist." [VIDEO.]
Nov. 14, 2015:
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.]

9:53 — 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.

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

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!"
Feb. 4, 2016:
9:42 — Sanders goes on a diatribe against Wall Street. "Kid gets caught with marijuana — that kid gets sent to jail. A Wall Street executive destroys the entire economy — $5 billion settlement, no criminal record."

9:49 — Sanders: "The business model of Wall Street is fraud."
Feb. 11, 2016:
9:14 — Sanders calls out [Hillary Clinton] for "going around the country" saying he's going to "dismantle" Medicare, Medicaid, etc. "We're not going to dismantle anything."

9:29 — Sanders says: "A Sanders victory would be some historical accomplishment as well." 

10:43 — They're asked to name one American leader and one foreign leader who'd influence their foreign policy. Sanders says FDR for the American leader, and Winston Churchill for the foreign leader.
March 6, 2016:
9:07 — A member of the audience begins his question by pointing out that opportunities often go disproportionately to "older Caucasian men and women." Sanders interrupts him with a self-effacing joke: "You're not talking about me, are ya?!" On a more serious note, Sanders says: "Most candidates wouldn't put this on their resume, but . . . I was arrested by the Chicago police for trying to desegregate the Chicago school system." [VIDEO.]

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Online comments and the Constitution

When I see online comments fantasizing about what grotesque punishments the commenters would like to see imposed on certain criminals, which is a kind of virtue signaling (“Look at me — I hate evil so much that I want terrible things to happen to evildoers, because I’m such a good person!”) . . . when I see that kind of comment, I’m proud to live in a country that has a constitutional rule against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

When I see comments assuming someone is guilty of a crime before they’ve been convicted of anything, based only on a headline that refers to the government’s allegations, I’m glad the Constitution requires “due process.”

Those and other short phrases in the Constitution, written centuries ago, are in effect regardless of what the majority thinks or feels, and that’s a great thing about America. We do live in a democracy, but there must be limits on the majority’s power, to keep democracy from becoming tyranny.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What was wrong with Ilhan Omar's tweets about Israel and AIPAC?

Some are saying, "Well, Rep. Ilhan Omar was right: AIPAC really is an influential pro-Israel lobbying organization, and it does use money to exert its influence! So what's the problem with her two tweets [now deleted] that were denounced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats?"

This Reason piece explains what that's missing. Yes, you can look at Omar's two tweets that have gotten the most attention and say each one on its own has some truth to it. But that's overlooking the larger context of her statements. She was responding to a Haaretz article about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's criticism of Omar's statement from years ago that "Israel has hypnotized the world," and the world must "awaken" to "see the evil doings of Israel."

To her credit, Omar has apologized for those statements (though her recent response to Pelosi was called a "nonapology" by my mom, Ann Althouse). But it's still troubling when a member of Congress uses old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews as an elite group secretly controlling the world with all their money. You don't get to keep pulling out invidious stereotypes about a historically marginalized group and then plead innocent because hey, there is some truth to your statements. That's setting the bar too low for our national leaders. To insist on reading each individual tweet by Omar in isolation from everything else she's expressed about the topic would be applying a skewed standard that we shouldn't apply to any powerful government official.

As David Bernstein says in the Reason post:

Let's be generous, and assume she meant AIPAC to begin with. Two freshman Democrats who have attracted a great deal of attention are widely perceived to have engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric while criticizing Israel. The leader of the House GOP, just off demoting a member of his caucus for racist comments, threatens similar action against the two Democrats. . . . Suggesting in the absence of 'Israel lobby' money, the House Republican leader wouldn't call out anti-Semitism by House Democrats suggests that you believe that the lobby, i.e., Jews, are pulling the strings in a classic Jewish-conspiracy kind of way, such that even the most mundane and obvious of political maneuvers are really just tribute to a Jewish cabal.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Amy Klobuchar: On, Wisconsin!

"Amy Klobuchar trolls Hillary Clinton with Wisconsin jab," reports the Washington Times:

“We’re going to be in Iowa and in Wisconsin,” the Minnesota Democrat told reporters after she announced her 2020 presidential bid in Minneapolis.

I think we’re starting in Wisconsin because as you remember there wasn’t a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016,” she added. “With me, that changes.

Mrs. Clinton infamously neglected to campaign in Wisconsin after she won the 2016 Democratic Party nomination. She wound up . . . becoming the first Democrat to lose the state since 1984.

Mrs. Clinton addressed the loss in her campaign memoir “What Happened.”

“If there’s one place where we were caught by surprise, it was Wisconsin. Polls showed us comfortably ahead, right up until the end,” she wrote. “I would have torn up my schedule . . . and camped out there.”
Over and over during the 2016 race, I said we shouldn't call my home state of Wisconsin a "blue state." I kept saying it's a purple state, a swing state, a state that could go either way.

People told me I was wrong because Democrats had won Wisconsin in the past several presidential elections.

I told them to look at the margins of those elections in Wisconsin:

Al Gore won Wisconsin . . . by 0.22%, making it the third-closest state in 2000.

John Kerry won Wisconsin . . . by 0.38%, making it the closest of all 50 states in 2004.

Barack Obama won Wisconsin by more than 10% in 2008, but that was an unusually large margin for anyone to win Wisconsin (the biggest since 1964). Why did that happen? In November 2008, the economy seemed to be in free fall at the end of an 8-year Republican administration. An outlier under extraordinary circumstances like 2008 is a less reliable predictor than close elections like 2000 and 2004.

I also said to look at Wisconsin's governors. The governor back in 2016 was a staunchly conservative Republican, Scott Walker, who succeeded a Democrat, who succeeded two Republican governors in a row (including Tommy Thompson, a pioneer of welfare reform in the '90s who went on to serve in President George W. Bush's cabinet).

I grew up in the very left-wing state capital, Madison, but the rest of Wisconsin is not Madison. It was a terrible mistake for Democrats to overlook Wisconsin or make assumptions about the state.

Kamala Harris on marijuana

Sen. Kamala Harris admits that she's smoked marijuana, and calls for legalizing the drug.

A presidential candidate admitting to marijuana use is nothing new. That happened in the 2004, 2008, and 2016 races.

But in the past, candidates have often been quick to add that it was a mistake (for instance, click the "2008" link on Obama). 

I've never seen any presidential candidate other than Kamala Harris make this kind of argument for legalizing marijuana:
I think that it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy.

(Official Senate photo from the public domain.)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Mixed messages

Our message to men: Admit your toxic masculinity, and start having a conversation about how men can improve themselves!

Our message to white people: Admit your racism and privilege, and start having an honest conversation about race — however difficult and uncomfortable that might be!

Our message to people with mental illness: We need to remove the stigma so you can talk openly about your mental health!

Our message to a white man who publicly admits to the time he was so racist and mentally unwell that he wanted to kill a black man just for being a black man, then realized the error of his ways and made an effort to improve himself: Stop talking about that! You're not allowed to say that in public!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A strange sentence in the New York Times about Democrats apologizing

"2020 Democrats Agree: They’re Very, Very Sorry," reports the New York Times:

The most recent high-profile mea culpa came Thursday when Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts apologized for her controversial decision to take a DNA test to prove her decades-old claim of Native American ancestry.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recently lamented his role in crafting the tough-on-crime drug legislation of the 1980s and 1990s.

Senator Kamala Harris of California said she regretted some of the positions her office took while she was a state prosecutor.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said her past hard-line stances on immigration “certainly weren’t empathetic and they were not kind.”

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont apologized after reports of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in his 2016 presidential campaign.
And the Times doesn't mention Tulsi Gabbard apologizing for her vile statements about "homosexual extremists."

But I don't understand what the New York Times reporters (Astead W. Herndon and Sydney Ember) are talking about in this sentence:
As recently as 2006, national Democrats including former President Barack Obama expressed wariness about immigrants’ ability to assimilate into American culture and did not openly embrace gay marriage — two talking points that would probably be deeply damaging for any 2020 candidate."
Why "[a]s recently as 2006"? That wasn't a presidential election year. And did Democrats stop doing those things before 2008? President Obama and Vice President Biden didn't "openly embrace gay marriage" until 2012.

Maybe the writers were thinking of what Obama wrote in his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope (pp. 263-64, 266, 268):
[T]here's no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our Southern border — a sense that what's happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before. Not all these fears are irrational. . . . If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole . . . it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and puts strains on an already overburdened safety net. . . .

For most Americans, though, concerns over illegal immigration go deeper than worries about economic displacement and are more subtle than simple racism. In the past, immigration occurred on America's terms; the welcome mat could be extended selectively, on the basis of the immigrant's skills. . . . The laborer, whether Chinese or Russian or Greek, found himself a stranger in a strange land, severed from his home country, subject to often harsh constrains, forced to adapt to rules not of his own making.

Today, it seems those terms no longer apply. Immigrants are entering as a result of a porous border rather than any systematic government policy. . . . Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt. . . .

I'm not entirely immune to such nativist sentiments. When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration. . . .

We have a right and duty to protect our borders. We can insist to those already here that with citizenship come obligations — to a common language, common loyalties, a common purpose, a common destiny.

Buddy Holly died 60 years ago today.

I did this blog post 10 years ago as a tribute to Buddy Holly — and the many people he's influenced.