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.

UPDATE (2020): During the coronavirus pandemic, Netflix has posted many documentaries including this one for free on YouTube:

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 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!