This whole Alabama hurricane map thing, sigh

In case you missed it, here’s an NPR article: Trump Displays Altered Map Of Hurricane Dorian’s Path To Include Alabama.

This whole thing is kinda similar to the inauguration crowd size thing from 2017 (which feels like a lifetime ago!), in that the original issue is utterly insignificant. Trump accidentally included Alabama in the list of 7ish states that would be affected by Dorian, but by that time it had already started to turn north so forecasters weren’t saying that anymore. Who cares?

But the total inability for Trump to ever admit he was wrong about anything, no matter how trivial, is such a terrible character trait, especially in a President. It’s not clear whether Trump drew the line on the map himself, or whether he told someone to, or (less likely?) some aide took it upon himself/herself to draw it to make Trump happy. None of these are good options!

The world is a complicated place, and everyone is wrong sometimes. Refusing to admit that just makes yourself look more foolish than the original error.

There is no perfect Presidential candidate (but who I’m leaning towards)

It’s very early in the presidential primary cycle but I’ve started taking a look at the many, many candidates for president.

Since there are so many candidates this time around, it’s easy to get in a mode where you look at a candidate, see one bad thing about her, and get disillusioned and move on. It’s important to realize that no one (especially politicians!) are perfect, and looking for the one “true” candidate is going to lead to disappointment, especially because with this many candidates even if you choose the frontrunner you’re at least 70% likely he won’t win.

Also worth remembering is that basically all of the candidates are better than the current president 🙂

Anyway, having said that I thought I’d list my current thoughts on the candidates. One thing worth mentioning is the “14-Year Rule” – no one who has been in major public office (governor or US senator or something) for more than 14 years has won the presidency. Obviously it’s not hard and fast, but I think there is something to the fact that the longer you’ve been in the public eye the more likely you’ve done things that will make some people unhappy. Is it fair? Probably not, but no one deserves to be a presidential nominee, and I’m much more concerned with the Democrat winning than getting the candidate that aligns most closely with my values.

Top tier:

  • Senator Kamala Harris – I generally like her positions, she seems fairly charismatic. There’s been some negative buzz among progressives about her positions when she was a prosecutor, but I haven’t heard about anything I’d consider major given the office she held. Need to learn more about her.
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg – Not a ton of experience, but I like his positions and he’s smart and is having a bit of a media moment right now. (although it’s so early, it’s entirely possible his campaign will flame out) And yeah, he’s gay and that’s neat to see. Since he hasn’t run a major campaign before, he probably hasn’t been well-vetted, which is a little scary. Need to learn more about him.

Second tier:

  • Beto O’Rourke – Obviously he’s kind of a celebrity right now, and it’s a good sign if the media likes him. A little light on policy but not as light as everyone seems to think.

Third tier:

  • Senator Cory Booker – Young, charismatic. Has some ties to the pharmaceutical and financial industry, which is somewhat to be expected since he’s a senator from New Jersey but may be a problem. Barely passes the “14-year rule” (he was mayor of Newark starting in 2006)
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar – From the midwest (a good thing given how close Wisconsin and Michigan were in 2016), and has done better than you’d expect in Minnesota so she’s probably “electable”. The stories about her abusing staffers are not great, though. Barely passes the “14-year rule” (became a Senator in 2006)
  • Andrew Yang – He has some momentum and a truly impressive list of policies, and his signature issue is Universal Basic Income which I’ve long had a fascination with. Never run a major campaign before, though, and I’m skeptical the Democrats will want to nominate a businessman with no electoral experience given the current president.

Meh:

  • Senator Bernie Sanders – I kinda like his policies but I don’t like that they seem more aspirational than things that can actually get done. Also, he’s quite old and fails the “14-year rule”. I fear that he is too liberal to get elected.
  • Joe Biden – He’s the living embodiment of why the “14-year rule” is a thing – he’s been around for long enough that he’s done some unpopular things. (the Clinton-era crime bill, handling of Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing) Also very old and apparently has some #MeToo problems. Yes, he’s doing well in the polls now, but it’s easy to do well in the polls when you’re not running yet!
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren – This saddens me, because I think I like her policies the best of everyone. (“capitalism, but fixed” is a good summary) But I think she’s too old.

(I don’t really have an opinion on the rest of the candidates)

How to feel about the midterm results: pretty good!

So the results from last night were a little confusing – it’s hard when there are sooo many races to make sense of it all. Here’s why I’m relatively happy this morning after sleeping on it:

– The biggest thing is that Democrats took the House by a pretty healthy margin. There are still a number of races that need to be counted (grrr California) or recounted, but it’ll be something like D 230-R 205. This means the Democrats can stop any funny business with the Census or repealing Obamacare, and will also have oversight power over the Executive branch (hopefully they won’t overplay their hand; very curious to see how this plays out)

– Beto lost, but only by 3 points in Texas which is very good. The fact that he turned so many people out to the polls almost certainly helped Democrats flip two House districts (including the one where I grew up!), two state Senate seats, and at least 11 state House seats!

– The Democrats didn’t do quite as well at governors races as we had hoped, but we did flip seven states. (including beating Kris Kobach in Kansas(!) and Scott Walker in Wisconsin) I will say that losing in Florida and Ohio is not a great thing if you’re looking for omens in 2020…

– The Senate was, obviously, not great. If you look at the predictions for the outstanding ballots it looks like it will be R 54-D 46. But it was an incredibly tough map for Democrats. And it is encouraging that we easily won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. (thinking about 2020 again!)

– Apparently:

which is very good news when it comes to redistricting in 2020 and whatnot.

– Ballot measures were really positive. Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska all expanded Medicaid coverage (although Montana did not) A whole bunch of anti-corruption measures passed, including redistricting reforms in Michigan and Colorado. Florida will no longer disenfranchise convicted felons that have served their time.

I am disappointed that it wasn’t more of a direct rebuke to Trump, as candidates Trumpiness didn’t seem to affect the results very much. See:

But in general it was a pretty good night. Remember: Democrats won the national popular vote for the House by around 7 points, which is a big accomplishment!

Elections matter: go vote!

I’m seeing some memes along the lines of “everyone’s so crazy about the election but it doesn’t matter that much” or “people should be friends with others who vote differently from them”.

And: if the election or politics in general don’t affect you that much, then that’s great! But you should realize that that’s a position of privilege and not everyone is that lucky.

For example: because Obama was elected president, he was able to nominate two liberal-leaning judges to the Supreme Court. This meant that when United States v. Windsor and later Obergefell v. Hodges came up, they were decided in favor of same-sex marriage, so I was able to legally marry David. This meant that we had a whole range of legal protections and opened the door for us to have kids.

So in an extremely real way, the consequences of that election are the reason that David and I have two wonderful kids.

There are many other examples (i.e. if your only way to get insurance is through the health exchanges and you have a preexisting condition), but this is one that affected us personally. If you’re in a place where most political things don’t affect you personally, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you should realize that not everyone is in that position.

So: VOTE!

on same-sex marriages and wedding cakes

So this week the Supreme Court sort of ruled in favor of the Colorado baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a same-sex wedding case. The case has to be heard again, and was a narrow ruling despite the 7-2 vote, or if you prefer in meme form:

But I wanted to talk about the case in general. I can understand feeling put-upon having to do creative work for something you don’t support. I think I’m kind of OK in this specific case with letting the guy not bake the cake, especially since in this day and age the number of people that would refuse to do so would be hopefully few, even in more conservative areas. (I think?)

The problem is that this is a pretty slippery slope. I’m not a huge fan in general of slippery-slope arguments, but what about:

  • A wedding photographer who doesn’t want to take pictures at a same-sex wedding
  • A cake baker who doesn’t approve of interracial couples and doesn’t want to bake a cake for them
  • A wedding DJ who doesn’t want to play music for an African-American couple
  • A pediatrician who doesn’t believe same-sex couples should have children and doesn’t want to treat them
  • A hotel clerk who doesn’t approve of same-sex couples sharing a room
  • A grocery checkout clerk who believes condoms are immoral and doesn’t want to ring them up

That hotel clerk one is not really a hypothetical – African-Americans had to deal with this sort of thing up until the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade that kind of racial discrimination.

For me personally, I generally feel like people should do their jobs, and providing a service to someone isn’t an endorsement of their life. If we have some sort of exemption for people producing a creative work for an actual wedding ceremony, I would probably be OK with that as long as it was extremely narrowly tailored.

not real thrilled about Oprah 2020

I think this sums it up best:

Look, Oprah seems great. (and to be clear, she’s not officially running for President as of right now) But if we’re going to turn elections into popularity contests we’re halfway to Idiocracy.

Yeah, one of the President’s many jobs is to drive issues and to communicate with the American people, and Oprah would be great at that! But there are so many other parts to it. One argument is “well, she could just pick good, qualified Cabinet secretaries and let them do their thing”, but that’s ceding a lot of power to people who aren’t elected.

linked list saturday: how to stop the trickle-down tax cut, parental leave, Facebook being creepy

– Sadly, the Republican trickle-down tax cut passed the Senate last night. The House and Senate versions are different, but this is a huge step towards a bill passing.

So what can you do? You should call your Congressperson and Senators every day and ask them to oppose the bill. If you can, donate to Swing Left to support Democrats running against Republicans in swing districts in 2018.

Which countries are most generous to new parents? – a surprisingly wide range here, and of course the US is at the bottom 😦

How out of date are Android devices? – the answer is: pretty out of date. (neat visualization though!)

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met – do NOT share your contacts with Facebook or any other app! This is creepy stuff.

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race – speaking of Facebook being creepy…

How to Get Rich Playing Video Games Online – interesting look at what it’s like to make a living on Twitch.

America Is Now an Outlier on Driving Deaths – our fatality rate has gone down since 1990, but not nearly as much as the rate in comparable countries.

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer – the answer appears to be: the number of guns we have. (The US makes up about 4.4% of the world’s population, but we have 42% of the world’s guns!)