A scandal per week: Trump headlines from the past year

Brought to you by Google’s time-range search function. Note that many links include autoplay videos.

January 1-7: Trump: Clinton, Obama ‘created ISIS’

January 8-14: Donald Trump: NFL ‘football has become soft like our country has become soft’

January 15-21: Donald Trump Quotes Scripture, Sort of, at Liberty University Speech

January 22-28: Trump: I could ‘shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters’

January 29-February 4: Trump: I Would ‘Strongly Consider’ Appointing Judges To Overturn Same-Sex Marriage

February 5-11: Trump puts a price on his wall: It would cost Mexico $8 billion

February 12-18: Donald Trump on 9/11: “You Will Find Out Who Really Knocked Down The World Trade Center”

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On judging people of the past

A bold statement: People of the past should almost always be judged by today’s standards. This results in thinking of a lot of historical figures as horrible people. So yeah, I’ll say it: most historical figures were horrible people. Some of them were horrible because their surrounding culture was horrible, and others were just plain horrible.

My basic reasoning: Moral judgment isn’t for people of the past. The people of the past are dead, and their actions are already foregone conclusions. Moral judgement is for people of the present. I do not wish for people of the present to valorize or emulate people of the past just because they were great by the standards of their own time. I strive for the perpetual improvement of humankind, not the stagnation of virtue. [Read more…]


I don’t really want to talk about the election, but I don’t feel I could talk about anything else.

In my “optimistic” scenario, Donald Trump will merely be incredibly corrupt. And Republicans will also get their way on a bunch of things, like killing the ACA, eroding reproductive rights, blocking immigration, and getting their choice of supreme court justices.  And the market will do badly in the year I’m supposed to graduate.  But at least Donald Trump won’t destroy the Pax Americana, declare himself president for life, start a nuclear war, or recreate the Japanese internment camps.

I have talked to some people who are even more optimistic, believing that Trump will result in backlash and make way for a truly progressive party.  I don’t think that’s how it works.  Politics are more of a random walk than an oscillator.

More likely that this will lead to years of internal conflict among liberals, with some wanting a “truly progressive” candidate and others wanting anyone who will make the hurt stop.  It’s kind of like how people thought 9/11 would unite the country but it ended up doing precisely the opposite.

In more positive news, look at the California election results.  Not everything is going the way I voted, but the most important ones did.  Prop 53 (voter approval required for certain budgeting) is failing.  Prop 57 (makes parole easier to get) is passing.  Prop 60 (condoms required in porn) is failing.  Marijuana will be legalized.  However, it looks like the death penalty will remain.

I feel done with blogging about politics and current events.  For a little while, I’d like to write about things that are completely unrelated.

California election positions

In California elections, we always have such large ballots.  I took a few hours this weekend to look into all this stuff, and here are my choices.

President: Hillary Clinton

Yeah… not really a swing voter.

US Senator: Kamala Harris

Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris are nearly equivalent (other candidates were eliminated in the primaries), so it’s mainly a matter of looking at their priorities and seeing which grabs me more.  Harris seems to prioritize criminal justice reform more.

US Representative, 13th congressional district: Barbara Lee

For US Congress, party is the most important factor, so I’d go with the Democrat.

State Senator, 9th district: Nancy Skinner

Sandre Swanson emphasizes on healthcare and education, while Nancy Skinner emphasizes gun control and criminal justice reform.  Those both sound great.  Kind of a tossup for me. [Read more…]

Gerrymandering in the US

An intermission from the presidential horse race

For all the problems with US presidential elections, US congressional elections are arguably worse. The US president is at least usually in line with the popular vote; the US congress never is.

The two chambers of congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, suffer from opposite problems. The House of Representatives has one member elected by each district, but the district lines are redrawn every ten years by politicians. Thus politicians can control their own reelection by the process called gerrymandering.

The Senate, on the other hand, never redraws its district lines. Instead, each state elects two senators. The state lines are the result of gerrymandering from a long time ago, but at least aren’t under the power of current politicians. Unfortunately, that means that the Senate is never proportional to the population sizes of the states, and heavily favors rural regions.

Although the Senate is blatantly unrepresentative of the US, the House arguably has it worse. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you can tell by how Republican the House is. Although Hillary is winning the popular vote and Democrats are likely to win Senate majority, the House will comfortably remain under Republican control.
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Bonus: Hillarycare

Following my discussion of basic considerations in health insurance, let’s take a look at some political ads from the 90s.

These are the famous “Harry and Louise” ads, which were used to attack the Health Security Act of 1993 (dubbed Hillarycare by critics). Note that the features they attack in Hillarycare are basically the same as features in Obamacare.

The first ad criticizes Hillarycare for limiting people’s choices in selecting health insurance plans. But is it really about limiting people’s choices, or is it limiting health insurance companies’ choices? Insurance companies were free to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, and people would just have to accept one of the limited range of offers. Furthermore, some people were offered no insurance whatsoever.
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What does the ACA solve?

This is an open discussion about health insurance. I don’t pretend to be an expert, so please add your thoughts and/or tell me how wrong I am. This is the final of three parts.

Part 1: Why health insurance?
Part 2: Challenges to health insurance
Part 3: What does the ACA solve?

The Affordable Care Act (aka ACA or Obamacare) is Obama’s signature legislation, and a step forward for health care in the US. However, it’s very complicated, and few people understand the whole thing–I certainly don’t. Nonetheless, below I present a few ways in which the ACA addresses, or fails to address, challenges in health insurance.
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