Presidential hopeful Castro isn’t ruling out reparations
By PAUL J. WEBER
Monday, March 11
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro isn’t ruling out direct payments to African-Americans for the legacy of slavery — a stand separating him from his 2020 rivals.
“If under the Constitution we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property,” the former Obama-era housing secretary and ex-San Antonio mayor said on Sunday.
Castro was among the last of a pack of 2020 candidates to speak at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas, in what amounted to one of the biggest gatherings of the Democratic field yet.
As Democrats have addressed reparations in the early stages of the race, other candidates are discussing tax credits and other subsidies, rather than direct payments for the labor and legal oppression of slaves and their descendants. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would put resources such as “Medicare for All” and tuition-free college into distressed communities.
Castro tells CNN’s “State of the Union” he doesn’t think that’s the proper argument for reparations if “a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.” Castro stopped short of saying he would push for direct compensation to descendants as president, saying instead that he would appoint a commissioner or task force that would make recommendations.
Sanders was in New Hampshire, while Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was in Dallas, Kamala Harris of California was in Miami and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was in Tampa.
Other highlights from Sunday’s campaigning:
The Vermont senator emphasized his rise from longshot candidate to major Democratic presidential contender in his first trip to New Hampshire since launching another run for president.
Sanders said his ideas that seemed “radical and extreme” four years ago are now helping define Democrats campaigns across the country.
“Those ideas that we talked about when I came here to New Hampshire four years ago, ideas that seemed so very radical at that time,” Sanders said. “Well, today, virtually all of those ideas are supported by a majority of the American people and they are being supported by Democratic candidates from school board to president of the United States.”
Sanders topped Hillary Clinton by 22 points in the state’s 2016 primary. But he now faces a wider field of rivals who have adopted some of the same views on policy issues he pioneered during his last run for the White House.
“This is where the political revolution took off,” Sanders said. “Thank you, New Hampshire.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee laid down a challenge for his 2020 rivals — join him in calling to abolish the Senate filibuster.
Inslee is a newcomer to the Democratic field and is running a campaign that’s almost singularly focused on climate change. But he was similarly adamant about doing away with the Senate filibuster while speaking to a small audience early Sunday morning at SXSW.
He said the six Democratic senators currently running for the White House shouldn’t think twice.
“Maybe they get religion on this and realize that the filibuster is going to stop us from doing anything from health care to climate change,” Inslee said. “As long as Mitch McConnell has the keys to the car, we’re not going to drive it anywhere.”
He was followed on stage by Castro, who also signaled an openness to the Senate doing away with the filibuster, which is a procedural tool that requires a supermajority of at least 60 votes to pass many big items, instead of a simple majority.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he’s not cut out for the Senate — and that he doesn’t see himself switching races if his presidential run fizzles out.
“I don’t see it in my future,” Hickenlooper said.
Democrats have sights on Sen. Cory Gardner’s seat. The Colorado Republican is up for re-election in 2020. Hickenlooper said he’s spoken with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer but says he considers running for president a calling.
Hickenlooper also said decriminalizing prostitution is worth exploring. He brought up the recent Florida crackdown on massage parlor prostitution and investigation into human trafficking, which resulted in New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft being charged with two misdemeanor counts of prostitution. Kraft has pleaded not guilty.
“There are a lot of arguments, and I think they’re worth taking into serious consideration, that legalizing prostitution and regulating where there are norms and protections” to prevent abuse should be looked at, Hickenlooper said.
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said Sunday night that he and Vice President Mike Pence have different views of their Christian faith and that he doesn’t understand Pence’s loyalty to President Donald Trump.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said his feeling “is that the Scripture is about protecting the stranger, the prisoner, the poor person, and that idea of welcome. That’s what I get in the Gospel when I’m in church.” He said Pence’s view “has a lot more to do with sexuality, a certain view of rectitude.”
Buttigieg said he is puzzled by Pence’s strong support for the president.
He asked how Pence “could allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency?” and adds, “Is it that he stopped believing in Scripture, when he started believing in Donald Trump?”
Buttigieg made the comments at a CNN town hall in Austin, Texas.
Associated Press writer Hunter Woodall in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber
Opinion: Will McConnell Buck the American People?
By Robert Weissman
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has built a career on weakening our democracy. Nothing seems to bring out the passion in the famously stoic McConnell more than opposing pro-democracy reforms.
Well, now he has the challenge of a lifetime. The House of Representatives has just passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, the most sweeping pro-democracy and anti-corruption measure of the last 50 years. McConnell has denounced H.R. 1 and pledged that he will block it from coming to the floor of the Senate.
But if McConnell is so eager to hold a vote on the Green New Deal, a legislative proposal that he strongly opposes, why is he so committed to blocking Senate consideration of H.R. 1? Could it be that he thinks Republicans will have a hard time voting against pro-democracy reforms? Is he worried that voters may hold accountable defenders of the current corrupt political system?
Those would be reasonable fears. But McConnell should be worried also about the impact of preventing a vote on H.R. 1. Voters are desperate for far-reaching campaign finance and ethics reforms — divided only on whether the system should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt. Voters are not likely to treat his obstructionism kindly.
They are likely to be especially outraged because H.R. 1 so effectively addresses what so many people are so outraged about and the shameful anti-democratic practices that so tarnish our nation.
Among other measures, H.R. 1 would:
—Replace the current campaign finance system that empowers the super rich and big corporations with one that relies on small donors and public matching funds.
—End secret spending in elections.
—Eliminate partisan gerrymandering.
—Establish automatic voter registration.
—Restore voting rights to felons who have served their time.
—Make Election Day a national holiday.
McConnell calls these democracy expanding measures a “power grab.”
Of course, he’s right to be worried, for it is a reallocation of power away from a narrow grouping of super rich oligarchs and to the people.
That redistribution of power is called “democracy.”
McConnell is not alone in attacking H.R. 1. The Koch Brothers’ main organization, Americans for Prosperity, says that “the free speech regulations in H.R.1 would make it more difficult than ever for people to make their voices heard and hold their elected leaders accountable.”
They also are right to be worried. Those supposed “free speech regulations” are disclosure requirements that would end political Dark Money — a move that would absolutely reduce the undue political influence of super rich and corporate donors who are able to hide their efforts to buy elections.
Big Business in general is upset. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the trade association for large corporations, leads a large grouping of trade associations in denouncing H.R. 1 for “pushing certain voices, representing large segments of the electorate and our economy, out of the political process altogether.”
Actually, H.R. 1 is amplifying the voices of the electorate. Although the point seems to evade the trade associations, Big Business is not part of “the electorate.” That said, H.R. 1 doesn’t limit corporations’ ability to spend on elections — that will require a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United — though it does end their ability to finance electioneering secretly.
McConnell and the power elite are right to be frightened. H.R. 1 would upset the normal way of doing business in Washington. It would break Corporate America’s stranglehold over our government and curtail the shameful vote-suppressing activity increasing across the nation.
But they are clinging to a backward-looking strategy that is doomed to fail. In a nation marked by the most severe wealth and income inequality of the last 100 years, amid intense outrage across the political spectrum against a rigged system that works for corporations and the super rich at the expense of the rest of us, the American people will not tolerate McConnell’s obstructionism. Democracy reform is coming to the United States, whether McConnell and his corporate allies like it or not.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: O, Canada — the ‘Crisis’ of American Health Care Costs
By Robert Graboyes
America spends more than any other country on health care — in the aggregate, per capita, or as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. This, fretters fret, constitutes a crisis; they ask why we can’t be more like Canada, or France, Sweden, or the United Kingdom.
Numbers suggests why we can’t be. And shouldn’t be.
For an American, Canada’s health care system has shortcomings (longer wait-times, for example). America’s health statistics fall a bit short of Canada’s in some respects (shorter lifespan, higher infant mortality), but those differences largely reflect factors outside of health care — personal behavior, physical environment, genetics and so forth. All in all, Canadian and American health care are quite similar, with both countries enjoying some of the best care on the planet.
America, like Canada, could provide much better care for what we spend. But do our high costs constitute a crisis?
According to the Fraser Institute, 2013 per capita health care expenditures were $9,086 in the United States and $4,569 in Canada — 17 percent of GDP in America versus 11 percent in Canada.
But Fraser’s point was why these numbers don’t constitute a crisis for America. America’s 2013 per capita GDP was $53,135; Canada’s was $42,701. In income terms, Canadians are 20 percent poorer than Americans.
That average American who spends $9,086 on health care still has $44,049 left over for food, shelter, clothing, roads, military, entertainment, etc. The Canadian spending $4,569 on health care only has $38,132 remaining for other things.
But why can’t we get our health care spending down to Canada’s level and have an extra $4,517 to spend on other things?
Consider some real-world numbers for a treatment we’ll call Procedure A. On average, Procedure A cost $5,510 in America in 2018 and only $5,070 in Canada (and even better, only $4,740 in the Euro Area). Should America hire Canadians or Europeans to teach us how to do Procedure A more efficiently?
Let’s examine cost variations within the United States for a different treatment for the same condition. In 2013, Procedure B cost $4,490 in Boston and only $2,590 — 42 percent less — in Nashville. Perhaps Bostonians should travel to Nashville to learn the secrets of Nashville’s efficiency?
Maybe not. Procedures A and B are both treatments for the same condition — hunger. Procedure A is the purchase of 1,000 Big Mac hamburgers from McDonald’s. Procedure B is the purchase of 1,000 McDonald’s Quarter Pounders.
Few companies on earth have tighter quality control or more regimented procedures than McDonald’s. Canadians make a Big Mac exactly as Americans do. A Quarter Pounder requires the same routines on the same ingredients to produce a Quarter Pounder. Canadians have little useful advice to offer the Americans, and Bostonians need not visit Nashville unless they’re hungry for country music or hot chicken. Burgers cost different amounts in different places because cost conditions differ. Unless McDonald’s is willing to offer inferior food and service in America, American burgers will continue costing more than Canadian burgers. The same for Boston and Nashville.
Similarly, health care costs more in America than in Canada because cost conditions differ. Consider physician salaries. 2008 data showed primary care physicians (family doctors, internists, obstetrician/gynecologists, and so forth) earning $186,582 in America — 50 percent more than Canada’s $125,000 average. Numerous factors underlie this difference, but an important one is the difference in opportunities in the two countries. Canadian doctors accept $125,000 per year because alternative opportunities for highly intelligent, highly motivated individuals are more limited in Canada than in America. Offer physicians $125,000 in the United States, and would-be medical students may choose careers in law, finance or information technology instead.
The differences become even more acute for specialty physicians. The same study showed orthopedic surgeons earning $442,450 in America — 113 percent more than their Canadian colleagues, who earned only $208,000.
There are many things wrong with America’s health care sector and many ways Americans could get more care and better health for the dollars they spend. But asking “Why can’t we be more like Canada?” leads nowhere useful and distracts us from practical, productive innovations such as telemedicine or enabling nurses, intelligent machines, and patients to do what currently requires high-priced physician labor.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Robert Graboyes is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he focuses on technological innovation in health care. He is the author of “Fortress and Frontier in American Health Care” and has taught health economics at five universities. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
What will happen to Michael Jackson’s legacy? A famed writer’s fall could offer clues
March 14, 2019
Author: Rachel Hope Cleves, Professor of History, University of Victoria
Disclosure statement: Rachel Hope Cleves receives funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
There’s no question that Michael Jackson changed music history. But how will history remember Michael Jackson?
Since HBO released the new documentary film “Leaving Neverland,” which detailed allegations by two adults who say that they were molested by Jackson as children, the musician’s legacy – already complicated – is up in the air.
Jackson is not the first notable artist to be accused of sexually abusing children. Some, like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, are still living and producing art that provokes discussion.
But there are other alleged child abusers who have died and whose works, once considered great, have faded into obscurity, in no small part because it is almost impossible to memorialize them without creating the impression of condoning their behavior.
The writer Norman Douglas is a prime example. The subject of a biography I’m working on, Douglas had a reputation for molesting children. After his death, he became an off-limits topic for biographers, and while he had his defenders, he ultimately couldn’t escape historical erasure.
Rumors do little to dim a budding star
During the first half of the 20th century, Norman Douglas was a literary star. Friends with Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley, he was best known for his bestselling 1917 novel “South Wind.”
Virginia Woolf sang its praises in the Times Literary Supplement. Graham Greene recalled how his generation “was brought up on South Wind.” When the hero of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” arrives at Oxford after World War I, he brings with him only two novels, “South Wind” and Compton Mackenzie’s “Sinister Street.”
But today Douglas is entirely forgotten.
The reasons why artists’ works go forgotten vary. In Douglas’ case, it’s fair to say that his erudite writing style went out of fashion.
But there’s more to the story. During his lifetime, Douglas was notorious for his relationships with children. In 1912, he lived with a 14-year-old boy in London while he was working at The English Review. Four years later, he was arrested in London for acts of gross indecency with a 16-year-old. After his release on bail, Douglas fled to Italy, where laws regulating sex between men and boys were more lax. He settled in Florence, where his celebrity only grew.
Visitors to the city, like Huxley and Lawrence, would seek him out in the city’s cafés. The radical journalist and heiress Nancy Cunard, who met Douglas in Florence in 1923 and became a close friend, recalled the “aureole of legend” that surrounded him.
Douglas was always attended to by Italian boys who worked for him as messengers or cooks, and endless rumors circulated about Douglas’ relationships with these boys. A diary entry written by a friend of Douglas’ described how Douglas performed fellatio on a boy named Marcello. Brothers Sacheverell and Osbert Sitwell warned Cunard that Douglas was dangerous. D.H. Lawrence’s widow, Frieda, told her friend Dudley Nichols that Douglas was “the only wicked man I have known, in a medieval sense.”
Britain’s strict libel laws, the norms of politeness and the power of Douglas’ celebrity seemed to prevent people from writing publicly about his sexual relationships with boys while he was alive.
But you can’t libel the dead.
When Douglas died in 1952, debate about his memory erupted in the press. The first signs of the battle to come appeared in the obituaries. British diplomat Harold Nicolson noted Douglas’ shocking “indulgences” in a death notice for The Spectator.
Nicolson’s article prompted 50 or 60 letters of protest from Douglas’ friends, but there was no holding back the tide. In 1954, Douglas’ former friend Richard Aldington published a book of vicious recollections about the writer titled “Pinorman,” a portmanteau of Norman and his friend Pino Orioli. Aldington didn’t mince words. He called Douglas a pederast whose path in life was “strewn with broken boys and empty bottles.”
Douglas’ friends were outraged. Cunard wrote to Aldington’s publisher accusing him of libel and threatening to wage a “collective protest.” She rallied Douglas’ friends to lambaste the book in reviews. Her own review for the periodical Time and Tide was titled “Bonbons of Gall.” Graham Greene wrote to a friend that he intended to “kill” Aldington’s book, and he penned a review for The London Magazine that was so incendiary it could not be published for fear of libel charges from Aldington, who was very much alive.
Greene maliciously sent Aldington the review and asked for permission to publish it. Naturally, Aldington refused and reached out to friends for help putting together a pamphlet attacking Douglas’ defenders. Frieda Lawrence contributed a story about how Douglas once casually offered her a boy of 14, saying that he preferred them younger. But the pamphlet was so intemperate that a lawyer said it would run afoul of the libel laws and could not be published.
The danger of choosing to forget?
Aldington was forced to retreat. With “Pinorman” disparaged by its reviewers, Aldington was discredited. It seemed that Douglas’ friends had won the battle.
But Aldington won the war. The truth was out there, and Douglas’ reputation was permanently injured.
In the decades that followed many would-be biographers tried their hand at writing Douglas’ story; time and again they failed. Douglas simply could not be remembered as a great writer in the face of the allegations against him. Only one comprehensive biography, titled “Norman Douglas,” has ever been published about him. It came out in 1976, during a rare moment of sexual openness; even so, the publisher almost nixed the manuscript after 10 years of work by its author, Mark Holloway.
Today Douglas is a forgotten writer. When the truth about his sexual relations with children was fully exposed after his death he became an impossible figure to memorialize.
Over time, it’s likely that Michael Jackson’s memory will be similarly eroded. The television show “The Simpsons” has already pulled its 1991 episode featuring Jackson. His name will likely be taken down from public monuments. People will be hesitant to produce new versions of his music. His influence will live on, but it will be difficult to commemorate his work.
Perhaps that is for the best. But maybe it isn’t.
Reluctance to preserve the memory of the extensive history of sex between adults and children leaves society ill-equipped to recognize and handle child sexual abuse today. A culture that is caught up in narratives that identify pedophiles as monsters has a hard time recognizing when beloved figures, like Michael Jackson, are molesting children right before its eyes.
There is need for history to remember abusers and to remember them in all their complexity. If Jackson’s memory is preserved, maybe it will be easier to see the present more clearly.