Friday, October 12, 2012

Lightweight Veep Debate Roundup

Ryan: centered, factual, wonkish. Kept his cool. Looked like the smartest kid in the class. Slight downside: looked like the smartest kid in the class.

Biden: disrespectful, crazy, rude. Drunk uncle at Thanksgiving who can't quite keep his millions and billions straight.

Biden's pre-debate email was very Biden-esque. It began: "I told Barack I have one mission tonight: tell the truth and stand up for what we believe in." Perfect.

The polls will probably not reflect much movement from this, but I can't see that it helped the Democrats much. Think any swing voters watched that debate and thought: "Gee, that Biden guy is the one I want one heartbeat away from the nuclear launch codes." I don't.

Intrade has Obama/Biden down 3.5% today thus far. But still well over 50%.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Law: No Place For Genetics

Just read an interesting article on "defense of marriage" laws, originally written four years but recently updated. Here's the gist:

The biggest problem is that laws like the California initiative will make the courts decide who is male and who is female — and all available decision criteria create unavoidable miscarriages of justice that will, or should, dismay initiative proponents.
That is, it's impossible, says Rick Moen, the author of the article, to give a biological definition of "man" or "woman", and therefore, impossible to define marriage as between a man and a woman. It's a cute idea, and I get why it would come from a site called LinuxMafia because it no doubt appeals to engineers who like precise definitions, but doesn't really work for a variety of reasons.

First of all, legal definitions are not the same as biological ones. I don't see why it's necessarily the case that, as Moen asserts, someone who has been a woman all her life, but is at some point tested and found to have XY chromosomes, must immediately have her marriage annulled and be permitted to marry a woman. The law is not, in fact, biology, and it has some give in it. It seems eminently reasonable that in a case like this, this person would (or could) still be legally considered a man. That may sound absurd, but it certainly doesn't to transsexuals, who may have some external anatomy changed but retain the same chromosomes.

Second, and even more problematic for Moen's argument, if this sort of test were that problematic, we'd already be drowning in "kudzu" (the article's basic metaphor is that marriage laws have unintended side effects like the introduction of kudzu to the American South has had). There are already all sorts of laws, regulations, rulings, etc. that differentiate between sexes and races. Questionable sexual identity is pretty rare. Questionable racial identity is extremely common, because it's almost impossible to test. And yet we have federal regulations mandating, e.g., that a certain percentage of contracts be awarded to businesses run by minorities. How can this possibly work, given that there is no feasible test that could be given that would verify the minority status of a given person?

So while marriage laws may and do have other pros and cons, we don't really need to worry ourselves about Moen's points. There's no kudzu about to overwhelm our legal system.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate Thoughts

A good night for Romney, as everyone seems to agree. The post-debate CNN poll was 67%-25% pro-Romney, a margin of victory rarely seen. Surely that 25% is only the hardest of hard-core Obama supporters, which means the independents must have sided with Romney in truly overwhelming numbers.

Still, a few tricks were left on the table. I wish Romney had held Obama's feet to the fire more on his record. For example, all those times Obama talked about how Romney would horribly cut the budget and throw grandma out on the street, all Romney had to say was: "For the sake of argument let's say we went back to the spending levels of 2000. Did Clinton throw grandma out on the street? No. But we had a balanced budget and spending was far below its current level. Obama's spending far more, and are you any better for it?" But he continually argued that he wouldn't cut X, wouldn't cut Y. It's OK, Mitt! Cut some stuff!

Also, Romney threw out some talking points without really explaining them. That's something that McCain did four years ago, and it's infuriating. In response to Obama's absurd claim that domestic oil and gas production is up due to his administration, Romney scored a telling blow by explaining that production is up on private lands, but not public lands, but then he just said Romney would (in contrast) "build that pipeline". I know he's talking about the Keystone Pipeline, of course, but it would have made sense to spend 20 seconds explaining this, because many people out there don't know about it.

I'll take it, though. Good performance out there. Next up is the VP debate on October 11, and that should be a joy to watch, kind of like watching your favorite NFL team face your worst football rivals... from high school.