Saturday, August 30, 2008

Andrew Sullivan's Palin bias?

I tend to agree with Ross Douthat that Andrew Sullivan is being unfair to the Alaskan governor, but I don't think he's being inconsistent. Palin is clearly unqualified for office. It's not outrageous or sexist to suggest that she was selected for reasons other than her management experience. And if Palin was an "affirmative action" pick, as seems likely, her being on the ticket isn't the victory for feminism that Ross seems to think it is. Sullivan puts it best:

[H]ow many Republican vice-presidential picks have lauded Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro in their acceptance speech? It wasn't even subtle. I find this kind of attitude to be about condescension, not feminism; about tokenism, not post-gender meritocracy.

Still, Sullivan definitely goes overboard. It's one thing to criticize McCain for such a blatant appeal to identity politics; it's quite another to imply that Palin is a vapid airhead. Whatever Palin's shortcomings, stupidity is certainly not among them. She wouldn't have been chosen if McCain didn't believe she could stand up against Joe Biden in a debate.

I have a good feeling she'll surprise everyone . . .

Monday, August 25, 2008

What is sound tax policy?

A must-read response to Ezra Klein's post on tax policy. If you're in favor of raising marginal rates, at least consider Megan McArdle's counterarguments.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Meat Sandwich?

I've always been turned off by the hysterics that seem to dominate the debate over animal liberation, but perhaps that's because I can't fully grasp the moral complexity of the issue.

To me, it's pretty simple. I don't value animals in anything like the same way that I value humans, and I don't think that animal life carries any significant moral weight. Thus, I'm against giving animals considerable legal protections. And while I can understand the impulse to try to limit animal suffering--by enacting basic animal cruelty statutes, for example--I don't get the attempts to preserve animal life.

Having said that, I realize that values are subjective, and that animal rights advocates will actively try to prevent me from eating meat. This is fine, as long as it's done within the confines of the law--by lobbying for greater restrictions on meat products, promoting discussion, and staging public relations campaigns with scantily clad pornstars. Obviously, I will oppose and mock all of these efforts, while I slowly develop heart disease and die from eating too much red meat.

In general, animal rights organizations focus their arguments around animal suffering rather than sanctity of life issues, but the slaughter of animals is what seems to cause the most controversy. This, I think, is why we'll never be able to reach any sort of compromise on this issue. Clearly, animal liberation groups would still oppose killing animals if it could be done without causing suffering. If we slaughtered chickens with pentobarbital or if we could magically remove a cow's nociceptors, it wouldn't make any difference to animal rights campaigners. It would still be "wrong."

So, what's the real issue here? As much as animal rights advocates would love to find some objective standards to cling to, it seems to me that this is always going to be a question of personal morality. If logic played a factor here, it may be worth debating. But how can we adjudicate between competing value systems?

As an old professor of mine once said--when you start framing an issue in moral terms, you might as well take it off the table.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Obama v. McCain

This is a pretty interesting election for me. I have two candidates who I really respect.

I appreciate that both Obama and McCain tend toward the center, even if they've both advanced policies with which I strongly disagree. I know that Obama and McCain are both men of integrity, even though they've done things that are out of character. And I trust that both Obama and McCain have the best interest of the country in mind, even if they've been willing to make some ridiculous statements--or run some unfortunate ad campaigns--along the way.

Having said that, I know that I'm too fiscally conservative to ever fully support Obama's economic agenda. While it's true that I have decidedly mixed feelings about universal health care, on almost every other economic issue, I think Obama is too far left.

But I am also very socially liberal. I care about issues like gay equality and warrantless wiretapping. And though I'm almost certain the Democrats will win large majorities this November, I'm still deeply concerned about Supreme Court nominations.

So, for me, this election really comes down to two questions:

1) Which candidate is most competent to run the country?
2) Which set of issues am I, at this stage in my life, most concerned with?

When I look at the election this way, Obama is the clear choice.