Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hair

This is a pretty good debate roundup.

For my part, I really hated the Edwards hair video the first time I saw it, because the detail wasn't good enough for me to make out what the images were. But now that I've got a better view of it, I'm really digging it:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bad people making bad arguments

Who voted against anti-dogfighting legislation this spring, and why? NPR reports:

Most of the bill's opponents say they aren't fans of dogfighting but are conservative, pro-life Republicans. Iowa Rep. Steve King from Iowa says it's wrong for the federal government to criminalize pit bull trafficking while allowing legal abortion.

"My vote says that human life needs to be elevated and stay above animal life. And I think it devalues all human life, when you set the life of an animal up above that of a human," King says.

It's one thing to say that human lives are more valuable than animal lives. It's another thing to think an early-term fetus is morally like an adult human. And it's a totally different and completely insane thing to think that you can alleviate the badness of injuries to humans by permitting wanton cruelty to animals.

For our second bad argument, we turn to Tom DeLay (thanks, Bean):

"I contend [abortion] affects you in immigration," DeLay told the Washington-area gathering. "If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it."

DeLay criticizes abortion because it decreases the labor supply, creating economic opportunity for foreigners. To those of us who have any acquaintance with poverty in developing countries, and who aren't deeply racist, this seems like a wonderful thing. But if you're Tom DeLay or his College Republican audience, that's a bug, not a feature. You'd like to ban abortion so that you can create an America where labor oversupply forces native-born workers into bad jobs for terrible pay, and where Mexicans are starving to death across the border.

Battle of the former Perspective staffers

This Saturday's Ezra-blog output:

The Senate calendar tells us why Hillary's strategy of putting off universal health care until a hypothetical second term is a very bad idea.

I show that the facts from Garance Franke-Ruta's latest article don't support her Edwards-bashing conclusions. Garance kind of responds in comments, but doesn't address many of the actual issues.

I'll put up the post from Sunday here, since it has mild philosophical content.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tired of myself, tired of this town

I'm leaving the DC area tomorrow evening, and I'll arrive in North Carolina Friday afternoon. Chapel Hill, here I come!

A hill of beans, and a beautiful friendship

One of the many things I like about Casablanca is that even though the love story has an unhappy ending, the movie has a happy one. Rick finds new purpose in his life, leaves Ilsa with Victor, and goes off with Louis to fight the Nazis. He doesn't get the girl, but he ends up doing the best thing he could with his life, and he knows it.

It's the kind of ending that a utilitarian can love. Despite the fact that people are built to obsess over minor matters in their personal lives, these aren't the things that matter from an agent-neutral perspective. And if you can attend more directly to the agent-neutral considerations, you'll pay less attention to problems afflicting only yourself, and become more effective in making the world a better place.

I think of this now because it's becoming apparent that I have less control over my romantic life than I have over the fates of other people I don't know, several thousand miles away. Even my meager assets can save lives in developing countries, while I can't brighten the days of a lonely girl two blocks away. It's time for me to internalize that, and live accordingly.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Line of Worst Fit

In trying to argue that very high tax rates lead to lower total government revenues, the Wall Street Journal used the following graph. They think the Laffer Curve is the line of best fit, or something close.

As the mildest attention to the graph reveals, however, it's just a random line that goes through an outlier and doesn't bear any interesting relation to the collection of points on the graph.

We've all encountered many cases of people wantonly imposing bad theories on recalcitrant data. But I've never seen such a graphic example before.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

McCain's cash problems are bad... but not that bad

Josh Marshall clearly had a lot of fun writing this.

In the end, the state representative was merely attempting to pay for gay prostitution rather than actually being a prostitute. The confusion results from media's attempt to be delicate about the situation, in which he was paying to be the kneeling partner rather than the unzipping one. (As I'm discovering, it's hard to be both accurate and non-vivid about these matters.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Voting From The Unicycle

Haven't been posting much recently because I'm visiting a lot of friends in DC. But here's the latest from Ezra's blog, on evaluating voting records of Senators from different states.