Debate #3 Thoughts

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I had a 24-hour delay in watching the debate due to Bible study during it and being at the hospital since then, but I read many bloggers' thoughts on it immediately afterward before going to bed for a few seconds. I didn't see very much media reportage of it. I don't really want to repeat a lot of what others have said, but I'm sure I will since this is so late. I did want to mention a few things, though. If you're looking for overall general thoughts, find someone who can do that well. I don't do that because I'm awful at it. If you want some specific comment on a few specific issues, you're in the right place.

A British company had some contaminated flu vaccine. How does that underscore any problem with U.S. health care? If he did see a real connection, he should have made it explicit. It was a stupid question to begin with, but Bush gave a good answer, and Kerry really had nothing to say about it. What he should have done is what Dick Cheney did in the VP debate when the issue of gay marriage came up. He didn't disagree with anything Edwards said, so he didn't comment. Instead, Kerry uses such an obviously bad transition to something completely irrelevant.

"Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?" Bush handled this question extremely well. He gave the right answer for many reasons, but to explain why would repeat many things I've said before and take too long. I will say that there's one better answer, that it certainly feels like a choice to many people who identify themselves as gay but that there's evidence that social factors play as much of a role as biology, and that it really doesn't matter anyway. Kerry's answer appears philosophically incompetent in comparison. He's unware of the objection the gay community has against seeing homosexuality as inborn, which is that it then appears as an excuse for a bad thing, which they don't want to say. He's unaware of the rich philosophical discussions on moral luck and on how things we're not responsible for can have an affect on things we are responsible for. He's unable to see that being born with a tendency isn't an excuse for bad conduct according to that tendency, if indeed it is bad conduct. It's much better to say you don't know than to reveal that you understand so little of those things, even if the best response would be to say those things.

Kerry quotes James's statement about faith without deeds being dead in an answer to a question on abortion. His insinuation is that Bush has faith but no deeds, but it seems obvious to me that Kerry has just undermined what he had previously said. His initial answer was that he won't be willing to have laws backing up what he privately views as moral. That's just the thing he quotes James as forbiddding. That's faith without deeds.

Factcheck.org has a really lame condemnation of Bush's claim that most of the tax cuts went to the middle class. They side with Kerry on this one, but they're the ones who don't realize the facts here. The facts are that the two candidates are counting differently. One is counting the number of people whose taxes were cut. The other is counting to total amount of tax dollars that got cut for each group. It's therefore just as stupid to say that Bush misspoke or got it wrong as it is to say Kerry did.

Kerry won't appoint a justice who will undo a constitutional right -- to abortion. Wasn't Roe v. Wade about whether abortion is a constitutional right? Then it begs the question against those who don't think it is a constitutional right to say that undoing Roe v. Wade is undoing a constitutional right.

Kerry uses discrimination as the justification for minority setasides (and then says also with women). That's one of the standard arguments for affirmative action. See my analysis of it here. What strikes me as odd here is Kerry's support for setasides but not for quotas. Isn't a setaside by definition a quota? If you're setting aside a certain number of positions for people from underrepresented groups, then you've got a quota you're trying to reach for that group. How is that not a quota? Not every kind of affirmative action is a quota, despite what some conservatives say, but this kind is.

Kerry speaks of two completely separate school systems, one for the haves and one for the have nots. Kerry had to sneak in the John Edwards view of sharp lines where there are none. I find it interesting that Kerry is the one de-emphasizing all that's been done to help working class and middle class students to attend better schools. I attended a very good private high school for free. I paid nothing for an Ivy League education my first year due to being in the group Kerry and Edwards say has the separate and unequal lower form of education. As my parents started making more money I got less financial aid, so that when I was a senior they had to pay the full amount. In my experience, it's the upper middle class who have a harder time paying for college. The genuinely poor often have really good financial aid, depending on the circumstances, the selectivity of the school, the endowment of the school, the student's family background, and how much the school wants the student.

Then, finally, have a look at this parody of the third debate. Let the hilarity ensue!

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