Politics: February 2007 Archives


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Is ethics just a matter of right or wrong+people's comment There's plenty of debate about what it means to say something is right or wrong (and thus about what ethics is really about), but I've never heard of anyone questioning whether ethics is even about right and wrong to begin with. is it against god to commit suicide It's most immediately against yourself, but given what Genesis 9 says about taking human life, isn't it a capital crime due to its being against someone made in the image of God? Of course, the death penalty gets administered in the process. republical lizard tax conspiracy Occasionally I get a search where no snarky comment I could write seems to do it justice. I think this is one of those cases, unfortunately. what if the president and vice president didnt get 270 votes There's no constitutional requirement of getting 270 electoral votes. Given the current assignment of electoral votes to states and given that only two candidates get any electoral votes, whoever gets at least 270 votes will win. But the assignment of electoral votes can change. Last I had heard, it might change by 2008 with Utah getting one more vote and nothing else changing (in exchange for D.C. getting a representative who can vote in the House), but that actually still leaves 270 as what's needed to win. Certainly we could end up with a situation where a third candidate gets enough votes that the winner has fewer than 270, even with the current assignment of votes to states. I'm sure that sort of thing has happened lots of times, although not recently. But imagine what would happen if the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, the Republicans nominate John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani runs as an independent. I don't think that scenario is all that likely, but it's not impossible, and I think Giuliani would probably get a fair number of electoral votes if that were to happen. If both of the others also got enough electoral votes, as I think would be likely, then whoever won would get less than 270.

The Jesuit school I teach at, Le Moyne College, has a new politically liberal newspaper called Lemocracy. They've long had a conservative paper, but this one is new this semester. In the February 21 edition, there's an op-ed by John Doyle (president of the College Democrats), criticizing Jim Walsh, our local representative in the U.S. House, a fairly conservative Republican who barely won his reelection last November to a very liberal Democrat. This is his first election in a very long time that was even close, and it took bringing in carpetbagger Dan Maffei from another state to mount a close challenge.

In the aftermath of the election, Walsh seems to be backing down from his strong support for President Bush in at least one respect. He's one of the Republicans opposing the troop increase in Iraq. He's also sponsored environmental legislation, but he's always been somewhat friendly to environmental regulation that he doesn't think will be have too negative an effect on people with low incomes. It's his opposition to what the president wants to do in Iraq that seems like a real reversal. What strikes me as funny about this is that Doyle, who opposes the U.S. presence in Iraq to begin with, does not welcome this from Walsh, because he doesn't think he's doing it for the right reasons. He thinks it's just political self-defense, so he won't face another close election like the last one. I'm not sure that's necessarily the right way to view this, and I think the problem here is connected to some conservative criticisms of others who have changed their minds in the other direction.

My suspicion is that Walsh feels as if the district he's representing has a view far from the one he's been supporting, and if they had been willing to continue to elect him by a landslide, then he'd probably be willing to continue supporting the president in full. As it is, he did win, but he barely won. He probably takes that as an indication that his district is divided enough on the issue for him not to go quite as far with it. That leads him to oppose increasing the troops but not to go as far as condemning the president's policies so far. He's thus trying to take a middle ground in order to reflect the wishes of his constituents, having been dealt a fairly strong blow by those who might normally have voted for him but were willing to prefer a carpetbagger on the far extreme of the political spectrum because of this issue.

I have little of my own that's worth saying on the Texas HPV issue, but I found Eugene Volokh's post to reflect my general view. His concluding summary is particularly good at encapsulating the main point:

But as a moral matter of individual liberty, it seems to me that there's little support for a claimed freedom from getting immunized -- and especially a claimed freedom from getting your underage children immunized. A requirement that people not allow their bodies to be media for unwitting transmission of deadly diseases strikes me as quite compatible with a generally libertarian perspective on the world.

I should also note that, despite the Family Research Council's attempt [scroll down to the second story] to play this off as merely an issue about whether the government can take away parental rights to make decisions for their children, this could just as easily be seen as a pro-life issue. If parental rights to make decisions for their children were an absolute, then parents should be able to force their daughters to have abortions. The FRC wouldn't want that, would it? Then why is it opposed to a similar life-or-death issue where the government can significantly reduce the effects of risky behavior on those who did not take those risks?

Joe Biden and Barack Obama

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Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) has gotten into trouble over the following statement he made about Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) run for the presidency:

I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy

There have been all sorts of reactions to this. I agree that it's racially insensitive, for most of the reasons people have given. It's a typical example of Senator Biden shooting his mouth off without thinking how it would be heard, and he may be right that people are taking it in ways he didn't intend. Whether that excuses him depends on if their way of taking it is more reasonable than his expectation of how they'd take it.

There is the problem with 'articulate', which hasn't received as much of the focus from what I've heard. I think there might be a way for him to say what he meant without using that word, but it would be difficult to be very widely-read on race issues in this country without knowing that many black people find that word offensive, for the reasons I discussed here. That puts him in the same category as Trent Lott. While he almost certainly did not intend anything negative by it, he is way out of step with the black community and their perceptions of how people describe them.

I also don't think his explanation of what he meant by 'clean' is very plausible. You don't refer someone's being fresh in terms of a clean start by saying that person is clean. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but that's almost certainly not it. It may not necessarily reflect any negative views about black people, but I have to hear a more plausible account of what he was thinking to be satisfied. James Joyner suggests that Biden had intended to say "clean-cut" or something similar. If so, I want to hear it from him. It's not what he said he meant. I do think Biden is excited about Obama's campaign and thinks he'd be an excellent president, and I don't think he intended to suggest that Al Sharpton doesn't take regular showers. But I'm not sure what he said he meant is very likely to be what he meant. His response thus sounds a little strange.



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