Sarah Palin inexperience

Posted in Politics at 6:10 pm by ducky

The Republicans are accusing the Democrats of a double standard, contending that if it’s okay for Obama to be inexperienced, it’s okay for Palin to be inexperienced. There is a whole issue of scale here, however. While Palin does have management experience (which is good), it is in such a tiny, tiny pond that it seems ludicrous to compare it to Obama’s experience. It’s sort of like the GOP repeatedly yelling, “Joey can’t drink because he’s only eighteen!”, giving the right to drink to twelve-year-olds, and responding to criticism by saying, “You wanted to allow underage drinkers too!”

Many other people have pointed out her lack of foreign policy experience, so I don’t need to do that. I’m also worried about her lack of domestic experience. In the political realm, does she have any idea how finance markets work? Does she know what the principal products of Texas, California, Illinois, and New York are? Does she have a sense of how agriculture in the Midwest differs from agriculture in the West? Does she know anything of the history of the Colorado River water rights issues, the Mormon trek from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City, the role of steamboats down the Mississippi, or the Trail of Tears?

In the personal realm, has she ever set foot in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, or Miami? Has she ever worked closely with an African-American or a Latino? Will she have trouble understanding a southern drawl? Has she ever toured a manufacturing facility? Has she ever been to a professional baseball or football game? Has she ever ridden a horse? Has she ever been on a subway? Has she ever seen an alligator or heard cicadas keening?

I used to think that “sophisticated” was a euphemism for “snobby”, but I now realize that it is a shorthand for having had a wide variety of life experiences and exposure to many different ways of looking at the world. While maybe it isn’t important if she has never ridden a horse, maybe someday she’ll be chatting with the Saudi Ambassador about horses, and if she mixes up “canter” and “trot”, he’ll think she’s a rube.

Having exposure to many places, many ideas, and many people prepares you better for handling many problems with many places and many people. Obama has far, far more experience with the world — both foreign and domestic — than Palin does.


dogs rolling in stinky stuff

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:23 pm by ducky

I don’t think I’m the only one who thought it was odd that dogs like to roll in stinky stuff, even feces. This seemed like a bad idea — it would let their prey smell them from afar, right?

I just came up with a hypothesis for why dogs roll in stinky stuff: as defense against other biting animals (including other dogs). If dog A is covered in feces, and dog B bites dog A, then dog B might get sick from the feces. This might discourage dog B from biting dog A.

Yes, it is true that if dog B bites dog A, then dog A could get fecal material in the bloodstream from the bit, but if dog B punctures dog A’s skin, dog A is already in a heap of trouble. We forget, since modern antibiotics are so good at eliminating infections, that infections are A Big Deal. (For example, Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died of an infection from a blister!) So it might be that its use as a deterrent is worth the extra risk of greater infection.

So why don’t cats roll around in stinky stuff? Perhaps because cats fight with their claws, while dogs fight with their mouths. If cat A rolls in feces, and cat B scratches cat A, then cat A is at higher risk for complications, while the feces pose no risk for cat B.


McCain's adultery vs. Edwards' adultery

Posted in Politics at 10:59 am by ducky

Scott Rosenberg recently cited something on electoral-vote.com saying there is a double standard going on regarding McCain’s adultery and Edwards’ adultery. It implies that McCain ought to be getting hassled about his adultery.

I am a liberal and not a McCain supporter, but to be fair, there is more going on in the Edwards story than adultery. Edwards also:

  1. did it with an employee, who appeared to get preferential treatment as a result
  2. did so recently
  3. lied repeatedly and convincingly about it

Because of point 1, Edwards’ affair is a relevant issue. His interaction with employees has a direct bearing on his management abilities. It is especially troubling that he would use funds entrusted to him to reward people he liked: that makes me really nervous about cronyism.

As far as I know, McCain wasn’t fooling around with his subordinates. (And if he did, that would be big news, as his subordinates at the time were almost surely all men!)

As for point 2, we’ve all done things we were ashamed of when we were younger, and people are generally pretty willing to look beyond youthful indiscretions (and even to be pretty open about how old you can be to be “youthful”). G. W. Bush certainly got a pass on his past drug use, just as people don’t seem too upset about Obama admitting some cannabis use in college.

Furthermore, life had to be pretty rough on McCain when he got back from Vietnam. He had to readjust, he had to do physical therapy, his wife was not only different from the one he’d left but who had willfully hidden significant physical changes from him, etc. By contrast, John Edwards had a wife who he clearly loved, was kind of at the top of his game, and to the best of my knowledge was not in physical pain. So while I don’t think that McCain’s affairs reflect well upon the man, I don’t think they reflect nearly as poorly as Edwards’ affair does upon him.

Point 3 I think is most important. Because Edwards was so convincing when he lied, now nobody will ever trust anything he says again. Had he lied badly — where everyone could see that he was lying through his teeth — it actually would not have been so damaging. When he said, “oops, I lied”, if everyone had said, “yeah, duh!”, then he would in some ways be seen as more trustworthy. “Well, he’s not lying this time because we can tell when he’s lying.”

(I am reminded of seeing William Shatner — a legendarily unconvincing actor — on the news, absolutely heartbroken and grief-stricken that his wife had drowned. Someone in the room said, “Well, at least we know he didn’t kill her.”)

Now, electoral-vote.com and Scott seem to argue that McCain’s adultery should matter because he is trying to portray himself as the “morals president”. (I hadn’t noticed that McCain was trying to portray himself as the “morals president”, but I actually haven’t been paying him much attention.) However, “morals” is a code word for a particular set of value priorities. It doesn’t actually mean that he is the candidate of high moral standards, it means that he aligns himself with a particular set of value priorities: pro-guns, anti-choice, pro-small-government, anti-welfare, pro-miliary, pro-Christian, pro-traditional gender roles, anti-gay, anti-drugs, etc.

What is important is the alignment with those value priorities.  As far as I can tell, Rush Limbaugh didn’t suffer much from getting caught with a drug habit: that didn’t change his alignment with the “morals” crowd’s politics. (He would have been in much worse shape if he had lied repeatedly and convincingly about giving a $100,000 donation to MoveOn.org!)

So while it might be nice wishful thinking on liberals’ part that bringing up McCain’s past indiscretions would make a difference, I really don’t think it would. 🙁