About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Election Quickies

The world is way too full of post-election pontification as well as pre-election and any other kind of election pontification, I'll add only a few quick thoughts.

The Tea Party:  So, yes, the Tea Party did help the Republican wave in the US House and in local legislatures.  The Tea Party also kept Harry Reid in his job by putting some "winning" candidates on the ballot for US Senate.  Without the Tea Party, odds are very good the Republicans would have had both houses of congress in 2010, and likely still today.  The people who think Mitt Romney lost because he wasn't more like all those losing hardcore conservative senate candidates need to think on this.

And just to say, more people voted for Democrats for the House than for Republicans, but I don't think we can make a big deal here.  I'm a guy who told people to stop complaining about 2000 because (a) the election was for practical purposes a tie (b) the guy who controlled the tiebreakers won.  We let political parties control redistricting.  And in the UK, the electoral system is skewed against the Tory party all the time, while here we can switch state-by-state every ten years who gets to make the rules.

Marijuana:  Yay!!  I have "under-tried" marijuana, which is one of my regrets in life.  So I can't comment from personal experience on an OpEd article in the NY Times on Friday that says liberals (me, most of the time) shouldn't be in favor of this.  But really.  I had an employee who was addicted to cigarettes, who spent his spare cash buying cigs, who lost hours of his life to ciggy breaks puffing away in the cold and the hot and the whatever (this was a good thing for the business because at conventions, it was a networking opportunity with the other addicts), who lost a lot of time from work with various health issues some of which were no doubt exacerbated by the cigarette addiction.  And do we want to talk about how helpful alcohol is to everyone ??  I'm sure that people can be addicted to marijuana in bad ways just like alcohol and cigarettes, but on balance you can't come up with a convincing harm analysis to say in more dangerous ways.  Or, to put it differently, if marijuana was the legal drug and alcohol the illegal one, in ways where if you switched everything around you couldn't come up with the same arguments to say that alcohol should or shouldn't join marijuana in the legal drug pantheon.

Furthermore, the legalization of marijuana has to be viewed in the context of the overall War on Drugs. Which we've been waging for decades, and which hasn't accomplished anything.  The real cost of all the drugs we're waging war on hasn't increased.  Some drugs are harder to find, others have become easier to find (once upon a time it was crack, which we don't worry about anymore, yay, we won the war on crack, only when we were waging the war on crack had anyone had crystal meth on their worry radar?), but all in all we're sinking huge societal resources into an unwinnable battle that we are not winning, jailing so many people that we have the highest incarceration rates in the western world with a huge investment in a prison industrial complex.  So if the trend toward legalizing marijuana means that some small piece of the war on drug resources will actually be reallocated toward things that are better for society instead of just into other fronts in the war on drugs, it is a good thing.

I'm not the marrying type, but I am happy to see gay marriage making inroads.  In the early 1990s I wasn't sure this was the thing to focus on, it seemed to me you could have the civil union thing going and be just fine, but over the past two decades I have become convinced that this is an important battle for basic equality.

Most western civilizations do not have two-year election cycles, they have two months.  Can we find some of that for ourselves?

Can we ban polling for even a week before the election?  For four days?  At all?  Please??

The next time you are convinced your guy is going to win against all the polling (which it would be nice not to have so much of, but we do), remember that four or eight years ago it was the other guy who was running around the week before the election looking at the bigger crowds, the greater enthusiasm, the momentum.  Because it happens every four years.  It's like that line in The Shining, it isn't really Danny.  So we can't go looking strange at all the wrong Romney prognostications this year, because it wasn't all that long ago that Kerry was pulling it our, and that Gore was pulling it out.

But that said, if we could ban some of the polling, we could at least more happily sustain ourselves in the belief that behind the black curtain our guy had the Big Mo, and it would force some of the election coverage either to disappear or to refocus on things other than the horse race.

And my final rant:  the margin of error doesn't mean that every election is closer than it seems, sometimes it means that the election is looking much closer than it is.  Yet we will never read an article that says "the poll has this guy up by five points, which means he's really up by ten points."  Nope, it's always, "up by five, within the margin of error" with the implication being that it's really a tie.  Yes, sometimes that is what it means.  And sometimes, it means it's really just shy of a landslide.

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