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Category: Politics

Texas State Legislature

Our Texas State Senator is Kirk Watson, in Senate District 14. It’s a ridiculously Democratic district covering most of Austin. At a quick glance he doesn’t look incredibly progressive, nor terribly conservative — I’d guess he’s reasonably middle of the road for the Democratic Party. Health care is a big issue for him, as is the economy. He’ll be running against Guy Fielder on the Republican side. There’s a Guy Fielder in the area who’s been a high tech executive for quite a while — worked at Compaq, etc. — so I’d guess it’s him. No Guy Fielder campaign Web site yet.

Our State Representative is Elliott Naishtat (House page here) in House District 49. The House page is more informative than the single-post blog, but the single-post blog is kind of charming. He’s from Queens, moved to Austin after coming here as part of AmeriCorps, and appears to be very feisty. This is another safe Democratic seat and nobody filed to run in the Republican primary; there are also no Libertarian candidates. Or Green candidates, as far as I can tell.


As the Republican primary season wears on, there’s a lot of discussion of delegate math. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos keeps making arguments based on raw percentages — Romney now has to win 48.4% of the remaining delegates available to reach the convention with the nomination in hand. I think he’s just doing propaganda, though, because he’s making the implicit assumption that delegate apportions are simple. So I took the delegate count from Real Clear Politics and made a super-stupid, basic spreadsheet.

I assumed that Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich would split the remaining primaries and caucuses with 30% of the vote each; I gave Ron Paul 10% of each state. Pause for outrage, yes, I know. If you split delegates, 30/30/30/10, Romney doesn’t get over the hump. But then I went back and gave Romney all of the delegates from the winner take all states: Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware, California, New Jersey, and Utah. Utah should be pretty easy for him. Most of the other states ought to be easy Romney victories. Wisconsin is coming up soon; at 42 delegates, it’s a big prize and Santorum’s leading by a big margin there. Romney needs to take all the winner take all states to get to the delegate threshold. On the other hand, if he just misses Wisconsin, I bet there are enough unpledged delegates out there to push him over the top. Without Wisconsin, he’d be at 1152 delegates — with it, he’d be at 1110.

So OK, that’s kind of a rough road. Then I redid the numbers, assuming Gingrich drops and gets all his delegates to vote for Santorum. I gave 66% of Gingrich’s future support to Santorum, and 33% to Romney, which I think is a pretty reasonable estimate. In this model, Romney winds up with more delegates (1246) and he can afford to lose Wisconsin. Note that this scenario also works if you think Romney can pull in a mere 40% of the popular vote the rest of the way, even with both Gingrich and Santorum in the race.

Oh, wait, lemme fiddle with the model some more… OK. If Romney can get 34% of the delegates from proportionally allocated states the rest of the way, and win all the winner take all states except Wisconsin, he still winds up with enough delegates to win the nomination outright. He won 39% of the available delegates yesterday, so he made progress towards his goal. Romney’s right to think he can slowly push his way over the finish line. Lewison’s wrong; it wasn’t a setback. Also, Gingrich is not going to drop out because it would kill his ability to be any kind of a kingmaker at the convention.

Edit: this blog is a real professional doing the same kind of math, but much much better.

Texas Ten

Redistricting has made Texas politics a bit of a mess this year. For the moment, we live in TX-10, with a Republican incumbent. There was a reasonably strong Democratic candidate planning to run, but he pulled out due to some unfavorable redraws of the map. For our reference, two Democrats filed for the primary: Tawana Cadien and William Miller, Jr. I can’t find anything on the latter. Cadien was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and has been reasonably busy in local Democratic politics for a couple of years. There’s a William J. Miller who contributed a fair bit of money to various candidates in the 2010 elections, but the middle initial is wrong. Neither of them have campaign Web sites up for this cycle, so I don’t expect either of them are really plausible opponents, alas.

More posts under the “2012 texas elections” tag as I continue to figure out local politics.

But If It’s Us!

The current schadenfreude election race — if you’re a Democrat — is the NY-23 House race. You’ve got a moderate Republican, a Democrat, and a third party social conservative. Doug Hoffman, the social conservative, is getting lots of national attention: endorsements from Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and so on. It is symptomatic of the split in the Republican Party. Cue Daily Kos smugness.

It is oddly reminiscent of the doomful prognostication regarding the Lamont/Lieberman primary in 2006. Daily Kos did a couple of retrospects of that smuggitude recently. Alas for those who would learn from history, no parallels were drawn between the two elections.

Peace Out

Apparently everyone already knew the Nobel Peace Prize was going to be used as a way to increase someone’s influence. Reuters had the story two days ago. Not that anyone was paying attention.

Wanted – a peace maker or rights activist engaged in a current conflict whose influence would benefit greatly from winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

That is who Norway’s Nobel Committee will choose for 2009 Peace Prize laureate if, as experts expect, it returns closer to Alfred Nobel’s notion of peace. Past prizes went to climate campaigners, life-long diplomats and grass-roots economists.

Nobel’s will doesn’t exactly allow for this. The prize goes “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” I could get snarky and say he deserves it for preventing McCain from becoming President, but I’m not sure I feel quite that snarky about McCain.

On the other hand, I probably do feel that snarky about Palin. The world’s a safer place without her in the Executive Branch. Hey, good work, Obama.

Political Poison

A moment of silence, if you will, for Deval Patrick. Setting aside the rather imperfect bill passed by imperfect legislators to fill Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat, Governor Patrick is taking a sizable political chance in order to maximize the chance that health care reform will pass.

It’s not just that he’s associating himself with a bill that’s not all that popular in his home state. Yeah, Republicans are savoring the idea of hanging this sucker around his neck in 2010. The public glee is all about Patrick appointing Dukakis; make no mistake, however. If Paul Kirk is appointed, that’s going to be just as useful from a Republican standpoint. “Duval Patrick, doing the work of the Kennedys.” Raw meat for the Republican base.

So he’s got that to worry about. And he’s got Democrats who dislike the way the law was changed. But he’s also sitting in the middle of a party fight: does he go along with the rather blatant Kennedy push for Paul Kirk, or does he appoint Dukakis and make some of his key supporters happy, or does he choose someone else and make nobody happy?

(By the way — not smooth, oh Kennedy clan. Backing Patrick into a corner like that was unkind. The Dukakis camp didn’t fight their battle in the media.)

He could have avoided this. He’d have made Obama mad, and he’d have hurt health care reform, but he could have hidden behind the emergency clause and let 90 days pass. He maybe could have made life easier on his legislature and avoided passage of the bill entirely. Lots of options.

So when he makes his announcement at 11 AM today, I’ll have a moment of sympathy for the guy. None of this has been at all easy on him, and I think it’ll be the final straw on the back of his reelection campaign. I appreciate his decision to make sure the Democratic Party has another vote in the Senate.

Obvious Joke is Obvious

It’s the week for rich businessmen to enter the political fray, huh? Of the two, I find Linda McMahon’s decision more interesting. Stephen Pagliuca is a fairly bland guy with a fairly bland background. Linda McMahon is also fairly bland, and she’s going to face the same questions about her loyalty to her party, but her background has somewhat more spice.

Her Web site is funny. You can barely tell her last name is McMahon, which is probably for the best. It’s not about Linda McMahon, it’s about Linda, who is barely related to that guy who shows up on your TV on Monday nights yelling at wrestlers. The WWE is merely “a company,” not a sports entertainment juggernaut or anything like that. It’s a pretty tasteful chunk of the Web.

There’s very little there about her positions on the issues. We learn she’s a fiscal conservative, which is poorly defined insofar as she’s not yet committed to supporting anything. That’s about it. In particular, there’s nothing on abortion. She donated to the Republican Majority For Choice, which will be impossible to play down and may sink her in the primary. Pro-choice views are nigh required for a Republican to win in New England, though. Ask Mitt Romney. So I’ll be watching to see how she walks that tightrope.

She’s smart. A lot of the WWE’s business success is thanks to her. She is undoubtedly a better businessman than her husband, who reliably lets emotion get in the way of decisions. She’d be a fierce defender of free speech for obvious reasons. On the other hand, she’s complicit in one of the worst abuses of employees in the United States — the WWE’s “independent contractor” crap, which directly results in drug addictions, ruined lives, and deaths.

In the end, you’d have to guess she’d be a business-oriented Republican, who’d work to keep government small and limited. She would most likely be consistent in that she wouldn’t want the government dictating social mores either. Could be worse; I’ve just never seen any great value in keeping government small while allowing big corporations to flourish. Large organizations are large organizations.

I can’t see it getting that far, though. WWE television programming is a great platform, but the skeletons are too visible. In way too many cases, quite literally.

Health Care and Illegal Immigrants

Once upon a time, we had a handle on tuberculosis. We had good drugs to fight the disease, we knew how to use them, and when we used them right, the disease was cured. Not only did people stop dying of TB, we were maybe going to be able to stamp the disease out entirely. Good stuff.

In the 80s, it turned out that we were probably never going to be able to get rid of TB, because we screwed up. To treat the disease properly, you have to keep treating it even after you feel like you’re all better. This means that if, say, most of the TB treatment centers in New York City close down because it’s a solved problem, the couple of hundred people who still get TB have to trek across two boroughs to get to the sole remaining center and they have to keep on doing this every week even after they feel like they’re not sick any more.

No big deal if you can take time off work or you have a car. Kind of a big deal if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and it takes two hours to negotiate public transit.

Thus, we wound up with a lot of people who were half-treating their tuberculosis. They killed off most of the TB bacteria. But not all; the ones that were left were the ones that were resistant to the usual run of TB drugs. End result was a nice breeding population of TB bacteria that couldn’t be treated as easily. Cases in New York City started to increase, dramatically.

Side note: there were other factors. HIV in particular didn’t help, because it messes up immune systems and makes it easier for those infected to catch TB. But the half-treatment problem was the biggie.

Fast-forward to today. Tuberculosis is an epidemic. Not one you hear a lot about, but the WHO is tracking it. It’s not the end of the world; it is a serious problem.

So back to health care. It turns out that infectious diseases do not respect citizenship. If an illegal immigrant has an infectious disease, a citizen can catch it. Denying health care to illegal immigrants doesn’t just affect the person who’s not getting health care; it affects you.

We’re not just talking about TB, either. Consider swine flu. Is there any way in which it is not in our best interests to get as many people as possible vaccinated?

And we’re not talking “oh, those filthy immigrants.” It’s not about a given segment of the population being more disease-ridden. That’s eliminationist rhetoric. If it’s a good idea to treat infectious diseases in citizens, then it’s a good idea to treat ’em in non-citizens within US borders. The ratio of people in each population with infectious diseases doesn’t need to differ for that to be true.

I.e., an illegal immigrant is not at greater risk of transmitting an infection. She’s at the same risk as a citizen with the same disease, and since we think it’s a public good to treat a citizen at that risk, it’s also a public good to treat someone who’s here illegally. This should be pretty obvious.

Health care isn’t just something we do for the benefit of the person who’s sick. We do it for society’s benefit. If you want to deny health care to illegal immigrants across the board, I gotta wonder why you want to increase my risk of illness.

Fringes of Sanity

Because at times I grow concerned that common sense is dead on the right side of the aisle, I refer myself to The Next Right. Ruffini and Henke don’t agree with me on all that much, but they’re forthrightly critiquing World Net Daily, birthers, and conspiracy theorists of all stripes. Meanwhile, Little Green Footballs is taking aim at the people who don’t want Obama giving speeches to schoolchildren and calling Michele Bachmann a loon.

It’s OK, though. Glenn Reynolds hasn’t relented at all.