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Category: Politics

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.

Ted Kennedy: RIP

His story was one of the great US political stories, and his accomplishments were legion. So were his flaws. I think that in the end, the former far outweighed the latter.

Biden mourns, in a manner I find tremendously affecting. As does Massachusetts.

Eric Raymond on Homosexuality

“That suggests to me that a tendency for male homosexuals to drift into the darker corners of domination sex is still wired in beneath the modern homophilic construction. It might take actual genetic engineering, of a kind we don’t yet have, to fix that wiring.”

He manages to go on for an entire post about how male gay behavior tends towards pederasty and domination, while lesbians are blissfully free of such problems. The evidence boils down to the historical record, which is of course a perfect transcript of human behavior, and “a how-to manual written by homosexual SM practitioners for newbies.” Seriously. The manual said the male homosexual murder rate was 26 times the norm, so that’s where his suggestion above comes from.

A couple of commenters wanted to know more about the source. “Alas, all I remember about the book other than a few prominent facts from it was that it was a skinny paperback with a dead-black cover, printed on cheap grayish paper – looked very undergroundy.”

Well, that’s certainly enough evidence with which to confirm suspicions! It was an underground skinny paperback!

“Why, oh why, can’t somebody invent a memetic equivalent of antibiotics?”

“It’s called SF. But it’s ineffective on victims over 21.”

“Sorry, it’s also ineffective under 21, and it also is known to cause objectivism and other memetic diseases.”

Uh huh.

Guns and Butter

I’m not entirely sure what I think about the trend of carrying guns to political events. On the one hand, I don’t object to open carry. It’s the old security versus freedom debate, and I try hard to come down on the side of freedom. I’m also pretty sure the Secret Service knows what it’s doing around Obama.

I’m edgy because it is not the primary job of the Secret Service to protect, say, liberals. Or Congressmen, for that matter. Emotions are running high at the healthcare town halls, and I don’t trust everyone on either side of the issue to be stable.

There’s debate about this in the gun rights community too, for what that’s worth. I tend to agree that there’s something iffy about trying to fuse open carry activism with the health care issue. Are some of these guys getting off on scaring liberals? Well, duh, yeah.

My sincerely proposed solution: defuse the tensions by wearing ACORN shirts or Obama shirts while exercising your right to open carry at Republican town meetings. If you’re really not trying to scare people — if you really just want to bring open carry into the mainstream — flip your causes.