A clinical trial has revealed that new antiretroviral drugs reduce HIV transmission rates by 96%. A New York Times op-ed rightly describes this breakthrough as extraordinary. Yet the op-ed is not a news bulletin, but rather a call for increased funding.
The author laments "the cruelty-creep and passion-drift by federal and state governments" and their "lack of financing and fealty in the fight against AIDS." While an appeal for greater funding for medical research is hardly ignoble, the cause for AIDS research in the U.S. has long benefited from a PR campaign which has garnered greater resources than are statistically defensible. This inequality presents cruelty and a lack of passion toward other, more prevalent and deadly diseases.
Deaths due to heart, brain and lung disease, as well as cancers and other infectious diseases, dwarf AIDS fatalities in the U.S. About 17,000 people died last year from AIDS, compared to well over a million from heart disease - yet per patient expenditures for AIDS treatment is 100 times higher than that for heart disease. Even globally, where AIDS is a far greater threat, the disease is responsible for less than 5% of mortalities - a giant number, no doubt - but far less than heart disease (30%), infections (18%) and cancer (12%). Further, these latter diseases are usually unpreventable through personal behavior - non-smokers may still get lung cancer, but chaste non-needle-sharers are in the clear from AIDS.
HIV research deserves attention and funding, but the criteria for determining public priorities for any disease should consist of a just (i.e., non-political) assessment of frequency and lethality, means and capacity for prevention, per patient cost, likelihood of finding a cure, etc. Under such criteria, HIV research is likely due for a funding cut.
Ron Paul is running for president.
The "comments" sections of political blogs across the country will be inundated with cut-and-paste, non-sequitur, spam-like rants from fanatical, OCD paulbots for the next 18 months.
I'm actually not radically opposed to Paul and think he contributes to the GOP ideology and debate. The most annoying aspect of a Ron Paul candidacy is the Ron Paul following which treats their icon with the same adulation due his apostolic namesake. In this one case, I'd seriously entertain the concept of internet censorship!
In a 2002 "letter to the American people," Bin Laden denounced America's sexual exploitation of women:
Your nation exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them. You plaster your naked daughters across billboards in order to sell a product without any shame. You have brainwashed your daughters into believing they are liberated by wearing revealing clothes, yet in reality all they have liberated is your sexual desire.
Rarely did I find cause to agree with Bin Laden - I didn't even agree with his likely appeal not to be shot in the head - but the bearded-one wasn't actually so far off on this particular observance. (NB:I didn't subscribe to his proposed solution to the problem.)
Yet it doesn't seem that the Turbaned Talibaner walked the walk. According to the New York Times:
The enormous cache of computer files taken from Osama bin Laden's compound contained a considerable quantity of pornographic videos.
Hardly the most strategically useful discovery, but illuminating nonetheless. The leaders of terror networks are never the one's strapping on suicide belts - that's reserved for the true-believers among the lower ranks. Just as leftists leaders love to redistribute other people's wealth to achieve social justice while fully enjoying their own lavish lifestyles, terrorist leaders spend other people's lives to oppose vices they fully enjoy in the privacy of their cave basements.
I suspect Bin Laden believed most of his shtick, but I don't mind taking just a few minutes out of my day to trample on his grave by pointing out the righteous leader was a hypocritical porn-monger.
No, I'm not talking about Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi.
I had no idea these architectural monuments to communism existed in Yugoslavia, but their "re-discovery" provides an interesting reflection on an era quickly passing out of memory. (As an aside, yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia - about 30 octogenarians showed up at the grave of Klement Gottwald, the first communist leader of the country, to mourn communism's demise.)
Romney's speech yesterday has gotten mostly bad reviews (Chris Christie spoke up for Romney.) I'm not sure what the point of the speech was if he was just going to repeat the same talking points about Obamacare and Romneycare he has been saying for about a year now. His points seem to be:
1. Wave his hand in your direction and then, in British accent, say, "These are not the glaringly obvious policy similarities you are looking for."
2. Tell you that the Romneycare/Obamacare approach of coverage mandates + individual purchase mandates + subsidies + guaranteed issue + community rating (the last two predated, but were incorporated into Romneycare) is, for some unarticulated reason good for Massachusetts but not for 49 other states.
3. Have a federal reform strategy that is at odds with his record as governor. He wants tort reform, and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. That's great, but those policies can be implemented in one state. He didn't accomplish that. His actual record in Massachusetts looks more like Obamacare in one state rather than market-oriented health care reform in one state.
The increased salience of the health care issue, and the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare are a big problem for Romney. Romney had four major appeals going for him in 2008. They were:
1. He was brilliant businessman who understood how the economy works.
2. He was (after his social policy makeover) the most orthodox conservative of the major contenders for the nomination on the most salient issues of the moment (unlike the tax raising Huckabee and the pro-amnesty McCain.) Romney was supported by National Review. He had the passive support of much of conservative talk radio. It wasn't so much that the major voices were for him as much as they were against Huckabee and McCain, but it was something.
3. He was a competent governor of Massachusetts.
4. His ability to win in Massachusetts suggested that he could win a national election.
His appeal as a businessman/economics guy is still mostly intact, but the rising premiums in Massachusetts might put something of a dent in the idea that he is great on economics. His appeal as an orthodox conservative (always shaky) is shattered. His appeal as a competent governor might still work but it is going to be tough making that argument to a right-leaning Republican primary electorate who will probably dislike with his signature achievement. His electability appeal might come into play depending on how the Republican primary process plays out.
Romney's health care policy weaknesses have reduced him to his (significant) bedrock assets. He has name recognition and a national organization. He will have enough money to run as many ads as he wants. If he wants to hit another candidate, everybody will see the attack ads plenty of times. Romney will be as ruthless in his attack ads as he feels he needs to be. He will say whatever he thinks will help him get elected. People might question his authenticity, but pretty much everyone agrees that Romney is sane and well informed.
Romney is in a tough position, but he is not necessarily doomed. I can see a scenario where the Republican presidential primary race winnows down to Romney and another candidate whose personal/stylistic/electoral disabilities convince a majority of the voters to put aside their concerns about Romney and vote for him as the lesser evil. That means that Romney needs to turn the Republican nomination contest into a desperately constrained choice between himself and some "unelectable" conservative identity politics-oriented candidate (maybe Gingrich or Bachmann) with appalling approval ratings among independents. But getting to that kind of two person race is going to be the real challenge for Romney. Before he can beat a Bachmann or a Gingrich (and it isn't 100% certain that he would), he would first have to destroy Pawlenty and Daniels early in the nominating process.
I wouldn't be on this scenario. I think it is more likely that Romney's popular and institutional support melts away before Christmas. But stranger things have happened.
"It is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching."Yet, as Father Sirico points out, their single objection to Speaker Boehner's understanding of Catholic social justice teaching clearly reveals their own failure to understand it. The writers of this embarrassing letter counsel that: "From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor." This, of course, is true. But Sirico insists that any real understanding of Catholic social teaching would also include a recognition that one cannot jump "seamlessly" between a principle and its application. As he puts it:
To jump so seamlessly from the Magisterium's insistence on the fundamental and non-negotiable moral obligation to the poor to the specifics of contingent, prudential, and political legislation is wholly unjustified in Catholic social teaching.This sums it up nicely, but there is much more to it, so read the whole exchange. I think Father Sirico's response, moreover, is a masterful and devastatingly polite answer to people who barely deserve such graciousness but get it, anyway, because Father Sirico is a true Christian. This is a real demonstration, not only of his faith, but of the very real and persuasive power behind it.
Catholic social thought is about the empowerment of the poor. It is not about failed policies of social assistance that treat poor people as problems to be solved rather than as people with potential to be unleashed.Abraham Lincoln was no Catholic, but I don't think he could have said it better.
Let us put aside Gingrich's marital woes. I want to push back against the idea that Gingrich is, in the present, the "idea factory" for Republicans. Gingrich is not the ideas guy in the Republican Party and he hasn't been that guy for a long time. Check out his "Nine Acts of Real Change That Could Restore the GOP Brand" from 2008. It turns out that one of those acts of real change was cutting the budget of the census. There is the change we need. Compare that 2008 list to the 1994 Contract With America or the Ryan Roadmap. The most important word in Gingrich's 2008 plan is "brand." This isn't being an ideas guy. This is being a hustler who gets by on the ideas guy brand.
The problems with Gingrich don't end there. There was his demagogic ethanol speech. I don't especially mind Gingrich supporting ethanol. Most presidential candidates (excluding John McCain and Bruce Babbitt) end up spouting some nonsense about national energy security and family farms as a way of getting votes in Iowa. But there was something ugly about Gingrich's cynical moralism about big city folks wanting to kill ethanol because "it works." Then there was Gingrich's (clintonian?) evasion about his ties to the ethanol lobby. He then tried to paint Obama as mental alien/not-really-American until he was trumped by Trump (who argued that Obama was an alien at birth.)
Let's get some perspective. Paul Ryan is an ideas guy. John Kasich is an ideas guy. Mitch Daniels is an ideas guy. Gingrich has degenerated into a narrative spinner whose policies are marketing props. He can tell a story about how a conservative future will arise out of a broken liberal past. This invites comparisons to the vision of Ronald Reagan and the wonkiness of Paul Ryan. The problem is that on inspection he lacks the virtues and abilities of those men. Unlike Reagan, Gingrich has never shown appeal beyond a subgroup of the conservative electorate. He has never held an elected executive position and he resigned in confusion less than four years into his speakership. His recent sloganeering about acts of "real change" (like banning earmarks for a year) are a poor contrast to the real risks that are being taken by politicians with jobs to lose.
Quote of the Day
In my earlier post on Obama's appeal to Latinos, I missed his slap at Republicans:
Even though we've answered these concerns, I've got to say i suspect there's still some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. You know, they said 'we needed to triple the border patrol.' Well, now they're going to say we need to quadruple the border patrol, or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied. I understand. That's politics. But the truth is the measures we put in place are getting results
While he's obviously wrong about having met Conservative's concerns, the bit about the alligators is pretty funny. And not an entirely bad idea, actually . . . .
UPDATE: See Jim Dimint's article at NRO for a detailed response to Obama's speech.
If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher?
"According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are 'functionally illiterate,' " Detroit's WWJ-AM reported last week:
WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund's Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.
"Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job -- those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what's on the bottle, how many you should take... just your basic everyday tasks," she said.
We were reminded of this by a report from CNSNews.com:
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) training mission in Afghanistan predicts that only about 50 percent of Afghan military forces will be able read and write at the 1st grade level by January 2012, according to a Department of Defense report mandated by lawmakers.
Another thing Detroit and Afghanistan have in common is they both have a lot of American-built schools.
Boehner has announced that tax increases are "off the table" in negotiations on deficit reduction and posited $2 trillion in spending cuts as the price for GOP accedence to a higher debt ceiling.
What some are suggesting is we take the money from people who would invest in our economy and create jobs and give it to the government. The fact is you can't tax the people we expect to invest in the economy and create jobs. Washington doesn't have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem.
These are words to make a Tea Partier smile. Now, if Boehner can just keep from collapsing as he did with last year's budget debacle, he may gain some credibility with those same Tea Partiers and earn their zeal in 2012.
Obama has begun reaching out to Latinos, whom the New York Times describes as "disappointed that he has not done more on immigration." This is untrue, of course, as Obama has done a great deal for gay immigrants - some of whom may have been Latino. This lax enforcement of immigration law is part of Obama's outreach package to gays, which also includes hate crime legislation, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and a decision not to
enforce judicially defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The result of Obama's recent attentiveness to the gay community has transformed a previously angry and disillusioned constituency into his most generous donor base. "Obama's finance committee included one gay man in 2008," according to Politico, whereas "there are 15 this year."
So, Obama is hoping that the neglected Latino community - which, like gay activists, saw all of Obama's campaign promises evaporate after the election - will prove equally forgiving. Yet, other than giving speeches, Obama's only options is to again refuse to enforce federal law by halting deportations - and perhaps suing a few more states to ensure they don't step in where he steps aside. But that strategy won't win him many friends among independents.
Many socially conservative Latinos have long proved single-issue voters on immigration - and thus thralls to the Democratic party. 67% broke for Obama in '08. But the buck stops with Obama now, and he has few platitudes to throw toward Latinos. As on many electoral matters, at least some Latino votes are Republican's to lose.
Refine & Enlarge
Sane people are best advised to simply ignore the fever swamp of liberalism which is the New York Time's editorial page. But occasionally it's interesting to gain a glimpse into the views of extremists. The Time's celebrates the sanctity of Mother's Day with Stephanie Coontz's revisionist essay, "When We Hated Mom" and Nicholas Kristof's appeal for greater funding for abortion and contraception to prevent motherhood.
Coontz - who unsurprisingly began her career as a leader of the Young Socialist Alliance - continues her quest to denigrate traditional womanhood and motherhood as the only remaining avenue by which to defend the legacy of modern feminism. The truth, of course, is that feminism began as a noble cause and succeeded in accomplishing most of its goals. At the end of the game, winners usually take a victory lap and move on. But the radicals can't let go - they create new, absurd goals and rely on the noble legacy of their history to coerce sympathy until at last they have so corrupted their cause as to have divorced it from all previous accomplishments. Thus, the rise and fall of American feminism - and its current shameful treatment of women and mothers. Coontz credits feminism with allowing women to choose "meaningful work" over motherhood.
Kristof provides less philosophy with which to argue. He sums up his Planned Parenthood appeal essay by criticizing Republicans for voting to fund sterilization for wild horses but not for women. I'm sure he didn't really mean to compare women to horses, but his inability to recognize a distinction between policies for animal breeding and human beings is dismaying.
So, motherhood was never that great and we should observe a day devoted to mothers by celebrating means by which to prevent and terminate pregnancies. That's the left's celebration of motherhood. Intersting, at least.
Did you know the origins of mother's day date back to the Civil War, when mothers of sons who died on opposing sides of the war met in an attempt to foster healing and friendship? Most mother's day events nowadays are a bit less demanding - usually involving lots of chocolate and flowers. So, to all our NLT moms:
But most stuff is:
1. Private sector job growth is looking good. If the pattern holds, it will do more to aid Obama's reelection than the killing of Bin Laden.
2. It looks like it is only a matter of time before a series of sovereign defaults in Europe. I don't know what this means for the US banking system. If we have an international banking crisis prior to November 2012 it will be bad for the President but much worse for the rest of us.
All of this is out of the control of the Republicans. Nothing to do but work at the blocking and tackling of politics and nominate a candidate who can articulate the policy changes we need to the widest possible audience.
Is China a friend of the U.S.? The number of espinage cases suggests we need to pay closer attention to what China is up to:
A least 57 defendants in federal prosecutions since 2008 charging espionage conspiracies with China or efforts to pass classified information, sensitive technology or trade secrets to intelligence operatives, state-sponsored entities, private individuals or businesses in China, according to an Associated Press review of US Justice Department cases.
Paul Rahe has argued that the GOP should eschew their traditional pessimism and defeatism in light of a new birth of freedom. However, Rahe laments the GOP's "gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" by nominating "the next fellow on the list without much regard to the man's suitability." He contrasts Bob Dole and John McCain with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, observing that "Americans do not want to be governed by the living dead."
Surveying the field for a GOP standard-bearer last week, Rahe dismissed Trump as a useful clown, excluded Romney as uninspirational, nixed Gingrich and Huckabee as unsuitable "to articulate the case for limited government," questioned Pawlenty as lacking conviction and so finally landed on Mitch Daniels - praising him on fiscal issues, pardoning him on social issues but remaining skeptical about foreign affairs. This week, Rahe revealed the only alternative he sees to Daniels: Paul Ryan.
Rahe has serious reflections for the GOP and has, I believe, a grasp of the American zeitgeist. Both Ryan and Daniels have the potential to steal the energy, optimism and youthfulness to which American's responded in Obama, while fully appealing to the vibrant Tea Party sentiment within the conservative movement.