Afternoon Links

I can’t believe vaccines are a political issue in 2015, but apparently they are. Unfortunately, two separate questions are being conflated because Americans are so capable of having mature debates. The question about whether or not vaccines work (particularly measles vaccines) – spoiler: they do – is a separate question from whether parents should be forced by the state to vaccinate their kids. I think we’ve traditionally had a good system: if you want to go to public school, your children must be vaccinated. Pretty simple. All parents should be encouraged to vaccinate their kids, however I don’t think parents should be thrown in jail if they do not. Tim Carney has a good piece on this, in which he puts it much better than I can:

In truth, a philosophy that preaches individual liberty and generally resists state compulsion is compatible with an aggressive pro-vaccine stance. First, you can believe that everyone ought to vaccinate their children against measles without wanting more laws about it. The White House took precisely this position on Wednesday when press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama “believes it shouldn’t require a law for people to exercise common sense and do the right thing.”

Second, most current vaccine “mandates” are not simple state compulsion. They are requirements for students who would attend public schools. Even if you think parents have the right to vaccinate or not vaccinate their children, clearly a school’s management — whether it’s a church, a county or a state — has the right to place reasonable requirements on those who would enter.

Third, 48 states allow parents to opt out for religious reasons or other personal beliefs. Most Americans don’t hold views that would preclude them vaccinating their children. A minority does object to some or all vaccines. This minority is willing to jump through hoops, fill out paperwork and argue with doctors. The hassle of jumping through the hoops helps guarantee that such exemptions are not utilized lightly — and it helps increase immunization rates. Finally, for safe vaccines to prevent the most communicable and dangerous illnesses, vaccine mandates can fit within even a very narrow view of government’s role.

Libertarian Ron Bailey put it well in Reason magazine. Citing Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous line that “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” Bailey argues aptly: “Being intentionally unvaccinated against highly contagious diseases is, to carry Holmes’ analogy a bit further, like walking down a street randomly swinging your fists without warning. You may not hit an innocent bystander, but you’ve substantially increased the chances that you will.”

Measles are highly contagious and can be spread through the air. No parent can plausibly promise to keep their unvaccinated kid from getting or spreading measles. As long as you accept government’s role of protecting the innocent from violence, it’s easy to see where government has a role in requiring safe and effective vaccines for highly communicable diseases. This argument doesn’t apply to vaccines for less easily communicable diseases, such as the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Government tells us what light bulbs we can have, it forces us to buy health insurance, it requires permits and inspections before we can erect a Rubbermaid tool shed, it makes our showers and toilets weaker, and it bans large soft drinks (except at 7-Eleven). When government weighs in on these matters, where it has no legitimate role and little or no scientific basis, it fosters a skepticism and opposition to government interventions. That skepticism persists even when the science and the moral authority are present. The elites — through overreach, cronyism and incompetence — have lost the public trust. One casualty might be public health.

Oh do fuck off.

There’s a real food fight happening in Washington. Green groups want the government to tell Americans that eating less meat benefits the earth. And environmentalists are lobbying to add what amounts to a climate-change warning to federal dietary guidelines.

Congratulations, taxpayers. And congrats to colleges, who can now charge as much as they like since their customers don’t pay for it, other people do.

NYT admits Obama deliberately lied and manufactured Netanyahu spat.

Good for Baghdad. Hope it lasts.

Peak new TNR: a plea for white people to stop making white people jokes.

I’m still waiting for a progressive to explain to me why there are so many poor people and such inequality in the areas where progressives (who have all the answers and care so much about the poor) are most in charge.

Emirates is an airline that actually functions, so naturally our non-functioning airlines want to see it go away, so we’re all forced to fly fucking United.

The RWNJ neocon warmongers at the Washington Post would like Obama to know he’s about to make a monumental mistake.

Letting it all burn was really the plan all along guys!

Yes, thank you. We need to stop indulging this “I identify as whatever I choose and refuse to live in reality and you must refuse along with me” nonsense.

Elizabeth Warren’s favorite bank has a stellar 2014 record.

Subsidized exporters began to lobby in earnest this week to save their subsidizer, the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Officials from Ex-Im — a federal agency that finances exports with taxpayer-backed loans and guarantees — also ramped up their lobbying.

Some highlights from Fiscal Year 2014: 70 percent of the money committed by Ex-Im’s largest program went to subsidize one exporter. Caterpillar got a taxpayer-backed loan guarantee to sell equipment to its own foreign subsidiary. At least one deal subsidized a foreign manufacturer that competes with U.S. manufacturers. And one deal subsidized China’s own export-import bank. Ex-Im authorized $20.5 billion in taxpayer-backed financing last year. A majority of that — $10.8 billion — was in the form of long-term guarantees, which the agency itemizes in its annual report.

Boeing jets accounted for $7.4 billion of those guarantees — more than 70 percent. This sum for Boeing guarantees is larger than the $5.1 billion Ex-Im provided for all small businesses combined. Boeing also exports satellites, and Ex-Im provided $710 million in direct loans to British customers buying those satellites — or 37 percent of all of Ex-Im’s direct lending. All Ex-Im authorizations combined — including loans, guarantees, credit insurance, and thousands smaller subsidies — equaled $20.5 billion. Boeing exports accounted for $8.1 billion of those, or more than 40 percent.

Did the Obama admin give Karti a multiple-entry visa so he can travel around the U.S. at will? Why?

The EPA is the absolute worst, Part Infinity.

ISNA is a Muslim Brotherhood front. Why is Obama meeting in the WH with leaders of MB fronts? And no, he’s not the first President to do so, but we should know better by now.

The high school freshmen who write for Gawker tried to write an essay on South Sudan and it’s exactly as laughable as you would expect.

Further proof that Katy Perry is the absolute worst.

California’s insane publicity rights regime mean that General Patton – who has been dead for 69 years – can’t be a video game character because people might mistakenly think he endorses the game.

President Obama, Chris Kyle, Sheepdogs and Wolves. Aaron MacLean nails Obama’s worldview:

For Obama, the world is not divided, as it was for Bush, between nations that support a democratic and liberal world order and nations that oppose such a world, preferring jihad or dictatorship or exploitative hegemony. This president believes that the world is divided between those that support peace and those who, motivated by their irrational fears, will not give peace a chance. All nations are basically the same, and most people want basically the same thing. The United States is not morally better or worse than a regional hegemon like Iran. Most Americans, like most Iranians, just want to live in peace. The true enemies are the hawks in both countries. If reasonable men like Obama and Rouhani and Putin could simply shut out the distractions, peace could be achieved.

As a consequence of such thinking, we get the bizarro-world breakdown of friends and enemies for the Obama administration. Enemies include Israel, eastern European nations, Gulf Arabs, conservatives in Taiwan and Japan, and of course the American right. All of these parties provoke countries like Russia and Iran and China into belligerent action. If instead of provoking these countries we offered them a hand, peace could be achieved. Sure, this peace wouldn’t be very ‘democratic,’—but an American-led democratic order is a bit of a sham, isn’t it? After all, how can we criticize Iran when a Ferguson can happen right here in the USA? The Obama administration is careful about making public too much of this worldview, because most Americans, and their representatives in Congress, think it is crazy. But the evidence that this is how the White House understands itself is abundant.

All of this brings to mind nothing so much as the breakdown of people in the movie American Sniper into sheep, sheep-dogs, and wolves—a division criticized by some of the left, and with recent origins in the writings of military scholar Dave Grossman (and with classical origins in Plato.) The idea is that most people are sheep, minding their own business and leading their lives, hoping to thrive without interference. A small minority are predatory wolves, who thrive on dominating others. Thus, for a free society to exist, another minority must be encouraged to defend the sheep—sheep dogs. Americans love their soldiers—they have turned out in droves to see American Sniper—because they are grateful to them for, in a sense, playing their dangerous role as sheepdogs: taking great risks to defend those at home who are not directly in harm’s way. I would wager that most in the military enjoy seeing themselves this way, too.

For Obama and the doves in the White House, this very way of understanding the world is the problem. There are no real wolves out there. Iran and Russia don’t really want domination for its own sake. They want peace, and the only reason they act out is because those who insist on seeing themselves as sheepdogs insist on behaving provocatively. There are many factors that contribute to Obama’s unpopularity as commander-in-chief—but high up on the list must be the fact that those who have chosen the defense of America as their profession sense that they are being led by a man who sees the very instinct to defend the interests of a nation such as ours as problematic.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, The Left

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