September 22 GOP debate wrapup

On Thurs­day, nine con­tenders for the GOP nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent par­tic­i­pat­ed in a tele­vised ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion host­ed by Fox News and Google. As usu­al, I hes­i­tate to refer to these events as «debates» because they real­ly aren’t debates. There’s not enough time allot­ted to per­mit more than a sound­bite on each issue and there are few real chances for rebut­tal. They are all about the per­son­al­i­ties and very lit­tle about the prin­ci­ples and issues.

Here is my take on the can­di­dates’ show­ing, in order of my gen­er­al opin­ion of the can­di­date (not in order of how I thought they did Thurs­day evening, though there is a rough cor­re­la­tion) from best to worst.

Gary Johnson

Gov­er­nor John­son did­n’t get as much time to dis­cuss sub­stan­tive issues as the oth­er can­di­dates, but he com­pen­sat­ed for that with his quip about his neigh­bor’s two dogs. That got him some of the atten­tion he needs in the nation­al spotlight.

I can’t help but think it was a mis­take for him to hold his tongue when Stephen Hill was booed by mem­bers of the audi­ence. There are two parts to John­son’s appeal as a can­di­date. One is his fis­cal restraint, but that does­n’t dis­tin­guish him from the rest of the can­di­dates on the stage as much as the oth­er: his fer­vent belief that the GOP should not be the par­ty of intol­er­ance. It was not Gov­er­nor John­son’s turn to speak, but some­one should have deliv­ered a rep­ri­mand to audi­ence mem­bers who booed a sol­dier serv­ing in Iraq. It was an embar­rass­ment to the Repub­li­can Par­ty and an embar­rass­ment to all Americans.

Remain­ing silent at that moment should be an embar­rass­ment to every­one who was on that stage, but Gov­er­nor John­son is the only one who has expressed his regret for stay­ing silent except for Rick San­to­rum who actu­al­ly had the floor and who claimed not to have heard the loud boo­ing in the hall.

##Jon Hunts­man Jr

Jon Hunts­man may be so high on this list only because I know so lit­tle about him and his poli­cies, but much of what I do know about him I like. He’s a motor­cy­clist — a lousy rea­son to vote for any can­di­date but I can’t help but give him a thumbs-up for rid­ing on two wheels. He and his fam­i­ly give very gen­er­ous­ly to char­i­ties, which I find laud­able in any can­di­date, but espe­cial­ly in a repub­li­can. Too often con­ser­v­a­tive rhetoric about char­i­ty being the job of the indi­vid­ual rather than the state rings hol­low. It seems as though they’d real­ly rather do noth­ing at all than help oth­ers. This is a myth, of course. Con­ser­v­a­tives are gen­er­al­ly more gen­er­ous donors to char­i­ty, both in total num­bers and as a per­cent­age of their income. Nev­er­the­less, it’s impor­tant to see the myth vis­i­bly sub­vert­ed. Jon Hunts­man is by all accounts one of the nicest peo­ple you’d want to meet. He comes across as fair-mind­ed and hon­est, although I can’t say I approve of his posi­tions on repro­duc­tive and civ­il rights.

##Ron Paul

Dr Paul has a vocal fol­low­ing and is thought of as the pre­mier lib­er­tar­i­an repub­li­can, and he should. Dr Paul was the Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 1988 before he joined the Repub­li­can Par­ty. The guy has his eco­nom­ic the­o­ry down but he has a lot of trou­ble com­mu­ni­cat­ing the rela­tion­ship between eco­nom­ic the­o­ry and eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy he’d rec­om­mend. The prob­lem may be only that he tries to com­mu­ni­cate said rela­tion­ship. Start talk­ing about fiat cur­ren­cies and boom-bust cycles and Amer­i­can eyes start to glaze over. It is great to see his ideas make it to the stage but Gary John­son is more tru­ly lib­er­tar­i­an and has more prac­ti­cal, defin­able solu­tions to the issues that face America.

##Her­man Cain

It’s dis­ap­point­ing to see Cain eschew the Fair­Tax in favor of his 9÷9÷9 plan which, despite being bet­ter than our cur­rent sys­tem fails to address the fun­da­men­tal flaws with the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. Beside that, I don’t see him bring­ing a lot of ideas to the table. At this point, Cain may be damned with the abun­dance of faint praise.

##Mitt Rom­ney and Rick Perry

Mitt and Rick both lose points for snip­ing at one anoth­er con­stant­ly. Both of you, stick to the issues. The Punch and Judy show stopped being amus­ing long ago.

##Newt Gin­grich

Newt did­n’t say much new this time around, but as he con­tin­ues to cam­paign he looks less and less pres­i­den­tial. There’s no ques­tion that Newt is smart, knowl­edgable, and expe­ri­enced but he’s also look­ing tired and less like he actu­al­ly wants the pres­i­den­cy than enjoys the atten­tion he gets from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the debates. I can’t blame him; I think if I were in his shoes I’d attend any debate I was invit­ed to and not drop out of the race unless I had some bet­ter job offer. Ulti­mate­ly, Newt ought to stick to an aca­d­e­m­ic role: teach­ing, writ­ing pol­i­cy papers, edi­to­ri­als, op-ed pieces, and act­ing in the occa­sion­al advi­so­ry role. That appears to be what he’s best at and he ought to stick to that once he’s done hav­ing fun on the debate stage.

##Rick San­to­rum

Rick San­to­rum has been my least favored can­di­date from the very begin­ning, and in Thurs­day’s debate he cement­ed his posi­tion as a per­son that should be pre­vent­ed from hold­ing pub­lic office. Rick San­to­rum and Michele Bach­mann worked hard to make it to the bot­tom of this list, and San­to­rum’s answer to Stephen Hill’s ques­tion about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell con­sti­tut­ed San­to­rum’s effort in the race to the bot­tom. Regard­less of whether he heard the boo­ing of Hill (or his ques­tion — the dis­tinc­tion is mean­ing­less) his answer showed his own intol­er­ance and lack of respect. San­to­rum failed to thank Hill for his ser­vice, which dis­played tremen­dous dis­re­spect in light of the fact that San­to­rum was say­ing he would return to a pol­i­cy of dis­crim­i­na­tion against Hill in the mil­i­tary if elect­ed president.

Regard­less of how one feels about the pol­i­cy of open­ly-gay indi­vid­u­als serv­ing in the mil­i­tary, if being homo­sex­u­al with­out com­mit­tng any sex­u­al acts is grounds for dis­hon­or­able dis­charge as it was until the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the «spe­cial treat­ment» is the dis­crim­i­na­tion against gays. Fail­ing to dis­charge a sol­dier or an offi­cer for being homo­sex­u­al is not a «spe­cial priv­i­lege» as San­to­rum called it — it is the absence of a spe­cial priv­i­lege. In essence, San­to­rum told the sol­dier that he was receiv­ing spe­cial treat­ment for con­tin­u­ing to be per­mit­ted to risk his life to keep San­to­rum and the rest of us safe and secure. That’s not just wrong, it’s ingrate­ful and unbe­com­ing of any­one aspir­ing for pub­lic office on any lev­el. The sec­ond half of his answer — that he would exempt mil­i­tary per­son­nel who came out as homo­sex­u­al after the repeal of DADT but before San­to­rum rein­states it — was what kept him from beat­ing Bach­mann for last place on the list. I also give him some cred­it for con­demn­ing the boo­ing, even if he did­n’t do it until the day after the debate.

##Michele Bach­mann

Bach­mann impressed me when I first heard her speak. She seemed sharp and on the ball, although I can’t say I loved her posi­tions on many issues. The press made far too big a deal over her con­fus­ing Con­cord New Hamp­shire with Con­cord Mass­a­chus­sets — they’re only six­ty miles apart. It was a mis­take, but was it real­ly any worse than Oba­ma say­ing he’d be trav­el­ling to all fifty-sev­en states? When I see the press focus on some­thing as triv­ial as a mis­state­ment in pub­lic speak­ing it earns that per­son my sympathy.

How­ev­er, since then, she has tak­en every pos­si­ble chance to low­er her­self in my eyes. In the pre­vi­ous debate Bach­mann tore into Rick Per­ry about the «forced» immu­niza­tion of twelve-year-old girls in Texas on Per­ry’s watch. In so doing she came out strong­ly and pas­sion­ate­ly in favor of death by cer­vi­cal can­cer. Yes, she rais­es a valid pub­lic health pol­i­cy ques­tion about the author­i­ty of the state to man­date immu­niza­tion against infec­tious dis­eases, but by her log­ic we ought to bring back small­pox and polio and stop immu­niz­ing chil­dren against infec­tious dis­eases that they will then pass on to adults with less-robust immune systems.

It’s not her log­ic that is most upset­ting. Rather, the most upset­ting part of her argu­ment is the utter­ly irra­tional asser­tion that there is some­thing immoral about giv­ing girls as ear­ly as nine years old a vac­cine for a sex­u­al­ly-trans­mit­ted dis­ease (Human Papil­lo­mavirus is the pri­ma­ry cause of cer­vi­cal can­cer) and that it some­how taints the girls’ inno­cence. What’s mad­den­ing about this is that the vac­cine is only effec­tive as a pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure. The idea is to get girls vac­ci­nat­ed before they become sex­u­al­ly active. It’s absurd to think that a shot in the arm at the doc­tor’s office is in some way moral­ly cor­ro­sive. The only jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for this posi­tion is that cer­vi­cal can­cer is God’s pun­ish­ment for the sin of sex—includ­ing mar­i­tal sex — and that only by threat­en­ing our daugh­ters with death can we keep them «pure». That sounds like Sharia law.

Bach­mann was also asked about her impli­ca­tion that Gar­dis­il caus­es brain dam­age and in typ­i­cal politi­cian form she refused to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion. She said she nev­er claimed that the vac­cine caused brain dam­age, that she was only pass­ing on infor­ma­tion giv­en to her by a woman who claimed her daugh­ter had become devel­op­men­tal­ly dis­abled as a result of the vac­cine. That Bach­mann won’t even acknowl­edge that she gave the impres­sion of an endorse­ment of patent­ly false med­ical infor­ma­tion means that we must parse her every word very so care­ful­ly that there is no point in lis­ten­ing — she sim­ply can­not be trusted.

The list of offen­sive things Bach­mann has said which angered me is too long to list here, but one more from Thurs­day’s debate mer­its men­tion. The idea that open­ing diplo­mat­ic rela­tions and trade with Cuba would rep­re­sent an exis­ten­tial threat to the Unit­ed States is absurd. Cuba’s human rights record could stand to be improved (great­ly) before they get Most Favored Nation sta­tus, but oppos­ing char­ter flights? Sup­port­ing the embar­go against Cuba in the 21st Cen­tu­ry is evi­dence of a posi­tion arrived at through emo­tion­al and ide­o­log­i­cal pos­tur­ing, not any con­sid­ered or researched decisionmaking.

##The crowd

The big los­er in the debates so far has been the audi­ence in atten­dance. I can’t think of a bet­ter way to rein­force the idea that repub­li­cans are all hate­ful, intol­er­ant, big­ots than to show some­one a tape of one of these debates. The crowds have been ill-man­nered, dis­re­spect­ful, and inflam­ma­to­ry. This is not what the Repub­li­can Par­ty should stand for and not the kind of con­duct it should allow in its events. From boo­ing when Newt Gin­grich was intro­duced to applaud­ing at men­tion of exe­cu­tions of crim­i­nals, to cheer­ing «yeah» when asked if an unin­sured per­son need­ing med­ical care should be refused treat­ment, to boo­ing Ron Paul for sug­gest­ing that not all Mus­lims should be blamed for 9/11, to the pre­vi­ous­ly-men­tioned boo­ing of a US Sol­dier serv­ing in Iraq, the audi­ences at these debates have includ­ed vocal fac­tions that are being used to show that repub­li­cans are mean-spir­it­ed and cruel.

Repub­li­cans are fond of com­plain­ing about how the press por­trays them, but if repub­li­cans can’t keep from dis­play­ing them­selves in this way, what are peo­ple sup­posed to think? Gary John­son said, «The boo­ing that occurred last night at the event is not the Repub­li­can Par­ty that I belong to,» but if more of the par­ty lead­ers don’t step for­ward to rep­ri­mand these class­less heck­lers, then the par­ty lead­er­ship has tac­it­ly approved of the sen­ti­ments. That would not only be not be the Repub­li­can Par­ty I belong to, it would be the Repub­li­can Par­ty that deserves to lose every election.

12 Replies to “September 22 GOP debate wrapup”

  1. Per­ry vac­cine
    I’m not a reli­gious per­son, but I do have a prob­lem with the Per­ry vac­cine issue. In addi­tion to the way it was done (by exec­u­tive order, which even Per­ry admits was a mis­take), it is an exam­ple of the intru­sive nan­ny state. This dis­ease is trans­mit­ted sex­u­al­ly, not like oth­er dis­eases we vac­ci­nate (polio for exam­ple). I haven’t stud­ied the poten­tial com­pli­ca­tions of gar­dasil, but I think it would be worth it to assess the risk of a com­pli­ca­tion ver­sus the risk of catch­ing this dis­ease, espe­cial­ly since this dis­ease is pre­ventable. One oth­er solu­tion could be to edu­cate chil­dren on the issue and make the vac­cine eas­i­ly avail­able to them, per­haps anony­mous­ly. Maybe not the best solu­tion, but more wel­come than Per­ry ‘s approach, in my hum­ble opinion. 

    1. Per­ry over­stepped, but it was­n’t a nan­ny state decision

      I appre­ci­ate your point, but pub­lic health regard­ing infec­tious dis­ease is one area I find the so-called nan­ny state to be ben­e­fi­cial. If one’s aim is to total­ly erad­i­cate a virus, uni­ver­sal vac­ci­na­tion is the way to go. With expen­sive vac­cines, even mid­dle-class fam­i­lies may take risks with vac­ci­na­tion for finan­cial rea­sons. The idea of the nan­ny state is that gov­ern­ment pro­tects us from our­selves with eg seat­belt laws. How­ev­er, gov­ern­ment is right­ly involved in pro­tect­ing us from one anoth­er. When you don’t get your child vac­ci­nat­ed you don’t just put your child at risk, you put oth­ers at risk as well.

      I don’t see that being sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted has any­thing to do with it. Even if you could mount a 100% effec­tive child and teen absti­nence pro­gram (by itself an unlike­ly sce­nario) those kids will grow up to be sex­u­al­ly active adults, as is entire­ly appro­pri­ate. There’s no such thing as «safe sex» when it comes to HPV either, because con­doms don’t pre­vent the spread of HPV. Peo­ple car­ry­ing the strains of the virus that cause cer­vi­cal can­cer don’t have out­ward signs so their part­ners can’t refuse to have sex with them on the basis of infec­tion. There is no clin­i­cal test for it in men, so men can be car­ri­ers for­ev­er and nev­er know it. For women, HPV can be detect­ed on a pap smear, but by then it’s too late.

      Accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, over 75% of all Amer­i­cans either have HPV or HPV anti­bod­ies indi­cat­ing a pre­vi­ous infection.

      By that same token, I don’t see any rea­son why one would feel the need to make vac­ci­na­tion anony­mous. By the time a young woman becomes sex­u­al­ly active, it’s too late for vac­ci­na­tion. Being vac­ci­nat­ed against HPV should have no con­no­ta­tions of immoral­i­ty at all. 

      I ful­ly agree with and applaud your resis­tance to gov­ern­ment solu­tions to health prob­lems and I agree that an exec­u­tive order is not the right way to have come to that deci­sion. But in this case even though Per­ry over­stepped his author­i­ty I believe he still made the right decision.

      1. Anony­mous vac­ci­na­tion for children

        You may be right about the nan­ny state not being an accu­rate term in this case, since this is not sim­ply about pro­tect­ing an indi­vid­ual from himself/herself.

        I don’t have a prob­lem with mak­ing the vac­ci­na­tion avail­able.  As I said, I’m not reli­gious and have no moral issues with being vac­ci­nat­ed for HPV.   I don’t think chil­dren are “taint­ed” if they get the vac­cine.  My point about anonymi­ty was to make the vac­cine avail­able to chil­dren or young adults who are think­ing about hav­ing sex.   I only rec­om­mend it be anony­mous so they would­n’t be afraid of their par­ents find­ing out that they are plan­ning to have sex.   The anonymi­ty would encour­age chil­dren or young adults to be vaccinated.

        I think the fact that this dis­ease is sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted is indeed impor­tant.  There is choice involved, unlike for oth­er dis­eases such as polio or smallpox. 

        Par­ents can always choose to have their chil­dren be vac­ci­nat­ed as well. 

        I think an impor­tant thing to know is who were the pri­ma­ry lob­by­ists for requir­ing this vac­ci­na­tion.  Was it doc­tors, par­ents, or the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal companies? 

        1. Hav­ing a choice

          Get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed against HPV isn’t some­thing to do because the girl is plan­ning to become sex­u­al­ly active soon. It’s some­thing to do because the girl might become sex­u­al­ly active in her life­time. We’re not just talk­ing about pro­tect­ing girls from the con­se­quences of teenage sex. We’re talk­ing about pro­tect­ing girls from the con­se­quences of sex in her twen­ties. Or her thir­ties, for­ties, or fifties.

          Nobody cares about HPV itself. It’s a virus, but most strains of the virus have no symp­toms. There isn’t even a clin­i­cal test to detect it in men. You can nev­er tell if a poten­tial part­ner is car­ry­ing the virus. Because the virus is so com­mon, it is three times more like­ly that a poten­tial part­ner has the virus than does not.  So there’s no way to be sex­u­al­ly active at any age and be safe from this virus. A woman who has sex only once in her life still has a sev­en­ty-five per­cent chance of get­ting the virus. Odds are you have the virus and odds are that I do too. The only way to avoid it is a life­time of abstinence.

          The prob­lem is that peo­ple hear the phrase «sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­ease» and start to think of it like some­thing that can be pre­vent­ed through respon­si­ble prac­tices. They think, «my daugh­ter isn’t ready for sex, so why pre­pare her for it?» Instead they should be think­ing, «I’d like to have grand­chil­dren some­day, but I’d also like my daugh­ter to live long enough to take care of me in my old age.»

          The only rea­son to erad­i­cate this virus is because it caus­es can­cer. The fact that the virus spreads through sex­u­al con­tact real­ly is irrelevant. 

          I can’t answer your last ques­tion. No doubt phamaceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies want to sell their vac­cines. My under­stand­ing is that the pri­ma­ry advo­cates for HPV vac­ci­na­tion are doc­tors and that par­ents are the ones oppos­ing HPV vac­ci­na­tion. Doc­tors want to pre­vent can­cer, and par­ents are scan­dal­ized at the idea of treat­ing their daugh­ter for an STD. It’s not that par­ents don’t love their chil­dren, but par­ents have dif­fi­cul­ty see­ing past the taboo word sex.

          It’s rec­om­mend­ed that girls get their first pap smear after becom­ing sex­u­al­ly active, yet there’s no hys­te­ria or scan­dal asso­ci­at­ed with pap smears; they are a rou­tine part of a vis­it to the gynecologist. 

          There’s more infor­ma­tion about HPV at

          Also, the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine pub­lished an arti­cle much like the dis­cus­sion we’re hav­ing here but with big­ger words: in which Dr Col­grove dis­cuss­es a vari­ety of eth­i­cal and polit­i­cal issues about com­pul­so­ry vac­ci­na­tion, but also writes, «Requir­ing HPV vac­ci­na­tion by law will almost cer­tain­ly achieve more wide­spread pro­tec­tion against the dis­ease than will poli­cies that rely exclu­sive­ly on per­sua­sion and edu­ca­tion.» To me, that asser­tion is key and that’s why I favor manda­to­ry vaccination. 

          Note too that the Mayo Clin­ic refers to Gar­dasil not as an HPV vac­cine, but as a cer­vi­cal can­cer vac­cine:

          As evi­denced by this con­ver­sa­tion, there is room for rea­son­able peo­ple to dis­agree on this ques­tion, and I respect that. I agree that Per­ry over­stepped his author­i­ty, but I believe that he over­stepped his author­i­ty in order to do the right thing. But even if the indi­vid­ual right to con­trol whether one’s child is vac­ci­nat­ed is more impor­tant than the larg­er pub­lic health issue, I think that Bach­mann is way out of line to demo­nize Per­ry as she has been. Yes, pol­i­tics is a full-con­tact sport, but you and I are ulti­mate­ly the ref­er­ees. I say Bach­mann is out of line.

          1. Cal­i­for­nia


            Inter­est­ing­ly enough, Cal­i­for­nia seems to have imple­ment­ed what I men­tioned: teens being able to be vac­ci­nat­ed anony­mous­ly.  Well, in Cal­i­for­nia it’s 12 year olds, which may be a bit young.  I think 14 – 15 year olds could be in a bit bet­ter posi­tion to make this decision.

            Not sur­pris­ing­ly, this has many peo­ple outraged 🙂

            If teens are to be mak­ing this deci­sion, though, they need to be informed.  Giv­ing them a 30 page pack­age insert is not the way, in my opinion.

            I think a short fact sheet would be more use­ful, with key numbers: 

            1) % of peo­ple who catch HPV, 
            2) % of peo­ple who devel­op can­cer from HPV, 
            3) % of peo­ple who die from this can­cer, 
            4) % of peo­ple being vac­ci­nat­ed who have complications. 

            5) Per­haps oth­er rel­e­vant numbers…

            Keep it sim­ple. No scare mon­ger­ing either for the can­cer or for vac­cine complications.

            I’ll have to comb through the links you pro­vid­ed.  Per­haps I’ll be able to con­struct this fact sheet from that information 🙂

          2. Gov Brown meant to say VACATIONS for every­one, not vaccines

            Good to see you back, Carmen.

            My response got pret­ty long-wind­ed so I rolled it into its own new post.

            Some quick num­bers to answer your ques­tions, though:

   claims that 103 young women have died from adverse reac­tions to Gar­dasil. CDC says it can­not link any of these deaths direct­ly to the vac­cine, but lets assume 100 (to make the math eas­i­er) is an accu­rate num­ber. Two years ago it was stat­ed that 40 mil­lion women had been vac­ci­nat­ed with Gar­dasil. So that’s one out of every 400,000 vac­ci­na­tions as a worst case statistic.

            Each year 11,000 women devel­op cer­vi­cal can­cer and 4,000 women die from it. 80% of the pop­u­la­tion has, had, or will have some strain of HPV at some point in their lives but I don’t have any fig­ures about how com­mon the strains that cause can­cer are. There are 150 mil­lion women in the US and 40 mil­lion have been vac­ci­nat­ed. That means in the­o­ry that if the vac­cine is 100% effec­tive, that infec­tions that will lead to death should drop by about 1000 per year. If it’s only 50% effec­tive, that would drop by 500 per year. 

            Even if the vac­cine were only 10% effec­tive, that would mean that we’re sav­ing as many women each year as the vac­cine has killed (assum­ing that the vac­cine was actu­al­ly respon­si­ble for that many deaths) in the entire his­to­ry of the vac­cine being administered.

            It’s impor­tant to point out that since we’re talk­ing about pre­vent­ing infec­tions that haven’t hap­pened yet that the death rates won’t actu­al­ly drop for years. Gar­dasil won’t do any­thing for some­one who has already been infect­ed with a can­cer-caus­ing form of HPV. Even if we vac­ci­nat­ed every woman in the world today, mag­i­cal­ly and instant­ly, the cer­vi­cal can­cer rates would­n’t dip for a few years.

            I’m sor­ry I don’t have per­cent­ages as you asked. Hope­ful­ly the CDC site has what you’re look­ing for.

            Also, let me acknowl­edge how dis­taste­ful it is for me to look at human lives in terms of num­bers. Obvi­ous­ly, every death is a trag­ic loss to friends, fam­i­ly, and the com­mu­ni­ty at large. We can’t sim­ply add up num­bers and sac­ri­fice a few to save many. This needs to be looked at in terms of bal­anc­ing risk for each indi­vid­ual, and it seems that over the long term, the risk of not being vac­ci­nat­ed is greater than the worst esti­mates of risk of being vaccinated.

  2. Per­ry erring on the side of life

    One red flag that put Per­ry on my list of “can­di­dates I won’t vote for if it comes down to them against Oba­ma — I will write in a name if I have to”: he said he would always “err on the side of life”.  That cer­tain­ly sounds good.  But I think that with this kind of rhetoric or think­ing, we end up with sit­u­a­tions like the TSA in air­ports today.  I’m not sure what your posi­tion is on the body scan­ners and pat-downs, but I believe they are a vio­la­tion of our right to trav­el from point A to point B with­out being searched unrea­son­ably and with­out prob­a­ble cause.  I don’t think the like­li­hood of a ter­ror­ist attack jus­ti­fies these mea­sures, in terms of finan­cial cost or loss of rights.  But, if we don’t real­ly care about doing an actu­al cost-ben­e­fit-risk analy­sis, then we can always “err on the side of life”…

    I don’t think the vac­cine man­date is as bad in terms of per­son­al rights, as the TSA search­es, but I think Per­ry’s line of think­ing is clear, and not one I agree with.  I’m just glad he made it so easy for me to add him to my black list 🙂



    1. Cost/benefit analy­sis and Thou­sands Stand­ing Around

      Per­ry is far from my favorite but he has­n’t got­ten on my black­list yet. By now it should be clear that I am solid­ly in the Gary John­son camp. Even my #2 and #3 picks on this list, Jon Hunts­man and Ron Paul, I’m real­ly not very enthused about. If the elec­tion were held today I’d vote for either of them if they had the nom­i­na­tion. The only ones I’ve ruled out so far as absolute noes are Bach­mann and Santorum. 

      As far as erring on the side of life, I don’t think that means the same thing as always decid­ing on the side of life. It means that when mak­ing the cost-ben­e­fit analy­sis one prefers to play it safe with lives rather than play it safe with mon­ey. In prin­ci­ple I agree with that; in prac­tice what mat­ters is how far one errs.

      My biggest prob­lem with the TSA is that I don’t think they actu­al­ly are mak­ing us safer. I don’t think that the search­es are uncon­sti­tu­tion­al because they are vol­un­tary. To the same point you made about sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­ease vac­ci­na­tion, fly­ing on a com­mon-car­ri­er air­line is a choice; you can dri­ve, take a bus or a train, or even char­ter a flight with a pilot who won’t require you to go through the searches.

      1. Top 3 picks/TSA

        Inter­est­ing­ly enough, despite our dif­fer­ences, we have the same top‑3 list.  I’m split on first place: either John­son or Paul, and then Hunts­man.  I have to decide about the oth­ers still, but I’m pret­ty sure San­to­rum is on my black list. 🙂

        As for the TSA search­es being vol­un­tary, I think it’s not real­ly real­is­tic, for a few rea­sons.  First, if you need to trav­el from Seat­tle to Flori­da, it is not real­is­tic to say “just dri­ve”.  Even tak­ing the train is not real­is­tic for this par­tic­u­lar trip.  This point is even more impor­tant if you live in Hawaii or Alas­ka.  Also impor­tant to con­sid­er is that TSA plans to (and already has begun) per­form sim­i­lar search­es on bus­es and trains.   They will prob­a­bly even­tu­al­ly end up con­trol­ling pri­vate char­ter flights as well (because some­body can always take con­trol of a pri­vate jet and fly it into, or explode it into, a build­ing, right?)  Per­haps TSA (DHS actu­al­ly) will begin these pro­ce­dures at shop­ping mall entrances some day if nobody tries to stop this now (they’re head­ing in that direc­tion already with the NFL).   In addi­tion to vaca­tion­ing, peo­ple need to use trans­porta­tion for their jobs, to take care of fam­i­ly mem­bers etc, and peo­ple should­n’t be har­rassed and searched unrea­son­ably in their trav­els, regard­less of the mode of trans­porta­tion they choose.   Would you have told Rosa Parks to just walk or take a taxi? 🙂

        1. Dif­fer­ences?

          Hi Car­men—

          I did­n’t get the sense from any­thing you wrote that we have dif­fer­ences enough to sur­prise me that we have the same top three picks for pres­i­dent. I agree with you in prin­ci­ple that vac­ci­na­tions should only be made com­pul­so­ry with cau­tion and dis­cre­tion. It sounds to me as though you’d be OK with (or at least much less opposed to) the com­pul­so­ry Gar­dasil vac­ci­na­tions if it had gone through the Texas leg­is­la­ture and been signed into law by Per­ry rather than issued as an exec­u­tive order. I agree that using an exec­u­tive order cir­cum­vent­ed the demo­c­ra­t­ic process. Just because I believe it’s the right pub­lic health pol­i­cy does­n’t mean that I think we ought to scrap our sys­tem of checks and bal­ances for it.

          Anoth­er rea­son it does­n’t sur­prise me that we’d have the same top can­di­dates is because of some­thing else I wrote in my endorse­ment of Gov­er­nor John­son: authen­tic­i­ty and integri­ty count for more in a can­di­date than pol­i­cy posi­tions. Clear­ly it’s good to share val­ues with a can­di­date and Gov­er­nor John­son and I see eye to eye on a great many things, but Jon Hunts­man and I dis­agree on a great many things and he’s still my #2 pick. I am pay­ing atten­tion to the issues, but I’m respond­ing large­ly to my sense of how trust­wor­thy the can­di­dates are.

          I agree that it’s not real­is­tic to expect peo­ple not to fly, but from a legal and con­sti­tu­tion­al point of view, it’s sim­ply not the same as the police com­ing in to our homes. There are sit­u­a­tions with even less choice about whether you go there (going to a cour­t­house or a Fed­er­al build­ing) where it’s con­sid­ered rea­son­able to sub­mit to a search and go through a met­al detec­tor. And I’m not even say­ing I approve of DHS’s require­ments for fly­ing on a pas­sen­ger plane. They are inva­sive, inef­fec­tive, and waste­ful mea­sures that are a vio­la­tion of stan­dards of decen­cy. But I don’t believe that they vio­late the Fourth Amend­ment because, again, we for the most part get to choose if and when we sub­mit to those searches.

          Seg­re­gat­ed bus­es in the South is not a com­pa­ra­ble sit­u­a­tion. The issue isn’t whether Rosa Parks could take oth­er forms of trans­porta­tion. Yes, tak­ing the bus was vol­un­tary and she could have avoid­ed the treat­ment she got, but that was­n’t the relevent ques­tion. The issue was whether she was treat­ed equal­ly once she was on the bus. Most every­one get­ting on an air­plane is sub­ject­ed to the same inva­sive treat­ment equal­ly. Dif­fer­ent issues, dif­fer­ent legal standards.

          Although I hope I would have told Rosa Parks to walk or take oth­er trans­porta­tion. Boy­cotting the bus com­pa­ny was a very effec­tive tac­tic and I believe it was the right thing to do. It’s easy to see in hind­sight but I can only hope I would have giv­en her that advice had I been there.

  3. Prac­ti­cal, defin­able solutions?

    I know it does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly come out all that well in the debates but Ron Paul quite a large list of prac­ti­cal, defin­able solu­tions if you both­er to go to his offi­cial cam­paign page ( and select “issues” from the menu at the top). Don’t get me wrong, I like Gary John­son a lot and if he gets the nom­i­na­tion I will cer­tain­ly vote for him. How­ev­er, I don’t see how he has any more prac­ti­cle or defin­able solu­tions than Ron Paul. Ron Paul will stay my first choice but Gary John­son is in a not too dis­tant sec­ond. I would like­ly vote for a 3rd par­ty can­di­date should any of the oth­er can­di­dates get the nomination.

    1. Well, that’s just the problen

      Hi Steven—

      You nailed it when you said that it does­n’t come out all that well in the debates. John­son is promis­ing to sub­mit a bal­anced bud­get and cut spend­ing, and hav­ing respect­ful con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple who don’t under­stand why that’s nec­es­sary. Paul is promis­ing to strength­en our mon­e­tary sta­bil­i­ty by end­ing infla­tion­ary poli­cies that deval­ue our cur­ren­cy, and then treat­ing any­one who did­n’t under­stand what he said the first time as an idiot.

      Clear­ly some­one can become pres­i­dent while hold­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple in con­tempt — look at our cur­rent Pres­i­dent and his pre­de­ces­sor — but I don’t believe Ron Paul can be elect­ed while he dis­plays open con­tempt for the Amer­i­can people.

      And look, I don’t actu­al­ly believe that Ron Paul holds Amer­i­cans in con­tempt. But he comes off that way because he has lit­tle patience for peo­ple who hold opin­ions that he sees as fool­ish or wrong. That’s a big prob­lem for his elec­tabil­i­ty in my opin­ion. It means he gets a vocal group of sup­port­ers at the begin­ning of every cam­paign: peo­ple who are out­raged that the coun­try is being run by nin­nies and want to take the coun­try back from the morons. These are peo­ple that use the neol­o­gism sheeple. But ulti­mate­ly you can’t win Amer­i­ca’s heart by play­ing to a vocal minor­i­ty who loves Amer­i­ca but holds Amer­i­cans in contempt.

      That’s why look­ing at Ron Paul’s pop­u­lar­i­ty fright­ens me. He’s a wild­ly pop­u­lar fringe can­di­date but I can’t see him becom­ing more than a fringe can­di­date with­out chang­ing his rhetoric in a way that will lose him the sup­port of the fringe. 

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