Friday, June 30, 2006


Conservatives react to HPV vaccine recommendation

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that a new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine be given to all girls and women from age 11 to age 26 (New York Times). The US Department of Health and Human Services is likely to accept the recommendation. One outcome will be the obligation to launch a program to make these immunizations available to poor girls ages 11–18 at no cost to them.

One reaction:

"You can't catch the virus, you have to go out and get it with sexual behavior," said Linda Klepacki of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group based in Colorado Springs. "We can prevent it by having the best public health method, and that's not having sex before marriage."

Ms. Klepacki's group opposes mandating Gardasil vaccinations.

This response is representative of the position that such right-wing groups usually have about any health or safety issue connected with what they see as a moral issue. Compare their opposition to making condoms available to teenagers and needle exchanges for intravenous drug users. Their observation that abstinence from sex or illegal drug use is the only sure way to avoid STDs, HIV, and so on. Nevertheless, they obstinately refuse to validate any other approach. They don't believe in Plan B (no pun with the emergency birth control pill by that name intended): it's their way or the highway. In their view, the government should only help the "moral", and the rest of us can fend for ourselves. It's the philosophy of government for the few.

I'm pleased to see that this shortsightedness isn't universal among these groups. The Washington Post shares this note about another conservative group:

"The Family Research Council continues to endorse both the distribution and the widespread availability of the vaccine," said Moira Gaul, the coordinator of the organization's Abstinence Project.

She said the council would oppose making the vaccine compulsory. That is because, unlike measles and many childhood infections, HPV is not transmitted casually or through indirect contact in public places such as schools.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The right not to be offended?

The fervor with which some Americans bellow for a law to criminalize the burning of the U.S. flag embodies a principle that should chill to the core any genuine believer in personal liberties: that there should be a right not to be offended. Essential to understanding our Constitutional rights is the comprehension that a right not to be offended would annihilate them. A person who sees nothing disturbing in an Animal Farm-style interpretation of the Bill of Rights,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion unless I am offended, or prohibit the free exercise thereof unless I am offended; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press unless I am offended; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble unless I am offended ....

is a person who lacks the most fundamental grasp of the significance of the rights that have been bestowed on us and of the meaning of their inalienability.

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Bush on signing statements: pseudo-legislative mumbo-jumbo

From the Washington Post's June 27 article on presidential signing statements:

The bill-signing statements say Bush reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.

You can't reserve a right you don't have. The courts will interpret law based on Congressional intent, not Presidential intent, because laws, after all, aren't written by the President. The President can signal how he will interpret the law, but if his interpretation differs from the words or intent of the legislation, then he won't be changing the law, he'll be putting us on notice about how he intends to violate it. As for the matter of constitutionality, that's what the Supreme Court is for. When the Administration disputes the constitutionality of a law, it requests an opinion from the Supreme Court. That's the way it's always worked, and that's they way it should work.

Maybe Bush will tell us next that if he crosses his fingers while signing a bill, it doesn't count.


Bush push for line item veto

Today's Washington Post article about the pending line-item veto bill:

Bush complained that many earmarks do not comport with budgetary priorities and result in "unnecessary spending." Often, he said, "earmarks are inserted into bills at the last minute, which leaves no time or little time for debate."

If Congress wanted a solution to this problem, they could change the houses' respective rules to prohibit introduction of unvetted last-minute amendments, right? This is addressed:

[Bush] said this procedure would "shine the light of day on spending items that get passed in the dark of the night," sending "a healthy signal to the people that we're going to be wise about how we spend their money."

It would also create a situation where fiscally abusive congressmen continue to get credit among their targeted constituents for having inserted the earmarks (just as they get credit now for introducing apple-pie bills year after year that are guaranteed to fail) while the President gets to take the fall when he infuriates the same constituents by vetoing the pork provisions. Why would the President expose himself like that? Conversely, if the President does exercise the line-item veto because the admiration they generate for him outweighs the resulting disgruntlement among the would-be beneficiaries of the special spending, then why wouldn't members of Congress rather have that credit directed toward themselves instead of the lower level of credit evoked by the earmarks?

Why can't Congress just learn to control itself? It has the means. It just lacks the will.