Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Molly Pitchers of the Healthcare Reform Battle

The Supreme Court's decision on Obamacare will come down on the 234th anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth, which took place during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Monmouth  was fought in Monmouth, New Jersey on June 28, 1778. The result of the battle was essentially a draw. However, the battle showed the essentially untrained Americans were able to hold their own with the trained British soldiers. Most famously, perhaps, was that this battle is where the legacy of Molly Pitcher was born. As you can probably tell by my " pen name", I'm a big "fan" of Molly Pitcher. I played her in a play in elementary school and have been intrigued by her legacy ever since. For a little bit of background on her, here's an excerpt from a post a wrote a couple years ago:
One of the earliest prominent woman in American history is Molly Pitcher. Historians have debated whether or not such a woman ever existed or if she was merely a woman of myths--a persona attributed to all women who fought or assisted in the War of Independence in some way. Some historians, however, believe that Molly Pitcher is really Mary Ludwig Hays, wife of John Hays. She enlisted in the Pennsylvania artillery in 1778, 2 years after her husband enlisted . During the heat soaked Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, Mary tirelessly provided water to the fighting soldiers, earning her the nickname Molly Pitcher. When her husband could no longer fight due to heat stroke, Mary (Molly) took his place at the cannon.[As a correction, it was not her husband who fell, but another man] This battle proved to be a strategical victory for the Continental army as it showed that the informal trained Continental army could hold their ground against the British army and was the last major battle in the northern theater. Two places at this battle site have since been deemed "Molly Pitcher Spring". She would later receive recognition from General George Washington.
Much like the weather we're seeing throughout the country this week, that day in 1778 was extremely hot as well. Mary Hays was simply doing what she felt she could to refresh the soldiers fighting that day. However, when the need presented itself, she took to engaging in the fight herself--to be a part of the fight for independence and against tyranny.

Fast forward to today. To be sure, there have been both men and women who have fought the fight against the government overreach present in the healthcare reform bill. However, it was women who have taken to engaging to the fight most passionately. Governor Palin, of course, was one of the leading voices against greater government involvement in healthcare during that healthcare reform battle in 2009; it was something she had already fought for as the governor of Alaska. She wrote against the bureaucratization of healthcare. She called for tort reform in healthcare.Of course, this was never discussed by Democrats who receive far more campaign contributions from lawyers than Republicans. She provided testimony in the New York legislature against financially incentivized  "end of life" counseling. Most famously, she spoke out against rationing of healthcare by "death panels". Two words that send the media and the Left in a tizzy to this day. However, in this "death panels" post, Governor Palin linked a video of another women, Congresswoman Bachmann, who was fighting against the rationing and warped view of bioethics present in the Obama administration:

It wasn't just politicians who spoke out against this legislation. It was everyday American men and women. They organized Tea Party rallies and made phone calls and sent emails to their representatives. When legislators went home to their districts to have townhall meetings, people let their leaders have it. This video clip from a small business owner in California went viral when she called for government leaders to respect their constituents and implement common sense reforms:


We will find out shortly what the Supreme Court rules on the healthcare reform bill. If they rule the entire bill unconstitutional, a victory for the Constitution will be won, and those reform minded conservatives will continue to fight for greater individual freedom and and smaller government. If parts of the bill are ruled constitutional, those women and men who fought for greater freedom and smaller government will continue to do so.  Governor Palin has already re-iterated the call for repeal if the Supreme Court upholds the law. Much like Molly Pitcher did in her day, these women saw a particular role they could play in the battle for freedom, and they did so. Lord willing, in all cases the ultimate victory lies in the Constitution.

Crossposted here and here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Intended and Unintended Consequences of Title IX

I wrote the following post at The New Agenda in celebration of Title IX's 40th birthday:
Today marks a very important milestone in women' s history--the fortieth birthday of the legislation known as Title IX. Title IX was introduced as an amendment to the re-authorization of a the Higher Education Act and actually did not even  specifically mention women's participation in sports, which is what  it has became known for over the decades. The amendment is only one sentence:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
It aimed to offer equal opportunity to women in all aspects of higher education--access to college, sports, other extra curricular activity, specific classes, tutoring, and facilities among other things.  Senator  Birch Bayh of Indiana proposed the amendment, which passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Nixon on June 23, 2012. Although the legislation was passed as applied to institutions of higher education, the 1979 "three prong test" for compliance has often been applied to any educational institution which receives federal funding, which would include high schools.

 Many prominent women have offered their appreciation for the piece of legislation. In an event announcing a new initiative to empower female athletes throughout the world, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted," [t]he title IX decision was revolutionary, and I think all of us who care about opportunities for girls and women view it as one of the most consequential pieces of legislation for women in our country's history". In her memoir Going Rogue, Governor Sarah Palin noted, " I'm a product of Title IX and am proud that it was Alaska's own Ted Stevens who helped usher through the federal legislation in 1972 to ensure girls would have the right to the same education and athletic opportunity as boys. I was a direct beneficiary of the equal rights efforts that had begun only the decade before. Later, my own daughters would benefit, participating in sports like hockey, wrestling, and football, which had been closed to girls for decades".  Tennis legend, Billie Jean King's  Women's Sports Foundation notes that female sports participation is 900% since the law's passage in 1972. Soccer star, Abby Wambach tweeted in honor of the celebration, " We have to keep believing in the impossible. If they hadn't 40 years ago, none of this would have happened".

We all may not have become a professional athlete and we may not have gone on to play at the collegiate level, but we all have our stories--stories of how such legislation blessed our lives--be it directly or indirectly. When I was in high school, I played point guard for my school's girls' basketball team, and I was a member of the Math Club. One day during the basketball season, my math teacher brought in her yearbook to tell me about her high school basketball days. She was in high school when Title IX was implemented, and although it didn't directly apply to high schools, it coincided with the first time her school offered girls' basketball. She jumped at the opportunity to play. We also smiled over the fact that, as athletes and math nerds, we both shared the number "13". It wasn't unlucky for us. Title IX not only provided women with educational and athletic opportunities; it also gave women opportunities for mentorship and provided role models that girls and women previously didn't have. A very happy 40th birthday to Title IX! Let's play ball!  

Please check out these links in celebration of  Title IX:
A clip from the Title IX documentary: Sporting Chance  
The Top 40 Female Athletes of the Last 4o Years 
Billie Jean King talks to CBS Sports about the Anniversary of Title IX  
 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces the State Department's partnership with ESPN on global sports mentoring program, coinciding with the celebration of 40 years of Title IX

Additional commentary on Title IX: I'm very thankful for the opportunities that Title IX has provide women in education and in sports, but I am of the belief that it needs some serious reforms as well. I certainly believe that female athletes should have equal access to gym facilities and the same scholarship funding opportunities that male athletes do. I certainly believe that colleges should increase women's sports programs to the extent that they are able to provide greater equality. The effects of the intended consequences have been great for women in education and sports, and these effects have carried with them later in life with the types of skills and lessons that sports can provide all people--how to work as a team, competition, strong work ethic etc.

 As with anytime the federal government gets involved in something, however well intended, there has been some unintended negative consequences as well. In the name of gender equality, sometimes things have become less equal for men, which is not right. The effects of expanding women's collegiate sports has come at the cost of some of the smaller men's programs. My alma mater, the University of Illinois, cut its men's swim program in the late 1990s so that they could add women's soccer and softball programs. This was not fair the collegiate male swimmers. The Women's Sports Foundation argues that this means of rectifying the inequalities is a result of poor distribution of athletic funding or that funding should increase to a greater extent. This gets into an issue of how much do you increase use of taxpayer dollars or how much do you pester alumni, right now in an economic downturn, to increase donations to an athletic foundation.

Title IX requires that athletes per gender at the school is proportional to total students per gender. This seems like a noble goal, but it also does not take into account that football, the sport that generates the most revenue, is a sport that has more athletes per team than any other sport--22 starters alone, if you assume that players only play one way (offense or defense) and that some starters also play special teams. The Women's Sport Foundation uses an uncited statistic that indicates that 80% of college and high school football programs lose revenue. However, if you lump in high schools, which are far more numerous than colleges, that has the potential to skew results making it unclear the revenue generation of colleges alone, which is what the legislation was written for--higer education. This brings about another issues as well. There has been dispute over whether or not this legislation applies to public high school since they receive federal funding, which is addressed in subsequent pieces of legislation like the three prongs of test I mentioned in my The New Agenda post. However, the original amendment was part of a bill that applied to higher education. Should reforms be implemented to address this dispute? Should football be exempt since in many situations the revenue that sport generates helps to pay for women's sports? Perhaps both. I'm not sure of the ultimate solution. Though I don't agree with every aspect, the Independent Women's Foundation offers an interesting solution to reform Title IX that's worth reading.

The unintended consequence of Title IX is that it caused inequalities in men's collegiate sports in what has become somewhat of a quota based piece of legislation. Additionally, how much should the federal government be involved? A lot of good has come from Title IX, as has some bad. Reforms should be implemented to address the unintended consequences and minimize the bad.

Crossposted here and here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jeb Bush Wants to Pitch the "Big Tent" on a Swamp

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has written a piece for the National Review in which he offers his thoughts for the Republican party. However, his post is long on rhetoric and short on principled conservatism. In his piece, he poses the idea of the GOP being the "Grand Solutions Party". Sure that sounds reasonable enough, right? Not really. Fashioning the GOP has the party of solutions inherently means that government must be the entity at work to solve America's problems. In reality, government is too often the inhibiting factor. It's the American people who solve our problems when government gets out of our way--de-regulates and spends and taxes less. While Governor Bush does touch on the idea of individual freedom, he only does so by prefacing the concept on a squishy idea of governance in which he notes:
The animating force of this governance is diversity and creativity of thinking. And that is how the Republican party should always be. We are broad thinkers and confident believers in America. We are serious about finding solutions for the problems we face in our communities. And we will not limit the ideas we consider in helping America reach for greatness. 
If I hadn't read the byline and the word "Republican" wasn't in there, this could easily pass as something off of President Obama's teleprompter. Yes, government indeed has a role to play--providing an environment for Americans to solve our own problems. As Reagan, whom Bush has very little respect for, notes, "government is not the solution; government in the problem". Yes, we want government officials to be believers in America, but we don't want them to believe that they are our saviors.

The two paragraphs following the aforementioned paragraph do indeed touch appropriately on the idea of individual liberty and limited government. Bush goes on to note that principles shouldn't be abandoned and that we should be "guided meaningfully by the first principles of our nation". This is, of course, true, but the remaining paragraphs negate his claims of the importance of principle by suggesting that we should abandon it:
But to make sure that we do not lose the advantage of that clear difference, we must not layer onto our fundamental beliefs thick black lines of ideology — black lines that we do not allow ourselves to cross. Those black lines can be comforting, I understand. They provide certainty and stability and ideological purity. But they also restrict the way we think about problems, and make more difficult the kind of reform-minded free thinking that has defined the conservative movement for the last 50 years. 
Thick black lines of ideology are good at keeping people in, but they are also good at keeping people out. And our party can’t win if we keep people out. Our goal is not to assemble a small army of purists. We need a nation of converts. We have seen the other way of governing. It has had its day. It has made its best case. It has failed.
Ideology is too often seen as a dirty word when in reality, it simply means standing upon the principles of one's belief system. Of course, Bush is wrong when he discusses the supposed "reform-minded free thinking"  of the conservative movement. Perhaps this "pale pastels" he is referring to are the ideas of the Republican "movement" over the past 50 years--Nixon who thought that the EPA was a good idea or perhaps his father who raised taxes after promising not to. He certainly isn't referring to the Reagans or Palins of the last fifty years.

Bush says we need a nation of converts, but his idea seems to be that conservatives convert to a unprincipled ideology of pale pastels rather than conservatives promote the ideas of individual liberty and our founding principles to those around us. There is nothing more "Big Tent" than the idea of freedom and limited government that provide the solid foundation. Essentially, he wants us to pitch the proverbial "Big Tent" on a swamp. What happens when you drive the stakes of a tent into a swamp? The tent collapses because the stakes weren't driven into a solid foundation. A "big tent" is a great goal, but it must be driven into solid ground--perhaps into soil as dark as the "black lines of ideology" that Bush bemoans.

For a take on this piece far more eloquent than my ramblings, please listen to this segment of Mark Levin's show from today:


Crossposted here and here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

President Obama: Distractor-in-Chief

Last week, President Obama issued an executive order that would prevent deportation of illegal immigrants under the age of 30. Not only is this a grasp of unconstitutional power, it is a politically motivated, not a pure policy motivated decision. In the first nearly two years of his presidency, President Obama had a Democratically controlled House and a filabuster proof Senate until early 2010. He had every opportunity to push through immigration reform, but didn't. Now, he has chosen to circumvent Congress and legislate from the executive branch in order to pander to a voting bloc. However, it is more than just pandering; it is distraction, just has been nearly every politically motivated decision he has made. While the economy remains in the toilet, people become distracted by President Obama's newest shiny voting bloc du jour. It has become a pattern--both for the President and those of us who vehemently oppose his policies and approach.

Class warfare has been a part of President Obama's rhetoric throughout his political career. However, it has ramped up as the election has drawn nearer. There was his "Kansas speech" which focused on income inequality and the rich paying their "fair share", but nothing in his speech provided economic empowerment for the middle class he purports to stand with. Instead, he aimed to breed envy by pitting the wealthy against the middle class. Just as in his proposed "Buffet rule", there was nothing that lowered Buffet's secretaries taxes, only ideas that would raise Buffet's taxes, which does extremely little for denting the deficit. While President Obama attempted to divide Americans into classes--a distraction--there was still nothing that would have provided more job opportunities, empowered the middle class by allowing them to keep more of what they earn, nor reduced the deficit. It was yet another political distraction.

Earlier this year, President Obama pounced on a poorly worded comment from Rush Limbaugh to fabricate a political meme of a Republican "war on women" when Republicans advocated for religious freedom for Catholic employers. Instead of focusing on economic empowerment of women by aiming to improve the economy, he again aimed to distract by turning those who supported contraceptive mandates against those who did not.He tried (and failed) to show how his policies would support women through the character of "Julia", who really wasn't economically empowered, but instead was government dependent. Meanwhile, the economy still suffered, and President Obama continued to try to distract using divisive issues.

He has done this with other demographic groups as well.  Obama has flip flopped on his views on gay marriage throughout his political career, yet at a time when 1 in 6 of his big donors are gay and following a mistimed statement by VP Biden, he felt the need to "evolve" yet again.  Again, another attempt to distract from a poor economy and pander to a voting bloc. He continues to push for student loan rate reductions in order to distract from a poor economy and pander to young voters. However, the rate reduction would only reduce monthly payments by an average of  just $7 a month. Also, with a poor economy, what jobs will these graduates have the opportunity to apply for or receive? Again, distraction.

President Obama promised to cut the deficit in half during his first term has instead increased the deficit dramatically. Also, as I noted in a previous post at Breitbart:
Additionally, his $862 billion stimulus package passed in January of 2009, which his administration claimed would prevent unemployment from going over 8%, has left a record of  39 straight months of unemployment over 8% in its wake. Fifty-six percent of likely voters want Obamacare—the President’s signature piece of legislation—repealed. Solyndra? Lightsquared? Both are now bankrupt companies with campaign donor ties to President Obama that received either loads of taxpayer dollars or preferential treatment from the Obama administration. Fast and Furious? A gun walking scheme that has left a border patrol agent dead, more than a thousand guns missing, and the Obama administration culpable.
 All of those issues are just a small sampling of his administration's failures. It isn't any wonder that he wants to distract and pander. He has lost an advantage is those voting blocs he won in 2008. He wants to distract and divide because if the electorate is focused on our differences, then we can't be focused on the poor economy and unethical government that affect us all.  The socially charged issues the President brings up are indeed important, but they are a solely political means to an electoral end for this President. Distraction. With any policy, the policy itself must be the ends, not the means for for political expediency. The economy is bad for both citizens and illegal immigrants,rich or middle class, Catholic and non-Catholic, male and female, recent graduate or non-recent graduate, married or single, gay or straight. Don't buy into the the divisive distraction.

Crossposted here and here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Judging by a Human Standard: Politics by Policy, Not by Prada

Last week, former New York Times editor and author Ed Klein spoke about Secretary Hillary Clinton’s 2016 prospects in a radio interview:
“At this very moment that we’re speaking right now, Brian, [the Clintons] are already thinking seriously about running in 2016,” author Ed Klein told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade. “She’ll be 69 years old. And as you know — and I don’t want to sound anti-feminist here — but she’s not looking good these days. She’s looking overweight, and she’s looking very tired.”

Klein, a former New York Times magazine editor continued to comment on her appearance.
“I think she’s going to take some time off, get back into shape. And if her health holds out– that’s a big if, of course — if her health holds out, there’s no question in my mind she and Bill — two for the price of one — will run in 2016.” 
In just a few sentences, Klein notes looks, age, weight, and health in the context of a potential future presidential run for Clinton. To be sure, Senator John McCain and President Ronald Reagan came under scrutiny for their presidential runs when they were in their late 60s and early 70s, but very rarely, if ever, does a male politician’s weight or looks become an inhibitory aspect of a potential run for office. For male politicians, experience, policy, and relatable aspects of their personal story are discussed to determine their potential as a candidate for higher office. For a female politician, those important aspects seemed to be dwarfed by her looks—whether her looks are praised or criticized. In the eyes of pundits and the media, the hairstyle on top of a female politician’s head becomes more important that the ideas inside of that woman’s head. Rarely do the media mentions if a male politician opts for a pinstriped suit rather than a solid colored suit, but if a female politician decides to wear glasses rather than contacts or decides to wear her bangs differently, it becomes a point of media discussion.

Male and female politicians are going to present policies using different rhetoric and perspectives, but it becomes a detriment to the electorate when those policies aren’t adequately reported upon simply because a female politician decided to wear her hair up the day she gives a wonkish speech. Our culture—whether it be politics, business, technology, sports, entertainment, or any other aspect—should be discerned by a human standard. There shouldn’t a feminine standard where female politicians are judged by their appearance and their experience and ideas are eschewed, and a masculine standard where male politicians’ appearances are ignored and only their ideas and experience are considered. There should be a human standard where all are judged solely by what is important for a given political or professional position. A female politician should be discussed in terms embracing Keynesian or Austrian economics , not in terms of going au natural or wearing Maybelline or Prada vs. Kenneth Cole.

 Klein’s comments prove yet another reason why more women are needed in politics and every other aspect of professional life and culture. Sexism is still a part of our culture, although things have begun to improve in some respects. However, this goes beyond explicit sexism. Perception is often dictated by reality, and the reality is that only about 17% of all Congressional seats, 12% of Governor’s seats, and 24% of state legislative positions are held by women. The media and the electorate both are relatively unaccustomed to seeing women in roles of political leadership. Such a disparity prevents the media and the electorate from being accustomed to how a female politician presents herself in the context of her experience and policy—her appearance, her voice, her rhetoric, her mannerisms. Thus, how women portray themselves is pushed into the foreground while their experiences and ideas become pushed into the background. Only when our society is more accustomed to seeing female politicians will this perception be overcome. Is this a proverbial Catch 22? No, instead it provides yet another opportunity for women to continue to turn hurdles into springboards. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “you may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” The more women continue to pursue public office, the more our culture will judge by a human standard of experience and policy.

Crossposted from The New Agenda.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why Senate Races Are the Most Important Races of 2012

In an election year when there is a presidential election in addition to Congressional and statewide races, the presidential election often takes center stage. In some respects, this is understandable. The president comprises the head of one of the three branches of our constitutional republic.However, the focus on the presidency is indicative of a government whose balance of power has gotten out of whack. For starters, we have crept away from our Constitutional foundation where the federal government's power is limited, and the states' power is appropriate. Even in our federal government, the scales of power have been tipped. Congress has willingly abdicated its legislative powers to unelected executive branch agencies who legislate under the guise of regulation. Couple the extensive powers of agencies and departments like the EPA, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security with the increasing frequency of executive orders in the last 100+ years, it is clear that the branches of government have been twisted. Additionally, with each Supreme Court decision, judicial precedence becomes the new guiding force rather than the true precedence--the Constitution.

One of the reasons our Founders created this three branch system of government was to provide a check and balance, not only to provide a check to each branch's adherence to the Constitution or ideology, but also to each branch's power. The election later this year has the potential to re-elect an extremely progressive president or elect an unprincipled "Republican". This election year also will indicate whether we maintain a GOP House or flip it, Somewhat lost in the shuffle is that this election year also determines whether or not Republicans regain control of the Senate or at least pick up some seats. Regardless of who is elected President, there are several reasons why the Senate is especially crucial, as the Constitution has given Senators different powers or responsibilities than their counterparts in the House.

One of the responsibilities that the Senate specifically has is the ratification of treaties. In late 2010, we saw a Democratic majority Senate (with a good deal of moderate Republicans joining in) ratify the START treaty . This treaty with Russia was rushed through by America, only to have the Russians sit on the treaty before ratifying it themselves. With President Obama recently noting to Russian President Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility after the election", this would prove to be a motivator for conservatives if Obama were to be re-elected. A strong conservative Senate would be crucial in preventing the President from entering into more treaties that may not be in America's best interest, nor in the interest of an ally like Poland. Between President Obama scrapping a missile defense program in Poland on the 70th anniversary of Soviet invasion of Poland and his gaffes in discussing "flexibility" with the Russian President and in referring to Nazi death camps as Polish death camps, it would be important to have a Senate who would stand with America's allies and not aim to weaken our country. In the same vein, discussion has opened up again recently over the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) in the Senate. If this treaty were to be ratified, it would require that America pay royalties ,which would be distributed to poor underdeveloped countries, on energy development done in certain arctic regions. This would abdicate American sovereignty by implementing a global redistribution of wealth from energy production on what are really American seas. This is in addition to the limits on sea travel and naval activity. If this is ultimately not voted upon during this session, a conservative Senate would be a big deterrent in its ratification regardless of whether Obama's Secretary of State were to push for the treaty again or if a Romney administration were to advocate for its approval.

Another  important responsibility given to the Senate is the approval of judicial and cabinet appointments. A strong conservative Senate would help keep President Obama in check when he attempts to appoint a new Secretary of State, if he is re-elected. Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although quite liberal, was palatable enough to be confirmed by the Senate in 2009. However, she has opted not to serve in Obama's second term if he is re-elected. A conservative Senate would ideally help ensure that President Obama would appoint a more palatable liberal, rather than one who is a radical. We saw earlier in his term when President Obama attempted to appoint radical Donald Berwick to head Medicare, the blowback from Republicans and conservatives was strong enough to prompt President Obama to appoint Berwick during a Senate recess. Berwick later resigned from his post.  This check and balance would be even more pronounced if the Senate were to not only become more Republican, but more conservative as well. Additionally and probably most importantly, a strong conservative is needed when a new Supreme Court nominee is appointed. There is the potential for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to retire. Would a President Obama appoint another justice to perpetuate judicial activism for even longer in that seat? Additionally, there is potential that if a Republican were to win, Justices Roberts and Scalia would retire in order for more justices to be appointed by a Republican president. For the most part, with the blocked appointment of Robert Bork being a notable exception, the Senate confirms the President's nominees to the bench. However, would Senate confirmation hearings of Obama's appointees be more rigorous with a conservative Senate, or would they be bold enough to block a radical appointee? On the flip side, would a conservative Senate hold a Romney administration accountable in appointing a true originalist judges to the bench, even in spite of his poor record of judicial appointments as governor? Romney often blames Democratic control in Massachusetts as a source of his failings. Would a conservative Senate hold him accountable to make wise decisions? Not only in potential judicial appointees, but also in his own cabinet, as again, he did a poor job with some other appointees as governor and even to date as the presumed GOP nominee.It is important that the Senate provides a conservative and constitutional check to whomever is elected President in November.

Suffice it to say, the 33 Senate seats up for grabs this November are extremely important, not only in working with their bicameral buddies in the House, but also in providing a much needed check to whomever occupies the White House and whomever may be placed on the judicial bench. In order to slowly but surely try to bring our nation back to its true Constitutional foundation, we must ensure that principled conservatives are elected in 2012. Most conservatives are disenchanted by our presidential prospects, but we have every reason to be inspired by the foundational principles found in our Constitution. We must remember, though, as the father of our Constitution, James Madison, once noted, "if men were angels, no government would be necessary". Men are not angels, and yet another blessing of our republic is that we get to elect our leaders from amongst our fallible selves. It is inherent in our human nature that our leaders will be flawed.Therefore, it is important for us to elect from among the flawed human candidates out there those who have the best grasp of our Constitution so that they may exercise those powers and responsibilities that they swear an oath to uphold to the best of their abilities. Let's remind our leaders that the Constitution still begins with "We the People", and let's ensure we have a Senate that lives that message out in their leadership.

Crossposted here and here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FDA--Failed Drug Agency?

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an article discussing debate over the mechanism of the "morning after" pill, Plan B. In recent years, research has indicated that the drug's mechanism of action was not as many had previously thought--that the drug prevented a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. This was what the FDA label indicated and what the NIH and Mayo clinic notes on their websites. With this being the understanding of the drug's mechanism, the drug was an abortificant since it prevented implantation. However, recent research has indicated that this may not be how the drug works:
Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.
If this is the case, I'm glad to hear that the drug's mechanism is not as such that it terminates a pregnancy, but that it prevents a pregnancy by preventing fertilization. However, it does raise questions about the FDA's processes. Why did their labeling indicate that the drug prevents implementation of a fertilized egg? Moreover, why was a drug approved in the first place if its pharmacology was not known?

The NYT article notes that the drug was approved in 1999, and that the drug's maker Teva asked to not list the implantation mechanism on their label. However, the article does not indicate why the company chose to not include this. Was the company fearful of the blowback of the pro-life movement? The implantation prevention mechanism was ultimately listed, but apparently without scientific proof.

The article goes on to note the FDA approval process for Plan B:
Back then, scientific research concentrated on whether Plan B’s active ingredient, a synthetic progesterone, safely and effectively prevented pregnancy, not on how it worked, said Dr. Kristina Gemzell-Danielsson, an obstetrics and gynecology professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, who participated in World Health Organization studies leading to F.D.A. approval.
 This statement contradicts what the FDA describes in their multi phase clinical trial process to bring a drug to market.  After being approved as an investigational new drug (which enables researchers to test their drug on humans), the drug will go through three phases of clinical trials before it is approved. After it is approved, the drug will continued to be monitored for long term side effects. What is most shocking about the research claim is that the FDA's multi phase process includes determining drug action early on in the process:
PHASE 1 TRIALS: Initial studies to determine the metabolism and pharmacologic actions of drugs in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and to gain early evidence of effectiveness; may include healthy participants and/or patients.
 "Pharmacologic action" simply means specifically how the drug works. Why wasn't the pharmacologic action of the drug determined during this process? Why did it take further research AFTER the drug was approved to clarify its mechanism? The FDA's role is to confirm efficacy and safety of a drug. How can these be fully understood if the drug's mechanism is not known? A drug may be proven to work if symptoms are relieved, a disease cured, or if a condition prevented. However is the mechanism safe? Safety is equally as important as efficacy. 

The NYT article goes on to note from an FDA official:
Ms. Jefferson of the F.D.A. said it was often difficult when a drug is approved, and even afterward, to pinpoint how it works. Citing confidentiality rules, she would not discuss why the agency declined the company’s request to omit implantation. 
 What contradiction from the FDA! They claim that their regulatory approval includes determining pharmacological action, yet their own personnel claims that it's often difficult to pinpoint how a drug works! While this may be the case, why do they note this as part of the process? They may have specific criteria for how much needs to be known about a drug's pharmocology before it is approved to go to Phase II, but why is not something as different has preventing or ending a pregnancy not determined prior to the drug being approved? This should be the case for any drug, but most assured it should be the case for a drug when it's a matter of preventing pregnancy or terminating it. Government regulation for true safety has its place, but regulation must live up to its own standards.

As a sidenote, the New York Times titled their article " Abortion Qualms on Morning-After-Pill May Be Unfounded", yet another example of the media trying to paint pro life people in a negative light as if the pro life movement was trying to perpetuate an untruth, when in actuality, a government agency did not do its due diligence in its regulatory process.