Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How the FDA Could Save Thousands of Lives

About 30,000 Americans suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease—a horrible ailment that causes patients to gradually lose control of their muscles. Currently, there is no known cure for ALS, and the only drug approved for helping the afflicted adds at most just a few months to their lives. That’s why it’s vital that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accelerate the approval of a new drug that offers hope for ALS patients—GM6, developed by Pasadena-based Genervon Biopharmaceuticals.

More than 500,000 people have signed an online petition urging the FDA to approve the drug—thanks in part to the Ice Bucket Challenge, the campaign that went viral on YouTube last summer—so it’s conceivable that agency officials will soon override their overly cautious tendencies and issue an approval. But life and health shouldn’t have to come down to a publicity campaign. “In a free society, of course, dying patients shouldn’t have to petition bureaucrats for permission to take promising new drugs, so long as they understand there are risks involved,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin W. Powell writes in National Review.

Under the current FDA approval process, too many regulations stand between life-enhancing pharmaceuticals and the patients who need them. Although these regulations, which include clinical trials that can take 12 years and cost $1 billion to complete, sometimes keep unsafe drugs off the market, they also prevent the terminally ill from getting drugs they need to extend their lives. Most of all, they usurp the ability of patients to decide, in consultation with their doctors, how much risk-taking is acceptable to them. “In the long term,” Powell writes, “the FDA should get out of the approval process, for the benefit of the rest of us.”



There Is No Real Increase in Insured under Obamacare

Gallup has released the full results of its first-quarter survey of health insurance. It concludes that the proportion of uninsured Americans has collapsed to the lowest level ever: 11.9 percent.

Only the people who have employer-based benefits can be said to be paying for their own health insurance. They decreased 0.9 percentage points in the quarter.

People on Medicaid (which went up 2.1 percentage points) are simply on welfare. Lumping them in with people who have employer-based benefits is like lumping people getting welfare checks and people getting paychecks into the same group of “income recipients.” The respondents whom Gallup classifies as having “a plan paid for by self or family member” (which went up by 3.5 percentage points) are in Obamacare exchanges. Most of their premiums are paid by taxpayers, so they are mostly dependent, not independent with respect to having health insurance.

If we go back and compare the types of coverage in Q3 2013 to Q1 2015, we see that the proportion of those with employer-based benefits dropped from 44.4 percent to 43.3 percent; those on Medicaid jumped from 6.8 percent to 9.0 percent; and those with “self-paid” (actually, heavily subsidized Obamacare) plans spiked from 16.7 percent to 21.1 percent.

Here’s what I do not understand: The proportion of people aged 18 through 64 on Medicare increased from 6.4 percent to 7.3 percent. There are three ways to get Medicare if you are under 65: Receive Social Security Disability Benefits, suffer from End-Stage Renal Disease, or suffer from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). I cannot see how Obamacare increased any of these three situations.



Israel deserves our support for its morality alone

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." --  Benjamin Franklin

The left with few exceptions typically supports Palestinians, and usually at the expense of Jews. The right, with few exceptions, remains a staunch supporter of Israel; especially conservative Christians and the GOP.

But it is the middle, the independent voice that remains to be engaged, and to them I ask for their consideration as the world gets more dangerous, politics more divided, and the fate of the West increasingly hangs in the balance, when deciding if a choice must be made - whether to align with Israel or her adversaries - that they consider Israel as the righteous cause.

Let me engage the help of my fellow Philadelphian, Dr. Franklin, who once again demonstrates his prescience and ageless wisdom in that simple phrase. Any question about the veracity of his thoughts simply requires looking at neighboring enterprises - Palestinians and Israelis. Any objective observer would come to the same conclusion Dr. Franklin would if assessing the two peoples. Corruption, viciousness, violence and hatred rule the hearts and minds, policies and passions of many Palestinians. Were it not so, their masters, in the form of Hamas, PIJ, or similar, would not exist and prevail.

Compare this with people across the fence - Jews - most of whom are dedicated to education, farming, art, literature, inventing medical interventions, developing water treatment and technology advances that can benefit all mankind, and in so doing, enjoy democratic freedoms, a significantly higher standard of living, and, except when their aggressor neighbors are lobbing rockets into Jewish neighborhoods, or are bombing, knifing, running over or randomly beating to death people in Jewish cities, Israelis enjoy a significantly higher standard of living than their neighbors....  "a virtuous people capable of freedom!"

As readers of FSM have noted, over the years I've denounced the moral equivalence that the left, secular progressives, and the media are all too willing to extend to Palestinians in the media, the White House, and on college campuses, almost always at the expense of Israel.

For reasons that continue to escape rationale thought, Palestinians remain the cause célèbre among the salon set, the pseudo-intelligentsia, many democrats, including former President Jimmy Carter and academia.  Perhaps as Annette Benning's character in the film The Siege opines "they (Palestinians) seduce you with their suffering." Or perhaps it is the natural antipathy of the unsuccessful who are all too willing to become class warriors rebelling against successful enterprises like Israel, even if Jews' very success was obtained while defending against attacks by the so called underdogs, who behave more like wild, rabid dogs.  Perhaps it is part of the liberal mindset that wishful thinking makes all matters thus; the left are the peace makers, and any oppressed people must deserved to be rescued, regardless of the facts.

Well the facts in the Palestinian saga are pretty clear. Much of the suffering Palestinians face is mostly of their own doing, and at the hands of their own leaders, fueled by the politics of jealousy, defined by narrative that the plight of the average person in Gaza or the West Bank is because of Jews, allowing their leaders to exploit a mass of people easily manipulated through one unifying mindset - a hatred for one entity - Israel.  And in order to remain in power - Saul Alinsky style - you have to create an enemy class to engage, enrage, distract and mobilize the masses. Obama, the Alinsky-crats who now run the DNC, and folks like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Fatah, Hezbollah, Hamas, Moslem Brotherhood (starting to catch a theme here?) all exploit this strategy to most effective ends.

But do we stop and ask, especially as pertains to a failed social enterprise, such as perennially impoverished collections of people who have the resources to live better lives, how can a group of people emerge into a thriving society? There are lots of moving parts to a successful community - a democracy or any national enterprise. But paramount is the notion we all row the boat together, for a common purpose, a higher purpose. We need skilled people. We need to build things, not destroy them. We need to educate our people.  We need to have infrastructure and we need to be self sustaining - which means having things to sell in order to pay for things you need.

Well that pretty much defines how Israel grew up from a post WWII territory to a nation. Blood, sweat and tears were shared, but it happened. And while it is true Israel obtains military funding for her defense, she also is a pretty self sufficient nation with prodigious intellectual property being developed and commercialized, technology well sought after from China to Russia as well as the West.  She is the only nation in the region with perennial next century industries and companies.

Once when flying over the North-East part of Israel - a colleague looking out the window looking down at the ground which represented Israel and her ‘neighbors,' recognizing I had been here before, asked me how could I tell what was Israel compared to what wasn't. "That's simple" I replied...."if it is green and looks alive like something is growing, it's Israel, if it is lifeless, dark and barren, it isn't Israel!"

Hanging out at a café perched between Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods the difference in appearance between school children was stunning. The Jewish kids were well kempt, in uniforms, carrying school books, or sitting down together reading from them on their front steps. The Palestinian kids of similar age looked unkempt, were not sporting books, instead sitting next to older men who were drinking, playing card or tile games, and languishing unproductive.

The difference in educational materials is breathtaking. Many of the teaching materials supplied by Hamas to Palestinian kids include such useful math problems like this example -"if you kill two Jews today and two tomorrow, how many have you killed in all?" The books are often laced with imagery that foster vilification of Jews from an early age. It is often more subtle than the math problem, but no less pervasive or destructive. Jewish kids on the other hand learn languages, science, literature, math, computers, and, well you get the idea.

It is painful to watch a generation of Palestinian kids where their God given talents and future are curtailed, and that these children will never reach their potential, instead being prostituted towards dark purposes. They will never enjoy the satisfaction of knowing what it is like to become a teacher, a physician, a lawyer, an inventor.  Suicide bombing is by definition a temp job, not a career.

And yet it doesn't have to be this way. Many years ago my colleagues and I flew to Israel from all over the world to support our Israeli friends who put together an amazing adolescent medicine conference. As part of the congress, young people from both sides of the divide revealed shared projects, and enjoyed early successes. Palestinian and Jordanian and Israeli teens working together; though nascent, their programs were making a difference. A short time later the 2nd intifada started. One has to wonder what might have evolved had the Palestinian leaders' hatred of Jews, fears of democracy and desire to keep power overruled their desire to create a nation for their people. But such is the hallmark of dictators, and tyrants.

In spite of the barrage of rockets sent from Gaza into civilian regions such as Sderot, Israel continues to supply much of the basic needs of that deadly region, even after abandoning it to the Palestinians in the hope self rule might foster pride in the region, pride in self, and evolution into a functional society. Hope clearly isn't a strategy, and Gaza has devolved into a region of despair, largely due to bad leadership,  citizens unwilling or lacking the courage to demand change from within, and decaying infrastructure.  The sickest of Gazans who cannot get adequate care in their region, are allowed to come to Israel for medicine and advanced intervention. Water, electricity are also supplied in part by Israel.

And yet the Jews continue to be denounced as occupiers, captors, tormentors. One must ask the Leftist apologists for Gaza - when is it the Palestinians' responsibility to grow up, stop expecting  handouts from the world, stand on their own two feet, stop blaming the Jews when they sit on a piece of Mediterranean front real estate that could become a resort? One has to ask would Gaza treat Jews as compassionately as Israel treats sick Palestinians.  We can't even get the fine friendly folks from Gaza to stop rocket attacks on Israeli citizens - unprovoked and unnecessary.

Israel would be the first to volunteer and help Gaze grow up, if Palestinians would only agree to live and let live. Israel and the US are almost always the first to show up in a global crisis - from Haiti to Japan to Turkey to, well you get the idea.

Does anyone worry about a generation of PTSD afflicted Jewish kids who, in addition to learning reading, writing, math and languages, learn such other useful skills - if a rocket alarm goes off, where are the closest hardened shelters you can reach in fifteen seconds? And yet in spite of decades of attacks, most Jews I talk with do not hate Palestinians, they pity them with compassion. They recognize a generation of Palestinian kids have had their youth stolen in an atmosphere of hatred.

The Israeli kids have had part of their youth stolen, too, under assault, and yet their lives are remarkably normalized because of the wisdom of a compassionate "virtuous" society folks from the North ‘adopt' i.e. bringing kids up from the South, out of harms way in the summer and other times where fun time is an essential component of youth.

And, every young person, except the Orthodox, joins the military. But no rational person could ever equate the army of Allah (Hamas) with the Israeli Defense Force. There are simple, noble truths why.  First and foremost the IDF is not charged with attacking or eliminating neighbor nations. If that were the case, Israel might have more territory! Hamas is chartered to eliminate Jews.

But there is one reason above all others that is the most telling argument going back to Ben Franklin why Israel ought to be supported by the democracies of the world, that the Left ought to shut up, get with the program, abandon supporting blood thirsty enterprises like Iran, Hamas, or Palestine until they learn to act like civilized people; the left ought to join with the grownups and support one of the most hunted and persecuted people on the planet - Jews.   Jews believe in the concept of righteousness - the notion of the moral being.  That could NEVER be ascribed to Hamas!

Imperfect as any other ethnicity, Jews none the less seem to have adopted their own mission statement - upholding the dignity of humanity.  This is why Jewish physicians offer the same medical care to a suicide bomber who was clinging to life, as the victims of that Palestinian bomber.

Several years ago I was at a small Israeli military base near ‘the front' - and had the opportunity to speak with the commanding officer who was in his early twenties.  Consider the responsibilities of this young adult. A man (adolescent) who was the same age as any recent college graduate in the US, this young Israeli officer was in charge of 100 troops. A colleague and I spoke with him about spending part of his adolescence in the IDF, and asked how it felt to be responsible for the lives of 100 people. The young man replied "I'm responsible for more than the lives of 100 soldiers. I'm responsible for the lives of my adversaries, too. They have mothers that love them like my troops do. I'm responsible to their parents as well as Israeli parents. That's why we must be moral and careful how we fight. I have to care about my troops and theirs."

"I have to care about my troops and theirs." Wow that is powerful stuff! And to me, this makes the IDF more formidable. Let's not lose sight of his resolve to defend the State of Israel; but within his marching orders is a moral imperative.

That sentence alone commends Israel to most favored nation status. It is an insight that captures a morality in a ‘virtuous people' as Franklin would likely describe were he joining me during my visits to Israel.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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