Saturday, December 10, 2011

Plan B, a Liberal's Dilemma...and Ultrarunning

My fine Sunday hat is high in the air for my favorite guilty pleasure, blogger The Rude Pundit, whom all of you should be reading as a matter of daily routine, like brushing your teeth.

In his 8 Dec post, he's thumping President Obama, and rightfully so, starting with the decision to not make Plan B emergency contraception available to women under 17 without a prescription.  [see NOTE at the end of my post for more solid thinking on the subject, from Lindsay Beyerstein]

He nails the rationale: politics trumping science.  Somewhere in the White House, a staffer thunk these thoughts and they prevailed (bolding is mine):

If you think about it, of course HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA's decision to allow the Plan B emergency contraception to be sold over-the-counter with no age restrictions. Can you imagine the Republican ads in 2012? "President Obama thinks it's okay for 13-year old girls to abort their children without parental consent," they'd lie. "Mitt Romney is pretty sure that's wrong." There's an election in less than a year. And your precious science and "facts" and "rights" have no place here.
The Rude Pundit would bet that some White House insider would say that it was more important to take abortion off the table as an issue in the presidential election, even if Plan B is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient, and, really, the anti-choice yahoos need to make a decision here on whether life begins at conception or at ejaculation. He bets that that insider would tell women of all ages not to worry, that the decision would be changed in a second Obama term, that that's just the way the world works.
The Rude One goes on to opine that the Obama administration is now most analogous to the meanderings of the TV series "The X-Files" in having no apparent direction, premise or end game:

The Obama administration now seems like a television series that has lost its plot thread. The Rude Pundit remembers watching The X-Files back in the day, believing that the mysteries and mythology would have a resolution by the end of its run, that the creators of the show knew the arc and knew the conclusion. So you'd get a great episode involving aliens and conspiracies in the government one week. And then the next week you'd get David Duchovny being beaten up by a talking ape. But you stuck with it, thinking that it would all pay off, that your loyalty would be rewarded.
But in the end, that happy revelation and closure were not to be.  It was all indeed a random, ad hoc goat rope.
You finally realized that you were being suckered, that there would be no satisfaction at the end, that the only goal was to make more money for Fox TV by staying on the air....So it is with the presidency of Barack Obama. Any time you attempt to say that you're sick of the cynical way the White House takes the left for granted, you're given a list of things that Obama has accomplished, as if somehow you were denying that he did those things. Yeah, he did accomplish an overhaul of the health care system that has benefited Americans in ways large and small. Yeah, he did get Osama bin Laden and is, at least to an extent, winding down the Iraq war. Yeah, yeah, fine, fine. But this isn't a case of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately.
The Rude Pundit wants to believe that there's an ideology at work, a path, if you will, to what Obama wants to achieve as a president. And, no matter what you say about Republicans in Congress blocking his way, it seems that, often, even when it's purely executive branch matters, there is no ideology at work, either - just political calculations, as with the Plan B decision, or the continuing concentration of power in the executive, as with indefinite detention and drone assassinations.

When he ran the first time, Obama created a narrative about the nation and its possibilities. That narrative has been abandoned for the sake of expediency, out of fear of the right, with barely any nods towards it anymore. He might say that the exigencies of the contemporary political and economic and foreign policy landscapes have forced changes in the storyline, but that the goal is ultimately the same. We just need to keep believing him. And, c'mon, liberals, what choice do you have?

The link to Ultrarunning is that in our sport we have simplicity and consistency.  Sure, there sometimes is a whiff of the woo factor, of superstitions and luck, of habit or hunch trumping logic.  But in the end, we Ultrarunners are a practical lot.  We deal with fact and science, with what has been proven to work, either through our own "experiment of one" or through the collective hive mind that has run literally millions of trail miles and shared the results via blogs like mine, the Ultralist, or the print voice of the sport, UltraRunning Magazine.

I like to think that thinking Ultrarunners are as appalled as I am by the Plan B decision and by the political expediency of the current administration.
[NOTE promised in para 2 above.  C'mon: the stated reason to not make it over the counter to under 17s (and to keep it behind the counter for over-17s) is this, from blogger Lindsay Beyerstein:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius concedes that Plan B has been shown to be safe and effective when used as directed. She claims she is overruling the FDA because the company that asked to sell it over the counter didn't produce evidence that girls under 17 "can understand the label and use the product appropriately."

By that logic all over the counter medication should be banned because people under 17 might buy it.

Plan B is not difficult to use. Plan B One-Step is a single dose in a single tablet.

It is effective for 72 hours after unprotected sex. If it is taken too late, it won't work. That's it.

Besides which, a kid who can't figure out how to take 1 pill in 3 days is really not ready to be a parent.

The FDA lets kids buy Tylenol over the counter, despite the fact that surprisingly small overdoses can kill. The instructions on cold medicine and allergy pills are more complicated than the instructions on Plan B. The FDA trusts young women to treat their own yeast infections with OTC fungicide, a process that requires much greater reading comprehension, dexterity, and tenacity than taking a single pill.


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