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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 6, Issue 31: August 2, 2004

  1. Civil Liberties Elections: 2004 vs. 1800
  2. Inoculating Children from FDA Mistakes
  3. Terrorist Alert: Crying Wolf?

1) Civil Liberties Elections: 2004 vs. 1800

"In this election year, there are significant parallels between the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798," writes William J. Watkins, Jr., research fellow at the Independent Institute and author of RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Civil liberties were a key issue in the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson challenged John Adams, whose Alien and Sedition Acts had given him the power to deport any alien who expressed ideas he deemed subversive. Many Americans were at first supportive of Adams, fearing the importation of the French revolution into the United States -- or even French troops themselves. Public support for Adams eroded, however, when it was clear how far he was willing to go to suppress dissent.

Jefferson and Madison wrote the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions -- anonymously -- to prevent such abuses from spreading. And when public opinion turned against Adams, voters elected Jefferson into office and gave his party a 24-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Jefferson promptly killed the dreaded Alien and Sedition Acts.

Although voters who favored civil liberties had a clear choice in the election of 1880, the same cannot be said of voters in 2004, according to Watkins.

"Senator John Kerry, the President’s only real challenger, voted in favor of the PATRIOT Act and authored some of its provisions," Watkins writes. "According to the Kerry campaign, the problem is not with the PATRIOT Act itself, but with those enforcing it, i.e., Attorney General John Ashcroft. His message for Americans is to keep the powers in place and to trust him with these powers that he admits have been abused.

"The ballot box is a powerful weapon in the people’s hands when they have real choices. With the franchise the people can defend their liberties and reform the government. To paraphrase Jefferson, they can effect a bloodless revolution. However, when both parties offer the people candidates with indistinguishable views on issues relating to fundamental liberties, the franchise is an impotent weapon. And if democracy so falters, the people are left with few attractive options in defense of their freedoms."

See "The Revolution of 1800 and the USA PATRIOT Act," by William J. Watkins, Jr.
http://www.independent.org/tii/news/040802Watkins.html

For a summary of RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins Jr., see
http://www.independent.org/books/brief_reclaiming.html

To order RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_reclaiming.html

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2) Inoculating Children from FDA Mistakes

Childhood vaccines have been in short supply in the United States since 2000. The supply disruptions have hit at least five of the eight childhood vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unless systematically corrected, the problem could become a public health nightmare: a century ago, more than one in ten American infants died from diseases for which vaccines have been developed.

Although many reports have attributed this shortage to an over-reliance on the free market to deliver needed supplies, numerous obstacles imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have made the vaccine market far from free and thereby contributed to the vaccine supply disruptions, according to Arthur E. Foulkes in the summer issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW.

Government officials typically have blamed the shortages on the withdrawal of major vaccine suppliers from the market, recent manufacturing difficulties, and temporary factory shutdowns for the purpose of upgrading equipment. But "each of these 'factors' can be traced back to the FDA," writes Foulkes.

The FDA, for example, fined one vaccine-maker $30 million for violating more stringent Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations (CGMP) -- although the violations were never shown to have resulted in any product contaminations. The company determined that the fines made it financially unfeasible for it to continue manufacturing its diphtheria and tetanus vaccines, which it quickly withdrew from the market. Similarly, another pharmaceutical company was forced to withdraw its flu vaccine from the market because of hefty fines stemming from CGMP violations. This led to 12 to 14 million fewer doses of flu vaccine reaching the market, approximately 15 percent of the expected total. But the FDA could have avoided the CGMP violations. "When the FDA strengthened its CGMP protocols," Foulkes writes, "it failed to inform the vaccine industry clearly of the change."

The "manufacturing difficulties" that disrupted vaccine supplies are also attributable to the FDA. The agency was at least one month late in determining which strain of flu vaccine that suppliers would be allowed to distribute. "If the FDA had made its decision even a month sooner, much of the 2000 influenza vaccine shortage probably would not have happened that year," Foulkes argues.

And what of the temporary vaccine factory shutdowns? They too resulted from the FDA. Through its CGMP standards, the FDA "requires vaccine makers to upgrade their production equipment, often at costs of millions of dollars, even when the current equipment is still functioning properly," writes Foulkes.

"In sum, it is certainly possible to obscure the FDA's role in vaccine shortages," writes Foulkes. "The truth, however, is that vaccine companies left the business because of FDA-mandated plant shutdowns, consent decrees, equipment upgrades, and other costs, often in the face of government-imposed price caps. Difficulties in manufacturing were significant only because the FDA was slow in determining the makeup of flu vaccines. Temporary shutdowns for plant upgrades resulted from FDA demands for 'the latest greatest technology' even in the absence of demonstrated need."

What should be done to correct the problem of FDA-caused vaccine shortages?

"A good first step toward rehabilitation of the crippled U.S. vaccine industry would be to abolish CGMP regulations," concludes Foulkes. "An excellent second step would be to allow private providers of assurance to compete with the FDA. If these steps were taken, then eventually the agency responsible for saddling the United States with a 'weakened' and 'dangerously fragile' vaccine infrastructure would fade into a well-deserved oblivion."

See "Weakened Immunity: How the Food and Drug Administration Caused Recent Vaccine-Supply Problems," By Arthur E. Foulkes (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2004)
http://www.independent.org/tii/content/pubs/review/tir91_foulkes.html

For the most thorough critique of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the Internet, see
http://www.FDAReview.org

To order AMERICAN HEALTH CARE: Government, Market Processes and the Public Interest, edited by Roger D. Feldman, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_american_healthcare.html

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3) Terrorist Alert: Crying Wolf?

The renewed Orange Alert terrorist attack warning -- announced last week by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge -- raises questions perhaps too delicate for the press to ask: Could the new intelligence have been a bluff by wily al-Qaeda strategists eager to study the U.S. response? Has the government "cried wolf" too many times? Will New York and Washington, DC, be on Orange Alert only until the November election?

While the threat may be real this time, the intelligence that prompted the new warnings "provided no specific intelligence of an imminent attack on a particular date," writes Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute.

The buildings most at risk have been under surveillance for years, apparently. But other than suggesting that inhabitants of certain cities be especially mindful of suspicious activity, for some indefinite period, the terror alert color system has provided little in the way of real guidance for Americans, Eland argues.

"If President Bush and his security apparatus really want to make us safer, they should use the alert system differently," writes Eland.

"Every time the U.S. government meddles overseas -- for example, needlessly invading the Islamic country du jour -- and enlarges the bull's eye already painted on us here at home, the alert level should be raised a notch. Thus, in this election year, voters would have a better idea of exactly how safe government actions overseas were making all of us here at home. Gauging from the sheepishly revised State Department report showing that terrorism has recently been on the rise, the threat to America posed by the Bush administration’s foreign policy is clearly in the red zone."

"What Color Is the Wolf Today?" by Ivan Eland (8/2/04)
http://www.independent.org/tii/news/040803Eland.html

"9/11 Report Omits Key Player -- Foreign Policy," by Ivan Eland (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 7/27/04)
http://www.independent.org/tii/news/040727Eland.html

Center on Peace & Liberty
http://www.independent.org/copal

For information on Ivan Eland's forthcoming book, THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_empire.html

To order a copy of the video, UNDERSTANDING AMERICA'S TERRORIST CRISIS: What Should be Done?, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_vidal.html

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