Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stem Cell Veto and the Summer of 2001

It's interesting what will trigger a memory. For example this Stem Cell Veto propelled my mind back to the summer of 2001, when President Bush was vacationing for a month down in Texas, and ignoring memos with titles like, "Osama Intends to Attack the United States, So Stop Clearing Brush at Your Ranch and Pay Attention". He did venture to the microphones to announce a decision on stem cell research, and with the morally decisive leadership of a man who's not just pretending to be religious, but actually means it, he announced a Kerry-like attempt to have it both ways, or as I wrote at the time, "The benefits of stem cells are potentially so fantastic that making a principled stand against them might cause a loss of support. President Bush sure figured that out this summer when he said stem cell research was abhorrent but we’ll continue doing it with the lines we already have. This Texas-sized straddling of the issue proved he could read polls, too." It was true, for all you moral clarity fans: The President tried to please everyone with a compromise of his "values." Almost immediately stories began to emerge about the poor quality of the stem cell lines Bush wanted us to use - mainly that they had been mixed with mice cells. That led to my following piece called "Of Mice and Men": Last week the Washington Post had an interesting story saying that all 60 of the famous stem cell lines had most likely been mixed with the cells of mice. Something about these mice “feeder” cells keeps the stem cells healthy although they don’t know what it is. Visions shot through my head of the consequences: “Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we can now cure your son of his disease, however, he will develop a strong fear of cats.”
Every bad science fiction movie has one guy in a leading role who makes a plan. Even as the audience hears it they groan, knowing it can’t possibly come off. Okay, maybe if things went perfectly, but there’s always one additional development usually performed by an incompetent assistant who goes to the lab and gets the wrong brain. Cut to the scene of the horrified townspeople fleeing.
The impressive thing about President George W. Bush is that there is no part in a science fiction movie he couldn’t play. In fact, the hardest thing for the audience to accept would be that he’s the guy in charge. That would be a real stretch. The only way it would work is if you had a few scenes of how his father used to be the main man. That’s it. His father was the brilliant scientist and his son is less gifted but uses his family connections to take over the castle. It’s implausible but they just might go for it. Especially if the castle had a Supreme Court.
Less of a tough sell would be convincing the audience that he could play the bumbling assistant. Just put Dick Cheney in the lead role, and you might be closer to reality than many people want to think. George is a man who can play the klutz. If he helps build a house for poor people, for instance, you just know George is going to hit himself with a hammer. Heck, it already happened.
Finally, the easiest scenario: That this man had been given it all. Okay, not an education or anything, but he’d been set up with dubious business partnerships and sweetheart deals to claim a place of real power. Then at the last moment there was a horrible mistake: he accidentally received the wrong brain. Don’t try to tell me the audience wouldn’t buy into that.
So our science fiction movie is underway and the President is about to announce his decision in the little speech from the ranch. Does he mention that the stem lines are all mixed up with mice cells? No, the point is to sell the plan and deal with the consequences later.
Those consequences could be varied. For example, we might have to change a certain holiday poem: “It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse/human hybrid.”
To assuage our fears, scientists have pointed out that pig cells have already been placed in a man’s brain with only subtle changes. For example, the man used to love exotic dancing, but since he got the pig tissue, he’s now more into mud wrestling.
Oh yeah, the horrified townspeople fleeing? That would be us."
Ahh, the memories. Of course 9/11 happened the next month and this was forgotten. But the Stem Cell Veto reminded me of the time President Bush stood stall in the saddle and tried to ride forward facing the horse's ass.


At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole 'stem cell' debate is a ridiculous one to begin with. Proponents of stem cell research (of which I am one) generally argue from a point of view that unless Bush authorizes the government to pay for it, it aint gonna happen. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is plenty of stem cell research going on, and was long before this ever became a political issue. If Bush refuses to allow the government to pay for abortions, does that mean they are going to stop altogether? The federal government has a role to play in our lives - why does the funding of one particular vein of scientific research have to be part of it?

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

If I were paralyzed or Michael J. Fox, or any number of relatives, watching the US government throw billions around, I doubt if I'd find the stem cell debate "ridiculous."
It's going to happen as you say, but why not now? Why not throw money at this instead of the top 1%?
We could perhaps have a breakthrough that would solve the ethical concerns along the way. Maybe a stem cell bank with each person having their own supply from birth.
By the way, I love how Bush supporters point to the rights of the unknown while they're supporting his use of depleted uranium. That's going to hurt the unborn, too, and already has. What about the rights of the unborn in that?

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"By the way, I love how Bush supporters point to the rights of the unknown while they're supporting his use of depleted uranium. That's going to hurt the unborn, too, and already has. What about the rights of the unborn in that?"

My response: "?!!!" I haven't a clue what you're talking about.

Funny how you advocate our government throwing "billions" at stem cell research to solve problems, yet oppose them throwing billions at other problems - like fighting terrorism.

There are thowsands of "problems" that we could throw money at - make that millions of problems.

At 10:03 AM, Anonymous gazer said...

Did you catch the view of all the precious little children at the vetoing ceremony? What a brilliant idea. Those living (not dead) children will grow up, and some of them will be stricken with nasty diseases, for which there is no cure. The drug companies will be able to supply them with lifetime doses of maintenance medicine. It would be too horrible to contemplate if somehow a cure was found and those precious consumers would no longer be slaves to Bush’s contributors.

But the little darlings could grow up to be terrorist fighters, knowing that they didn’t have long to live anyway.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

It has to do with the effects of depleted uranium on people. Since the half life is something like 4 billion years, what we have done in Iraq could go on causing birth defects and killing babies for a long time. It is a horrendous situation which is why you haven't heard of it. We have dispersed thousands of tons of depleted uranium, and it's even showing up in neighboring countries.
If you support American soldiers you should look into what happened after Gulf War 1. How many of them have died or been incapacitated. It's staggering. We can expect more of the same from this Iraq War as well as Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Lucky Mike said...

The reason stem-cell proponents bemoan the ban on using federal funds is that it great impedes researchers, since most large research facilities have some federal money. If they aren't allowed to use any for stem cell research, it means they also can't use any equipment that was purchased with federal money, even if it was purchased with a different intent and is now sitting around the lab.
While there may be plenty of money for the actual research, there isn't a wealth of money to build duplicate labs just so Bush can pander to the 30% or less of Americans who feel that using embryos that would otherwise rot in a freezer is killing babies.

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Sullivan - no fan of Bush's by any mean - had a pretty good take on it:

"This isn't a ban on such research; it's a decision not to throw the weight of federal financing behind it. I respect the case of those who favor it; but, when push comes to shove, I'm with Bush on this. It took political courage to take this stand. And the morality it reflects - a refusal to treat human life as a means rather than as an end - deserves respect even from its opponents."

I don't think for one second the Bush-haters around here will "respect" this decision. But to call the veto "pandering" is simply ignorance. Pandering is taking a stand WITH the majority opinion, not against it.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Back in 2001 when he had a second term to try and get, his moral clarity wasn't as clear. I have no problem with someone following through on their beliefs, but I thought he showed a real fence-straddling, Kerry-like, have-it-both-ways stance in 2001. As to the depth of his convictions versus catering to his base, I have my doubts about how religious he really is, especially with his interpretation of "Thou shalt not kill." But I also am beyond caring, and just want to take what's left of the world, after Bush has moved back to Crawford, and try and make the best of it.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

Baby Bush won’t be moving back to Crawford. He’ll go back to his birthplace in the protected society of Connecticut. Bush Jr. cuts brush because his handlers told him it is a good photo-op, like Reagan’s attempts at the same task in a ritzy neighborhood in California.

Whatever he ends up doing, it won’t be honest work. That’s beyond his ability. And his friends wouldn’t know how to teach him.

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

laurelhurstdad does even more to solidify the perception of the "unhinged left" and "BHDS" (Bush Hatred Derangement Syndrome).

First, Bill, why is it so foreign a concept for you that a President can compromise his personal moral positions in an honest way for political purposes? Isn't that what all Presidents do? Isn't that why Reagan and Bush Sr. didn't immediately try to outlaw abortion? I think all Presidents realize they are representing ALL of the people - not just those in their party. That is why Bush tried to find a compromise on the stem cell issue.

You 'haters' are so deranged you are incapable of perceiving anything good with this administration. The $$$ Bush pledged and delivered to Africa to fight AIDS was just political pandering, right? Because Bush really feels that AIDS is just punishment to fags for their immoral behavior, right. You guys remind me of the main character in "Naked Lunch". You are so detached from reality that no measure of facts you confront can bring you back from the abyss. Bush is evil, he has no good intent, he is a war profiteer, he is a puppet, he is a racist, he is a homophobe, he is every conceivable evil you can come up with, and no amount of reality will change that for you.


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