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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 30 May 2005

Topic: In these times...

Memorial Day

The sun is out early in Los Angeles. There are Memorial Day events, followed by cook-outs and ball games and such. This is, informally, first day of summer, of course, and the traffic is light, or will be until the evening when everyone rushes home. But I’m thinking of my nephew in Mosul and his friends.

A quick review of today’s comment out there –

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in their editorial Praise Bravery, Seek Forgiveness:
Nothing young Americans can do in life is more honorable than offering themselves for the defense of their nation. It requires great selflessness and sacrifice, and quite possibly the forfeiture of life itself. On Memorial Day 2005, we gather to remember all those who gave us that ultimate gift. Because they are so fresh in our minds, those who have died in Iraq make a special claim on our thoughts and our prayers.

In exchange for our uniformed young people's willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes.

True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.
That is followed by a discussion of the May 1 Downing Street Memo and other items, like how four days before the State of the Union address in January 2003, the National Security Council staff "put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims" about Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. The call went out because the NSC staff believed the case was weak. No one in the administration would listen to them. And on the day before the speech, the CIA's Berlin station chief warned that the source for some of what Bush would say was untrustworthy. But he said it anyway. It was fabricated information from one source – that Curveball alcoholic and unstable cousin of Chalabi. Oh well.

The Star-Tribune editorial ends with this -
As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths -- the most since January -- comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again. Our young people are simply too precious.
I suspect we’ll make the same mistake again and again.

On the left? Smugness, as in this -
… but it is also the destiny of we patriots, patriots of America the Ideal, as opposed to America the Ass-Kicker, to always be called unpatriotic when we oppose the unjustified use of power; and then be labeled the cause of defeat when we turn out to be correct.

Peace be with those who die in our name, and also to those who want them not to be sacrificed in vain.
Somehow, that is offensive. Grandstanding. Who was right? That hardly matters now.

The question is what to do now. Bob Herbert over at the New York Times doesn’t like the current plan -
President Bush's close confidante, Karen Hughes, has been chosen to lead a high-profile State Department effort to repair America's image. The Bush crowd apparently thinks this is a perception problem, as opposed to a potentially catastrophic crisis that will not be eased without substantive policy changes.

This is much more than an image problem. The very idea of what it means to be American is at stake. The United States is a country that as a matter of policy (and in the name of freedom) "renders" people to regimes that specialize in the art of torture.

"How," asked Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, "can our State Department denounce countries for engaging in torture while the C.I.A. secretly transfers detainees to the very same countries for interrogation?"

Ms. Hughes said in March that she would do her best "to stand for what President Bush called the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity." Someone should tell her that there's not a lot of human dignity in the venues where torture is inflicted.

The U.S. would regain some of its own lost dignity if a truly independent commission were established to thoroughly investigate the interrogation and detention operations associated with the war on terror and the war in Iraq. A real investigation would be traumatic because it would expose behavior most Americans would never want associated with their country. But in the long run it would be extremely beneficial.
There will be no trauma. There will be no commission.

The very idea of what it means to be American is at stake? Perhaps so. But there will be no commission.
In much of the world, the image of the U.S. under Mr. Bush has morphed from an idealized champion of liberty to a heavily armed thug in camouflage fatigues. America is increasingly being seen as a dangerously arrogant military power that is due for a comeuppance. It will take a lot more than Karen Hughes to turn that around.
And kicking more butt probably won’t do it either.

Nor will holier-than-thou statements from the left like this -
Deaths in war are about the honor and sacrifice of soldiers for their country, period. But there is no greater dishonor or cruelty than falsely leading these honorable troops into war. History will judge the people responsible for this manipulation and these lies very harshly, and I suspect God will, too.
Yeah, well, if there is a God, how did all this happen, unless He, She or It has a nasty sense of humor?

The Saturday before Memorial Day I visited the Los Angeles National Cemetery as the local Scouts were finishing up placing a small American flag on each grave - and Kevin Roderick, who for two decades was a staff writer and editor at the Los Angeles Times, explains the place -
Plain markers exist for more than 85,000 veterans and family members (plus two dogs and a smattering of widows, children and staff members buried when the cemetery served the National Soldiers Home for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors, which is a whole 'nother story.) Even so, the task of placing the flags goes fairly quickly. Starting Saturday at 7:30 a.m., Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from all over the L.A. area will converge on the Sepulveda Boulevard grounds. After an 8 a.m. ceremony, they will fan out with flags. By 11 a.m., all but the stragglers will have gone. It's an impressive sight, and a solemn and stirring one. The sweeping lawns and century-old trees have stood in for Arlington National Cemetery in numerous movies and TV episodes, but the LANC doesn't get half the tourists that find their way to Marilyn Monroe's crypt a few blocks away. It's too bad. Deep inside the grounds, the hill where Abner Prather, a Civil War blue from the Indiana infantry, became the first burial in 1889 is a great hidden spot to absorb a little history. In 2 Days in the Valley, a suicidal Paul Mazursky looks at all the markers and observes, "There are a lot of heroes buried in this place."
Yes. The photos are here without comment.


A reaction from Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta ?
I'm not going to beat up on the so-called "smug" left here -- I'm way tired of liberals trashing liberals -- but I think the left does need to rethink the way it approaches soldiers who serve in war zones.

Liberals seem to see warriors as "victims" who deserve our sympathy every time we send them into an unnecessary war, when in fact soldiers are professionals who do what their country asks them to do, and tend to do it without asking too many questions. Just as it would be too much to suppose that doctors pray for diseases to cure, policemen for crime waves to fight, firemen for fires to fight, or journalists for disasters to cover, I'm pretty sure soldiers don't pray for wars to wage. But like the others on this list, I think they do want to do their job well when called upon to do it.

If, on the other hand, we encouraged our soldiers to pick and choose the fights they wanted to fight, then, for one thing, Clinton might not have been able to stabilize the Balkans, a war I think historians will agree had some actual useful purpose. Even worse, enough members of the military, having been coached as independent thinkers in political matters, might on some future day choose to ignore the civilian leadership and seriously consider taking over some place they might think really needs it -- some place like France, or maybe even, say, the United States of America?

Someday, after things have calmed down in Iraq (assuming they ever do) and this whole Iraq thing has faded into our collective memory (assuming it ever does), you may want to ask your nephew if he and his fellow soldiers think their country owes them an apology. I'm willing to bet he'll give you a strange look.
My nephew thinks he's doing what he should be doing. And he is.

In a few years he and I will sit down and discuss the whole business. We'll see then. I don't think apologies will come up - just geopolitics. I suspect he?ll end up back at West Point, where he started, teaching that.

Posted by Alan at 11:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 30 May 2005 14:35 PDT home

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Topic: World View

Breaking News

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this web log was posted early this morning - Volume 3, Number 22 - for the week of May 29, 2005. This is the Memorial Day issue - heavy on photography - not just Hollywood, but Paris and Washington, and some fine art.

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has his Our Man in Paris column there, with photographs, on events leading up to today’s vote – the referendum on the EU Constitution. See Nicolas Sarkozy Suffers for that.

Here is the late update (revised May 30) –
French Vote 'NON'

Paris - Sunday, May 29, 2005: AFTER ONE of the hardest-fought campaigns anyone can remember in France, polling for acceptance or rejection of the European Constitution ended tonight at 20:00 throughout France and at 22:00 in Paris and Lyon. Voter turnout was high and the suspense stretched its tendons to the limit, to the very end.

With the closing of the polls, the 'winner' has turned out to be the partisans of the 'NON' vote, rejecting the European Constitution which would have formed the basis of law for 450 million Europeans, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic to Russia.

Initial estimates have posted the results as 55% for the 'non' and 45% for the 'oui.' This is decisive, coupled with a national turnout estimated to be 70 percent of registered voters, both in France and in its overseas territories.

This is a bitter blow to all centrist leaders from right to left and is an electroshock for France's President, Jacques Chirac, who called for the vote in the first place. Tonight's vote comes as yet another in a string of electoral rejections of his presidency.

Aside from Spain which has already voted to accept the Constitution, there are eight other countries that have planned referendums. Holland, which has had a problem getting anyone interested in the campaign which winds up at the ballot boxes on Wednesday, will not be reassured by tonight's result in France.

Meanwhile there is gloom in the various headquarters of the mainstream parties here, while parties by opponents were already under way before the polls closed, with the Communists singing the Internationale.' A reporter stationed at the headquarters of the dissident Socialists said they were ready to 'faire la fete toute la nuit.'

Jacques Chirac, speaking from the Elysee Palace 30 minutes after polls closed said, "It's your decision," and went on to say that France will continue to respect its obligations vis-a-vis Europe. But in conclusion he added that the French can expect a 'nouvelle impulsion' from the government within a few days.

Leader of the president's party, the UMP, Nicolas Sarkozy, on television immediately afterwards, gave what sounded like a campaign speech, for president of France, as if 2007 isn't far off.

[Addition received Monday, May 30, 2005 ? 4:53 am Pacific Time]

What a hangover!

Not that it matters now, but Paris voted 66 percent for 'oui.' So did the Department Bas-Rhin, Strasbourg, and much of Brittany. Except for Reunion, all of the DOM-TOM areas gave a majority to the 'oui.' The rest of France and Corsica voted 'non.' Red for 'non,' all France is colored pink.

Much agitation around the Elysee and Matignon today. Liberation's headline - 'Le Jour le plus non'

There will be more in MetropoleParis?.
And here’s his visual (with cow) –

Now what?


Do visit Just Above Sunset for the other items - snowflakes and stem cells, compromise as defeat, nagging from Amnesty International, a smoking gun no one will notice, and a conservative jihad against the press - and that?s just current events. In columns from elsewhere, Bob Patterson is on the road back east - in what he calls ?Tensile Town? ? and in the non-political pages, everything you wanted to know about Michael Jackson and postmodernist theory, and a bit on Maltese and Greek pop music, along with the usual quotes about life and all that.

Photography? The real Memorial Day, and a visit to an internationally famous sculpture garden to shake up your ways of seeing things, or at least to amuse you, and the odd shot of the week. And there is special guest photography - Washington DC for this Memorial Day weekend.

Posted by Alan at 14:42 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 30 May 2005 08:36 PDT home

Saturday, 28 May 2005

Topic: Photos


Blogging will resume tomorrow. All efforts are now directed to assembling the latest issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log.

Here’s a squirrel to keep you company – just sitting in the palm tree outside the kitchen window.

Posted by Alan at 17:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 27 May 2005

Topic: The Media

Press Notes: Noting the Dispute

There’s not much more to say about the Newsweek business. They published an unfortunate item on the basis of an anonymous source. The source recanted. They retracted. All hell broke loose, and that was covered in these pages here last weekend. What they reported just might have happened, given that since then US investigators have found at least five instances in which guards and interrogators at Guantanamo Bay more than mishandled the Koran (full story here, and we then had “waves of protest across the Muslim world to denounce reports that American interrogators at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the Koran..." (full story here).

Underlying this was the repeated claim that there was an underlying problem. A bigger one. A real big one. That would be the conservative claims that the press was, on the whole, anti-military, and by extension anti-American, and by extension on the side of the enemy, and then by extension treasonous.

Dan Kennedy writing in the Boston Phoenix provides a round-up here - and if you remove the rant and get to the facts they are these -
… on Monday night … Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, and Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, squared off on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country. Jensen attempted to place Newsweek’s error in some context, noting that US forces are responsible for horrific abuses, including torture and homicide, at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.

Suddenly, Bozell started yipping like a dog that had finally managed to corner a wounded squirrel. "You cite me the evidence of American soldiers murdering people in prisons," he barked.

Jensen, clearly perplexed, replied, "The evidence is in the Army’s own reports." That wasn’t good enough for Bozell. "You’re accusing the American military of murder. If you don’t back it up, back off," he sneered. And so it went until the segment sputtered out.

… This blame-the-media meme spread quickly within conservative circles. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial claiming that Newsweek’s error was part of an anti-military mindset on the part of the media that goes back to the Vietnam War. "Where the press corps goes wrong is in always assuming the worst about military and government motives," the Journal opined. The day before, Paul Marshall wrote in National Review Online, "The shakily sourced May 9 Newsweek report that interrogators had desecrated a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is likely to do more damage to the U.S. than the Abu Ghraib prison scandals."

… Conservative bloggers … Glenn Reynolds, whose is perhaps the most influential right-leaning blog, linked to a rant by Dean Esmay charging that "the press is not on our side in the war.... You guys are enemy propagandists. It’s just who you are. It’s nice that you’ve at least stopped pretending." Another, the increasingly prominent religious-right blogger La Shawn Barber, pushed this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, writing, "Whether Americans flushed the Koran down the toilet is irrelevant. Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true. It’s common sense, people. Those journalists knew how Muslims would react! Why would you hurt your own country and risk more deaths just to report this ‘fact’? To what end???"

… On Scarborough Country and, earlier, on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes, Brent Bozell was quick to compare the Newsweek fiasco with CBS News’s mangled report last September on President Bush’s National Guard service in the early 1970s — a report based largely on records that appear to have been faked. That particular media scandal ended several CBS careers, including that of producer Mary Mapes, and hastened the retirement of anchor Dan Rather.

… WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin [said] that, a generation ago, men who’d made such a grievous mistake [like the Newsweek reporters did] would not only resign, but they might also have "blown their brains out."
You get the idea. One leader of the charge was Hugh Hewitt, who offered this remedy -
...the remedy is in scrutiny of every antimilitary/anti-Christian/anti-police story that appears. Many are necessary and accurate exercises in reporting, but many are not. For years those stories in the latter category went unrebuked.
So now it is time for rebuke, of those who question the military, and Jesus, and the police.

This from Sher Zieve is typical -
Now, Newsweek has published an article about our military men and women flushing the Muslim Quran (or portions thereof) down a toilet, in order to intimidate Islamic prisoners. However, the story was and is false! This time, however, the liberal MSM [mainstream media] went too far. Newsweek’s bogus story caused Islamic riots against the United States, which are still ongoing, in Afghanistan and may be spreading to other countries. Apparently, there is no depth too low to which the anti-American mainstream press won’t sink; as long as its “stories” are anti-Military and anti-Bush.
That’s a rebuke, or something like one.

Then there is Terry Moran at ABC.

Military-haters in the press
The American Thinker, May 20th, 2005
The recently allegation of the flushing the Koran down the toilet made by Newsweek was also a false report. It may be a tipping point in terms of media credibility and public perception. Hugh Hewitt interviewed Terry Moran of ABC News who was brave and honest enough to admit that the media did have an anti-military bias born of the Vietnam War. Moran stated, "There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it's very dangerous."

Moran has it right. This anti-military attitude dates to the Vietnam era.

Robert Kaplan has pointed out that the media's bias against the military might originate in an elitist class-based prejudice held by reporters . No less so than in academia, the mainstream media have been colonized by Vietnam-era alumni of the left.
Colonized? Cool.

The topic on Bill O?Reilly?s radio program Monday, May 23, 2005?
Today on The Radio Factor...

Hour 1: The Press & the Military

Is the press anti-military? We've told you for months that some in the left-wing press are out to paint our military in the worst light possible. Over the weekend, the New York Times was at it again, and has followed up with an editorial today condemning the military and the administration. The battle for the hearts and minds of Americans continues on the first hour of radio.
It was a tidal wave, capped by John Leo in the New York Daily News May 24, 2005 with this -
It's official. Conservatives no longer have a monopoly on complaints about a liberal media bias. In the wake of Newsweek's bungled report that U.S. military interrogators "flushed a Koran down a toilet," here is Terry Moran, ABC's White House reporter, in an interview with radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt: "There is, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media ..."

In all my years in journalism, I don't think I have met more than one or two reporters who have ever served in the military or who even had a friend in the armed forces. Most media hiring today is from universities, where a military career is regarded as bizarre and almost any exercise of American power is considered wrongheaded or evil.

Instead of trampling Newsweek - the magazine made a mistake and corrected it quickly and honestly - the focus ought to be on whether the news media are predisposed to make certain kinds of mistakes and, if so, what to do about it. The disdain that so many reporters have for the military (or for police, the FBI, conservative Christians, or right-to-lifers) frames the way errors and bogus stories tend to occur. The anti-military mentality makes atrocity stories easier to publish, even when they are untrue.

? In March, a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism said that in the past 17 years, Americans have "come to see the press as less professional, less moral, more inaccurate and less caring about the interests of the country." Another finding was that coverage of George Bush during the presidential campaign was three times as negative as coverage of John Kerry (36% to 12%).

If the press is that much out of sync with the country, its future looks very uncertain. Something has to change.
Something has to change? You know where this is heading.

The only surprise? Conservative war supporter John Cole with this -
... Follow the necessary logic to get to this laughable implication of treason. First, you must believe that the media is anti-military. Not just anti-military, but anti-American. Not just anti-American, but willing accomplices of the enemy, and thus, treasonous. Second, you must believe that defending the right of those treasonous media types to report freely is also treasonous. It is, at its worst, an argument of treason by insinuation, and its absurdity is matched only by its offensiveness ... I reject all of this.

The media is not, as an institution, anti-military. The media is, however, suspicious of the military establishment, and for good reasons. The Pentagon routinely lies to them. See Tillman, Pat. Or the Pentagon Papers. Or any hundreds of other similar events. At any rate, even if the press is suspicious of the military establishment, [this] is . . . confusing criticism of the Pentagon with criticism of the actual soldiers as well as the goals of the United States.

... So let's stop these generic attacks on the media.

? And while we are at it, can we conservatives please stop this laughable cult of victimology? We have the Presidency (for the second time in a row and the fifth time in the last seven elections). We control the Senate by a ten seat margin. We control the House by a larger margin. We have dismissed or dismantled virtually every institutional check in order to limit opposition debate and increase institutional control, regardless how short-sighted that might be. We are ramming through just about every judge we wanted, and are about to reload the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia at the helm.

We may be a lot of things, but persecuted victims we are not. To assert otherwise is to engage in a self-defeating flight of fancy that should be met with nothing short of outright ridicule.

... Even if we do buy into the absurd supposition that the media is overtly hostile towards conservatives, I contend that their criticism would still be vital. An outside appraisal would be a good thing, particularly when you consider the self-referential and oft-delusional nature of our own manufactured media organs (National Review, for example) and the rest of the echo chamber that the right-wing blogosphere appears to be becoming. We are wasting out energy attacking what, in my mind, has been, overall, a pretty friendly media establishment as of late. And just for fun, you might ask Move-On or Media Matters how liberal they think the media is. The answer might surprise you. So, some perspective, please.
Let?s see? criticism is vital. Outside appraisals are useful. Sometimes it is reasonable not to trust sources who have repeatedly lied to you, and lied to us all.

It seem unlikely, in the extreme, that Bill O?Reilly or Hugh Hewitt will ask John Cole to appears as a guest on either radio show, or on O?Reilly?s Fox News television show. He?s no fun. In these pages see this from July 18, 2004 - The Importance of Martyrdom to the Conservative Movement. It is important to them. Cole is dangerous.

Also see this from Garrison Keillor: ?We?re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore: How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich?s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk??
Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned?and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today?s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor. ?
It seems some of the old Republicans are still around are still around. Good thing.

Posted by Alan at 22:04 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 27 May 2005 22:15 PDT home

Topic: Science

Snowflakes in DC in May – or Just Flakes

Last weekend in the pages we noted that scientists in South Korea come up with a medical breakthrough involving stem cells. The medical community cheered. The president said this was awful. Congress considered moving to loosen the rules on the medical use of stem cells, and the president, who as governor of Texas broke the record for approving executions, without paying much attention to the cases he had to review, said he would veto any such legislation. All life is sacred. And now, in his fifth year in office, this would be his very first veto – if he doesn’t veto the highway bill first.

Well things came to a head, just after the filibuster compromise. And his own party got uppity.

The basic story from Joanne Kenen at Reuters, Tuesday, 24 May –
Despite a veto threat from President Bush, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday easily approved bipartisan legislation that would permit more federal funding of stem cell research on human embryos that would otherwise be discarded.

The House also approved by a 431-1 vote less controversial legislation that would expand research involving cells drawn from umbilical cord blood.

The embryonic stem cell bill, sponsored by Delaware Republican Rep. Michael Castle and Colorado Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette, would allow federal funding of stem cell research involving excess embryos from in vitro fertilization that would otherwise be discarded. It would not allow cloning a human baby.

The bill passed with a comfortable 238-194 margin, but was well short of the two-thirds threshold needed to override Bush's threatened veto.

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research believe it destroys human life and object to using taxpayer dollars to finance it. They also charge that the promise of the research has been hyped.
Reuters also quotes House Majority Leader Tom DeLay – the former exterminator from Texas - "The deliberate destruction of unique living self-integrated human persons is not some incidental tangent of embryonic stem cell research. It is the essence of the experiment -- kill some in the hopes of saving others."

I think a problem may arise with his definition – that discarded, unfertilized embryos are unique living self-integrated human persons – but the bar for what could be considered a Christian evangelical Republican may be low.

The real problem Reuters notes -
… several conservative Republicans, who usually oppose abortion rights legislation, broke with their party leaders and the anti-abortion movement to support research, saying it held out hope for treating devastating diseases, like Parkinson's or diabetes.

Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in 21 years in Congress, he had voted only once against the anti-abortion movement. Announcing his support for the Castle-DeGette bill, Barton said his record would now be "100 percent minus two."

Missouri Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson described a similar struggle to reconcile her religious faith and the promise of technology. "I'm following my heart on this," said Emerson, who voiced regret for her past opposition to stem cell research.
This is going to get hot. It seems that just after the vote three Democratic and three Republican senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asking for swift Senate action on the legislation. Their point? "The American people want this."

Bush says he’ll veto this and the White house issued a statement that the legislation "relies on unsupported scientific assertions to promote morally troubling and socially controversial research."

Yep, these guys know their science. Ask them about global warming. No proof. Ask them about evolution. The jury is still out.

But what to do if the American people want this? Tug on the heartstrings, as you see in this from the Knight-Ridder wire -
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas called stem-cell research "a scientific exploration into the potential benefits of killing human beings."

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, an obstetrician, played a recording of fetal heartbeat, and declared, "This is what it's all about."

Bush made it clear he shared that view, meeting Tuesday with a group of "snowflake babies," children born from embryos left over from fertility treatments. "The children here today remind us that there is no such thing as a spare embryo," he said.
Over at The Nation this is noted in their section they call "Outrageous Outtakes" -
Republicans have invented a new strategy for discounting science: snowflake babies. First, Republicans opposed to the bipartisan stem-cell research bill, which passed the House on Thursday, arranged a press conference with families that have adopted frozen excess embryos, featuring 21 of the 81 snowflake babies. Then, in the afternoon, President Bush appeared at the Rose Garden for a photo op with the snowflake babies as part of a press conference on bioethics. (Click here, here and here for the pictures.) And, finally, the biggest baby lover of them all, Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, spoke on the House floor behind a poster of--what else--enlarged photos of snowflake babies.
Pictures of babies always work to sway an argument. Who doesn?t like babies?

And if that doesn?t work, well, there is the prospect of a filibuster! No ? wait! Those are unconstitutional and thwart the will of the majority and the people! That what they said. But the Republicans have no sense of irony. Pro-life Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican and a possible presidential contender, has confirmed he will filibuster the Castle/DeGette bill the House approved Monday.

This just gets better. Sponsors of the Senate version of the bill say they have 58 votes to approve the measure. They need 60 to stop a filibuster.

But is Bush just being reasonable? He says this legislation would violate his 2001 policy ? and that allowed federal funding for stem cell research but limited it to 78 stem cell lines that existed as of Aug. 9, 2001. Unluckily only twenty of these lines turned out to be useful for basic research. The others cannot be used in people because they were contaminated with mouse feeder cells. Oh well. One has to make do.

No is buying that these twenty lines are enough. No one is buying much of the whole snowflake argument.

Jesse Taylor here -
Bush's position is tremendously unpopular, although that's not new for him. The Wall Street Journal openly admits that Bush's line in the sand is not only arbitrary, but rests on a tenuous principle - a minority of Americans should not have their tax dollars used to finance research they consider objectionable. This, of course, makes perfect sense in light of the fact that Bush is the chief promoter of abstinence-only education, which millions more Americans find objectionable, as well as factually and morally wrong in its patent dishonesty. A plurality of Americans is being forced to support education and research in our schools that they in no way support, because Bush has the "courage" of his "convictions".

Let Bush veto a bill that nearly 60% of the American public supports. I'd love to see it, if for no other reason than that he's both deeply unpopular and resting his objection on the intensely nonsensical idea that it's okay to use baby corpses if they were already killed before he got there. There's absolutely no reason to compromise on good science to save the political fortunes of a lame duck president.
Yep, the Wall Street Journal flat out says they "don't see any great moral difference from doing time-limited research on unused embryos created for in-vitro fertilization, as opposed to letting those in-vitro embryos be destroyed."

On Thursday the Los Angeles Times says the obvious -
Photographs in Wednesday's papers of President Bush with cuddly little babies, all of whom were produced from surplus fertilized eggs at fertility clinics, represent a White House attempt to deal with the biggest flaw in logic regarding its stem cell policy ? and its moral weak point. This is the fact that fertility clinics routinely create many test-tube embryos for every human baby that is wanted or is produced.

Here is what happens to those embryos: Some are destroyed because a microscopic examination indicates that they are defective or abnormal. Some of the rest are implanted. But generally, there are some left over. These may be discarded, or frozen for future attempts, or frozen indefinitely; it's up to the customers.

A small fraction of couples choose to donate their unneeded embryos to other infertile couples. Several are implanted in each prospective mother, sometimes producing multiple births. Sometimes they produce one. Frequently, they produce none at all. And about 20% die before they reach full term. The entire process therefore unavoidably involves the creation and knowing destruction of many embryos.

This leads to two conclusions. First, Bush's policy is illogical; he not only tolerates in vitro fertilization ? the president celebrates it (correctly) as bringing happiness to many. It is a "pro-family" policy that unavoidably involves creating and destroying embryos.

Second, encouraging the donation of frozen embryos to prospective parents, even under the most optimistic scenario, would put only a small dent in the supply. According to a 2003 study, there are almost half a million frozen human embryos in storage in the United States. The vast majority of them ? 87% ? were frozen in case the parents might need them, but the vast majority of that vast majority will never be needed or used. An embryo-adoption drive wouldn't save the embryos that die in other stages of the process. And ironically, the recipients of donated fertilized eggs also generally have several implanted in the hope that one will survive. In effect, donation results in the deaths of embryos that would otherwise stay frozen.

? The president is threatening to veto this bill. If he does, these embryos will either be destroyed or frozen forever. They will not develop into cuddly babies. Therefore a veto wouldn't actually save a single embryo. His threat is purely symbolic.

If you really believe that embryos are full human beings, this doesn't matter. But if you think the issue is uncertain or ambiguous at all, it's a powerful argument to say: It's not a choice between a human life and an embryo's life. It's a choice between real human lives and a symbolic statement about the value of an embryo. And it's a statement belied by the reality of in vitro fertilization and how it works.
Well, these guys really do believe embryos are full human beings ? DeLay says so. And they love symbolic statements. That?s where the votes are.

Curiously, you don't see anti-choice men hanging out at fertility clinics to harass the women there, do you? (See that at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time with Norbizness.) And someone ? not sure who ? proposed a thought experiment. Imagine you are in a burning fertility clinic. You have seconds to get out. Your mother lies unconscious on the floor. On a nearby tabletop is a container of thousands of unfertilized embryos scheduled for disposal. Save the one human ? you mother ? or the thousands of humans? Think fast. You?d let thousands die? Yeah, right. What if they were fertilized and scheduled for disposal? Same choice?

Jesse Taylor again here -
An in vitro clinic generally deals with the embryo from stage one to the beginning of stage four. Stage four cannot complete itself unless doctors place the embryo in the womb, and if stage four does not finish, that's about as far as an embryo can get. It cannot reproduce, it cannot grow, it cannot really respond to any stimuli except implantation.

This, of course, leads Tom Delay, who received his medical degree from the back of Bill Frist's minivan, to declare that that embryos in this early stage four state are human beings. The Washington Post has the exactly correct response, but this led me to start thinking about all the ways in which we "imperil" embryos in fertility clinics.

One of the major reasons a woman will undergo invitro fertilization is that, for whatever reason, her body either rejects the implantation of embryos or she has miscarriages - in other words, her body is functioning improperly and creating an environment hostile to the production of an actual viable child. In vitro fertilization implants embryos (which are full-fledged human beings) into environments such as these, which often have a greater than 50% chance of destroying the embryo before it even implants properly, not to mention the chances for miscarriage before the embryo develops into a viable fetus. Long story short, families and doctors make a routine practice of imperiling the lives of thousands of "full fledged human beings".

It would be more "humane", in Tom Delay's world, to harvest these embryos and never implant them - the risk involved in pregnancy is virtually genocidal... and they're already alive, right?

Pregnancy is the greatest threat to humanity since the Flood. Sorry, ladies.
Jesse has it right. By the logic of Bush-Frist-DeLay you, these clinics and the doctors ? and woman in general ? are committing genocide. All the time. Yipes. This Taylor woman from Dayton, Ohio has their number.

It?s all spin.

This letter isn?t. It is from a woman who adopted one of those frozen embryos from a fertility clinic. A snowflake mom. And someone who says this administration "makes it a point of pride to display its disdain for both science and metaphysics more complex than a first grade Sunday school primer."

Just a sample -
First, 'conception', 'life' and 'living distinct beings' are not the same thing as 'fertilization', no matter how much it serves one's purposes to make it so. Fertilization and the creation of blastocysts is an unremarkable event that takes place daily. If that embryo doesn't implant, there is no conception, no life, no pregnancy. Every day millions of women have 'embryos' floating around in their uteri, flush them during menses and nobody bats an eye. These embryos that have not implanted and sunk a vein and begun the process of advancement are not, even by the most conservative of standards, life. Nobody posits funerals or mourns for the millions of these that are, with no awareness, flushed every day. Give a woman as many pregnancy tests with an embryo inside her that has not implanted as many times as you like?there will be no positive result, pee on as many EPT sticks as you like, no plus sign. This is why after an IVF transfer (the two week wait) people so anxiously wait?they are hoping?desperately?that they have CONCEIVED. It hasn't happened yet.

That embryo may or may not implant and create a conception, a pregnancy, but one thing is for certain?those women who get their period without ever knowing there was a fertilized egg that failed to implant are not flushing 'living distinct human beings.' There is the potential for a conception?nothing more. So, ladies?suck it up and deal?Bush and DeLay need you to stop menstruating post haste?just cross your legs and get thee to a an OB-GYN every 28 days. You see, we need to blood test you and ultrasound the hell out of your uterus in case you absent mindedly were about to flush a 'living distinct human being', because we're all about a 'culture of life'?just not yours. You're an incubator. We need to stem the flow of blood in this culture of death, and apparently that means your menstrual flow.

Secondly, these frozen embryos are so incredibly valuable to the administration that they cannot be used for embryonic stem cell research? because they need to be? THROWN OUT! What they fail to understand is that the disposition of these embryos, like banked chord blood or donated blood or tissue donation, lies with the donor. When you participate in an IVF cycle you sing a form that determines what happens to any leftover fertilized eggs. The choices are cryogenic preservation for: adoption, stem cell research, later transfer to the originating parent, medical research or destruction. DeLay, Bush and his cohorts are saving nothing. It's not as though these embryos in cryogenic willed for research are know suddenly going to be adopted or implanted. They won't?our 'culture of life' perversely demands that they be thrown into the garbage?that's how precious they are, and that's how much we value them. We must destroy life, according to the administration, to AVOID preserving life! Go back and re-read that sentence. ?
Read the whole letter.

This is madness, or pandering to the all-life-is-sacred pro-death-penalty torture-is-necessary evangelical voters these guys depend on to keep them in power. Or worst case ? they really believe what they say and have no clue about biology or ethics, or logic - just deep, blind faith. Take your choice.

Footnote: For information on what the South Korean breakthrough was all about, see this illustrated primer - unless your faith forbids it.

Posted by Alan at 19:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 27 May 2005 19:17 PDT home

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