You know, between things like looking the other way in regards to education (I'm
thinking Kansas) - and throwing his support toward vile "follow my conscience" pharmacist scumbags who let their personal morals determine what life saving medicines a doctor can prescribe to his/her
patients, its pretty damn hard to support the idea of our president
as anything that smacks of intelligent. Superstitious? Or sure. I'd
believe that. Determined, honest, steadfast? I'm willing to swallow
all of that. But intelligent? Nahh, I can't buy it.
That doesn't mean he's stupid, just not intelligent - at least in any demonstrable way he's chose to reveal.
Oh well, some of our best presidents have been articulate but simple folk - Abraham Lincoln
Or spoiled and happy freewheelers - John F. Kennedy
Or both - Ronald Reagan
But while I question Bush's intelligence, at the same time, I also question his
many detractors who pretend to be smarter than him when, in fact, they haven't got a single freaking clue as to what they're talking about.
To be accurate: There is no ban on Stem Cell research in the United States of America.
And what's more, Bush isn't pushing for a ban on stem cell research. And to be further specific: Bush isn't pushing for laws or regulations banning embryonic stem cell research. He is only banning federal funding to embryonic stem cell research outside of the 21 lines already in existence (we already have them, why not use them?) and he can only do that with the consent of the Senate and the House of Representatives. In fact, Bush allowed government funding of embryonic stem cell research. Clinton refused to do it. Clinton had "ethical and moral" questions on the subject and flat out said no. What's more, he signed it into law. ^
(How did Bush get around the law? The 21 embryonic stem cell lines existed before the law was enacted. The law said no more embryonic stem cells can be harvested using federal funds. Bush didn't push to change the law. ~)
And yet, political commentators and cartoonists are saying something entirely different. Are they knowingly lying, or not bothering to read the news?
It's important to know who these people are, if I'm going to talk about this subject.
So to be frank, I'd like to mention some of their names right now.
Vic Harville, Arkansas News Bureau
John Deering, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (what the hell is it with Arkansas?)
Mike Lane, of the Baltimore Sun
Kevin Kallaugher, The Baltimore Sun (what the hell is it with the Baltimore Sun?)
Jeff Stahler, of the The Columbus Dispatch
Gary Markstein, Copley News Service
Keefe, and here,
and here, of the Denver Post (three times at least. I'm starting to think that this guy may be truly ignorant of current events)
Payne, The Detroit News
E. Cohen, Freelance political cartoonist (he actually refers to his work as SmartArt! HA! email this "smart
artist" at email@example.com)
Danziger, Los Angeles Times
Sack, and here,
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Another three timer. It can't be ignorance. I'm sure these folks just don't have enough room
to write "Embryonic")
J. D. Crowe, The Mobile Register
Drew Sheneman, The Newark Star Ledger
Johanson, Norra Vasterbotten
Don Wright, The Palm Beach Post
Tim Menees, Pittsburgh, PA
Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News
Steve Breen, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Streeter, The Savannah Morning News
Karminitski, Sega (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Schorr, United Media
and of course, the consistent "last horse out of the gate", who doesn't draw anything until he is absolutely sure that his peers are solid in their position before he adopts it:
Paul Conrad, The Los Angeles Times (and here).
Paul frequently gets around to drawing his "biting social commentary" up to three years after it stopped being news.
All of these folks, who are actually paid for their "political savvy", still don't understand that president George Bush is NOT against stem cell research and is NOT making any regulations, laws, withholding government money, or anything else. To the contrary, he
is all for it. Bush is specifically against harvesting EMBRYONIC stem cells. Which is a small percentage of stem cell research and the only one which has yet to show any use. Oh
it offers LOTS of potential! LOADS of promise - no use yet.
"But isn't there a limit to how many ways you can use other forms of stem cells?"
That's the hypothesis, although research continues to open up new vistas.
In fact, the limit hasn't been reached.
"But don't embryonic
stem cells have more flexibility?"
That's the idea, though 45+ years of research has yet to be fruitful.
Of course, Most folks only count back to 1985. That's when the ball on all sorts
of Stem Cell research really got rolling. So to read the pro embryonic
stem cells supporters say it, "After 20 years we still haven't demonstrated that embryonic stem cells can
actually DO anything yet, but by golly ... uh! But! ... uh! EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS!!! THEY WILL SAVE US!!! MTV sez they are the shiznit!"
And, so far, utterly useless.
Now before I get into stem cell research, understand that, like Bush, the political cartoonists mentioned above aren't stupid, just uninformed or ignorant. I laugh
at their ignorance but that's only because they are cartoonists. Of course, for some of them to keep writing about it like they actually KNOW what they are talking about (Steve Sack, Mike Keefe), could be considered stupid, or at least willfully
Naturally, they could defend themselves like Michael Moore with a disingenuous rolling of the shoulders and a smirking "Hey, hey, man! It's just comedy! How can comedy be wrong?"
But here are the facts -
There are two types of stem cells. Embryonic and Adult. Adult includes stem cells taken from a fetus. To be an embryonic stem cell, it has to be an embryo. But within the Adult stem cell types there are many sub categories or forms. Many forms of Stem
Cells are demonstrating real world uses right now, and have done so for years. Stem cells culled from bone marrow, skin, human umbilical cord, and so on. In fact, stem cells show the greatest amount of success (so far) when they come directly from the person who needs them. And while a doctor can retrieve up to
millions of your stem
cells from your marrow, and other areas of your body*, or possibly
millions from the placenta or umbilical cord of a newborn baby (aka human stem cells as opposed to those damn mouse cells) the same cannot be said for embryonic stem cells. To retrieve a million different human embryo stem cells, you'd need, well, one million different human embryos from one million different women in any given month!+ Unless you were going to try and harvest both of a woman's embryos at the same time, thereby setting her hormones and metabolism out of whack. You see, women actually have to have their monthly period and that requires at least one embryo.
So you need to either
A: get one million cells from one million women - one hell of a daunting task
B: Get x amount of cells and then wait - for a month - to get another one.
When yer talking about one million embryonic stem cells, time becomes a factor.
Wait! A week old embryo has about 100 cells. It's called a Blastocyst and that's where they get more than one cell!
That's correct. But scientists can only retrieve the undifferentiated inner blastocyst cells - anywhere from two to 10 tops. The rest of the blastocyst, the embryo, is destroyed in the process. The cells that were retrieved have to be inspected one by one to make sure they are healthy. This further lowers the expectation of finding enough cells (you need more than a single one to create a stem cell "line"). It is common to have all of the cells thrown away and start fresh with another embryo. So we're still talking removing a woman's much needed embryo.
So how successful could you be if we actually put such an infrastructure in place?
Well, we did back in 2004.
How successful was it? Because of all the ballyhoo, Senator Arlen Spector (Republican - Vermont) and Senator Tom
Harkin (Democrat - Iowa) set up an Embryo Adoption Program in 2004. As of July, 2005, they've adopted 100 embryos.
That's 100 women.
100 embryonic stem cells a year.
And do you know what all is involved in getting that single embryo from the woman?
Its not comfortable.
Let me put it another way for the guys: Imagine the scientist wanting to remove some of your sperm via a needle inserted directly through to your testicle.
You know, for a research path that, after 45+ years, has yet to show any success,
that seems a tad impractical. Now put a price tag on that. 100 precious
embryonic stem cells voluntarily given up for "adoption".
We're going to have to start paying women for their embryos. And they
need to be VERY healthy women too. Could you afford that? Who could
afford that? Who is this embryonic stem cell fight really for? Who would
it really benefit? Can you really see all the poverty stricken children
in wheelchairs that many of these cartoonists like to flaunt, having
the financial resources to pay for even one hundred embryonic stem cells? Because for any stem cell treatment to work, it takes tens of thousands of stem cells.
When stem cell research began, it was a relatively even playing field. Politicians and investors didn't really understand stem cells or the difference
from one to the other (like many news publishers, editors, reporters, protesters, and political cartoonists today),
and so threw their support behind everything.
Then, in the 1990s, there was the idea that you could extend the human
stem cell lines by mixing in non-human stem cells (mouse for example) in with human ones and get the same results. Right?
Hey, they're just a bunch of raw undifferentiated stem cells and we
can tease them until they give up and become whatever kind of cell we
No problem: science is all about experimenting, observing, and learning. And even
though a significant amount (possibly all) of the limited embryonic stem cell lines were contaminated in this way,
Bush only wants to allow those original embryonic stem cell lines to
be studied - for those who want that federal research money. Oh well.
The light bulb wasn't created in a day. The latest theory (though
not such a popular one) is that embryonic stem cells show the
most potential for promise, because they are so undifferentiated that
you can turn them into everything (except
for that new house you wanted)! Yet, despite years of research,
other forms of stem cells have moved ahead in real world applications,
having an actual success rate in actual people (instead of theoretical computer modeling), whereas embryonic stem cells
keep degrading into cancer or just becoming useless. One idea is that
embryonic stem cells are just too young - too undifferentiated - to
be of much use at all.
But that's just a theory as they say. No wait - its not even a theory, its just
an idea. An idea that has not been bolstered once by decades of research.
Now this circumstance hasn't come about because Bush won't allow government money
to go to embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research
still exists in the United States (you find that surprising?) thanks to various investment firms. Most of those
investment firms are giving up, however, due to years of failure on
the part of researchers to produce results. The state of California proved that even state governments can fund embryonic stem cell research
without a problem from the federal government, and other countries have labs participating in embryonic stem cell research with government money. There is a thinly veiled arrogance currently circulating among the pro-embryonic
stem cell folks in the U.S. Hints of a scientist or research from another
country being inferior to the same trained or conducted at some local
American state U. like the University of Arizona. So there has always
been, and continues to be, embryonic stem cell research. There has just been no payoff. Zero success.
Payoff is important to everyone including an investor. Success is particularly important to people who need life saving measures. But not to politicians who will study a problem for years and be no closer to any understanding of it than when they started.
Now you might think that, if only the federal government got behind it with
the might of US tax dollars, then we'd REALLY see the promise of embryonic stem cells.
Like the hundreds of billions of federal dollars poured into finding a cure for
AIDS in the last 20 years. Yeah, that has been a big success. Or like all the government
grip controlled success of agencies like NASA. Or the Right On Top Of
It competence of the CIA. Or the EPA ... er ... well how about the FDA?
Um ... er ... INS anyone?
Before we leave the AIDS analogy, let's think about that for a moment. Let's
say that our government bureaus that handle the funding of AIDS research
were presented with, say, 16 different research teams who were working
on a cure or treatment for AIDS. Let's assume that 15 of those 16 were
showing real world promise. Real people were being helped right now
from the fruits of that research. There is only so much money. Let's
say that the 16th team had no success at all, but they were very enthusiastic.
They were certain their research would get somewhere. Lets further
say that you personally found their methods unsavory. But while the
15 most successful research teams were vigorously pursuing their science,
the 16th one, with no success, had members who busied themselves making
speeches, organizing protests, scaring the sick and desperate, and blurring
the line between their failures and the success of other AIDS researchers
by trying to cover themselves under the single blanket of "AIDS
So you distribute the money and choose to go with 10 of the 16 who have had
the most success: The "best risk" scenario. There is only
so much money and you can only dilute it so far. People's lives are
at risk here, after all!
Would the media cheer for your allocating money to the best of the best in their field?
Hell no! What you'd get is what George Bush Jr. is getting right now.
Now getting back to the point. How important is federal money anyway? Well lets
look at private enterprise. Look at what Burt Rutan's team did with spaceshipone and about $20 million dollars. That kind of money would fund a low budget
movie in Hollywood - not including advertising or distribution.
"Now wait a minute, Eddie." You might say. "You just argued for
and against private enterprise - or businesses, becoming involved in
embryonic stem cell research."
No, I'm creating potential scenarios. And in every scenario I'm presenting,
there are two overriding factors based on past and present history.
1. Lack of government funding in no way limits research
2. Government funding in no way insures success.
Now allow me a tangent to demonstrate historical perspective: Think about it,
if the limits of government control had been relaxed enough to the point
where various corporations could have participated in the 1960s so-called
"space race" apart from NASA (which was the only game until the new millennium and the Ansari Xprize), do you think we could have been to Mars by now,
or only trying to get a 4 person space station to orbit the earth? In
the 1970s we had people walking on the moon. Our biggest thrill today
is pretty pictures of Saturn's rings. Thank you government funding!
So let me add a third point.
3. Government funding, and its added bureaucracy, often hinders the
success of any endeavor.
Why? Because research takes years, but the leadership of government oversight committees
(local, state, or fed, take your pick) can change every two years, sometimes less. And more to the point, oversight
committees rarely understand the research they are overseeing. They've
no clue! But they keep spending money, turning into bloated federal programs that are more about their existence than the reason for it. And all of these committees are sponsored by politicians and politicians want to get elected every two, to four, to six years and so they want their bureaus to show success or they might lose the next election! Recall the repetitive ignorance of US senators and the federal judiciary over legislating computer software, hardware, operating systems, patents and copyrights. It was impossible for nearly anyone to get through their very thick skulls!
So this is no small point. Federal government funding isn't going to save embryonic
stem cell research and lack of federal government funding isn't going
to hinder it. Most likely, the loudest braying comes from a handful
of senators who view embryonic stem cell research and its Fed funding
as a succulent pork barrel feast for themselves and some of the folks
back home. So saying Bush is against Stem
Cell research would be like someone saying I'm against Dentistry because I don't believe you should pack mercury into people's mouths (mercury is a key ingredient of most "silver" dental fillings AKA amalgam). That would be foolish, no?
So why are they saying this when it isn't true? I dunno. I could guess and
say that far too many newspapers run misleading headlines and these specific cartoonists only read the headlines and never the story in their own and other papers. In short, most of the people writing about this are ignorant and uneducated on the subject and don't care. Either that or they know they are lying but think YOU are stupid enough to believe them.
Some political cartoonists, do get it, do understand it, and have the intelligence to pass their knowledge on to their audience. They are:
Chip Bok, The Akron Beacon-Journal
Matt Davies, The Journal News
Monte Wolverton, Mad Magazine
Dwane Powell, Raleigh News & Observer
Steve Greenberg, The Ventura County Star
So what are we to make of this intentional blurring and slurring of the facts?
Speaking as an atheist, who would like to think of himself as being apart from
both sides of the argument: I suspect that the real issue here, which
also presents itself time after time in various news stories and these
cartoons, is that these folks are REALLY despising George Bush's
stance on embryonic stem cell research because
1. He gave it fovernment funding after President Bill Clinton wouldn't and
2. developing further lines of embryonic stem cells - which Clinton also wouldn't do - conflicts with his values, which are based on his religion.
If that's the true nature of this stance. Fine. If that's how they feel then they SHOULD be against G. Bush on this matter.
And Bill Clinton
And Mahatma Gandhi
And Albert Schweitzer
And Albert Einstein
And Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
And Malcolm X
And Sister Mother Theresa
And Pope John Paul II (whose views matched that of both Bush and Reagan) all of whom pushed their beliefs forward by
the engine of their religion.
Now just because something hasn't worked so far, doesn't mean it won't. Research is largely trial and error. And a little bit of luck - though that luck favors the educated. Embryonic Stem Cell research may, in fact, turn
out to have all the glory the hyperbole has promised. Despite all of
the setbacks and dead-ends, it just might surprise us all. At least
all of us who are looking at the subject critically. Many in the media
aren't turning a critical eye towards the issue of embryonic research, it's all an Us vs. Them issue.
And of course, there are those loud fringe types, sucking up press,
who think that the things will open doorways to other worlds. But I
won't be clipping my 'nads for a $5 buck ride to those worlds any time soon.
So if you are going to argue that,
"Embryonic Stem Cell research will be able to do more for people than all other forms of stem cells, if we just research it enough."
Then you're contradicting yourself in one sentence. If "more research"
will pull a rabbit out of the hat, then you cannot be intellectually
honest by saying that more research in other forms of Stem Cells won't.
There's no such thing as "faith-based" science.
And closer to home for this website: as writers, there are already those with a
vague (or zero) understanding of stem cell
research, who are already starting to write dystopian horrors on the
subject. Seriously, when you write about something real, know what the
hell you are talking about.
To repeat something that I've said here many times before: If you are going to
have a freaking opinion, can it AT LEAST be an INFORMED opinion? Damn!
^ In fact, Clinton signed a bill into law that was created by, of all people, Representative Jay W. Dickey, Jr. (R - AK). During his time in office in the 1990s, Dickey became something of a famous fool. He was quoted as saying things like there were no homosexuals in his district, and when SPY magazine asked him about "ethnic cleansing in Freedonia", he up and blamed the President for it. It was this clown who introduced the Dickey-Wicket bill! And Clinton signed it into law! E-GAD!
Freedonia is a mythical country in the Marx Bros. movie, DUCK SOUP.
An FYI. The executive order from President Obama made March 9, 2009, does not override the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, as no executive order can. An Executive Order can only amend or rescind another Executive Order. Dickey-Wicker is a law and has to be rescinded by law.
All President Obama's executive order does
is tickle the easily impressed, but otherwise ignorant folks, who don't know any better. Like Bush, Obama still hasn't pushed to change the law. Not even as of January 2010. You'll notice how, like Bill Clinton before him, HE isn't catching any hell for this either.