Mar 10 2009

Killing tiny humans for profit and career advancement

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:41 pm

Obama’s Embryo Destruction Extremism: Time for Obama’s Pro-Life Supporters to Face the Facts | Moral Accountability

Amidst the fawning press coverage of President Obama’s overturning of the Bush stem cell funding policy, it is important to understand a few basic facts about what he has and has not done.

First, the stories about this decision suggest Obama has restored federal policy to what it was before George W. Bush’s 2001 stem cell policy announcement. This is simply not true. The federal government has in fact never before-even under President Clinton-used taxpayer dollars to encourage the destruction of human embryos, as it will now begin to do. Obama’s decision is an unprecedented break with the longstanding federal policy of neutrality toward embryo research. Before 2001, not one dollar had ever been spent to support embryonic stem cell research, and when George W. Bush provided funds for the first time, he did so in a way that made sure tax dollars did not create an incentive for the ongoing destruction of human embryos. President Obama’s new policy will do precisely that: it will tell researchers that if they destroy a human embryo, they will become eligible for federal dollars to use in studying its cells; establishing an obvious and unprecedented incentive. And the president has not established any moral constraints whatsoever on funding: he has instructed the NIH to create the rules, so it’s safe to expect that they will permit not only the use of embryos “left over” after IVF, but also those created solely to be destroyed for research, including those created by cloning. This is well beyond what even most advocates of overturning the Bush policy have tended to argue for in public.

Second, the coverage suggests the Bush policy was a ban on embryonic stem cell research. In fact, again, the Bush policy provided federal funds for the first time, and it placed no limits on the conduct of embryo research with private sector dollars, except in requiring that those funds not be mixed with federal money. President Bush made clear that he believed embryo research was unethical, but his powers to act to constrain it were limited, and the policy he pursued sought to establish clear bounds for the use of taxpayer funds while at the same time encouraging the development of alternatives to the destruction of embryos. He believed-rightly, as it turned out-that if policymakers carved out the proper channels for this research, it could be directed away from unethical practices

And this brings us to the third missing piece of the stem cell story: the emergence of alternatives to the destruction of human embryos. In the early days of the stem cell debate, the hope that such alternatives might be found had been expressed by people on both sides of the argument. In 1999, President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission issued a report supporting federal funding of embryo-destructive research on the grounds that, as they put it, “in our judgment, the derivation of stem cells from embryos remaining following infertility treatments is justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research.” At the time, no such alternatives seemed apparent, and even when Bush announced his policy in 2001 the possibility of such alternatives was largely speculative. But in the last few years, researchers have made groundbreaking advances in the development of pluripotent cells (that is, cells with the ability to be transformed into the various cell types of the body and to proliferate, like embryonic stem cells) without the need to use or destroy human embryos. Such techniques are beginning to dominate stem cell science, and they avoid entirely the moral, and therefore the political, controversy inherent in the taking of nascent human life for research. They offer a path to genetically matched embryonic-like cells without the shadow of ethical abuse. It seems increasingly clear, therefore, that embryo destruction is not the only, or best, path to exploring the promise of pluripotent stem cells.

Fourth, it’s crucial to understand that whatever their source, the promise of pluripotent stem cells remains quite speculative and uncertain. Indeed, it now increasingly seems like the real holy grail for the treatment of degenerative diseases may be the employment of small molecules to transform cells from one type to another within the body of a patient: a different model of treatment altogether from the cell therapies that stem cell science was once expected to produce, though one that has emerged from the study of embryonic stem cells. No one knows which, if any, of these avenues will provide treatments and cures. What we do know, however, is that cells derived through the destruction of embryos left over after fertility treatment-the cells that President Obama’s executive order addresses-are far less useful, far less necessary, and far less appealing to researchers than they seemed eight years ago when the controversy surrounding federal stem cell funding policy began in earnest.

The president’s decision to take the unprecedented step of encouraging the destruction of human embryos with taxpayer dollars every day seems more removed from the scientific and ethical realities of the debate, and from the aspiration that underlay the policy he has chosen to end: that science and ethics might both be championed together, rather than set against one another.

Mar 10 2009


Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:13 pm

Laughing at the Contradictions of Socialism in America

The six dialectical contradictions of socialism in the USSR:

* There is full employment, yet no one is working.
* No one is working, yet the factory quotas are fulfilled.
* The factory quotas are fulfilled, yet the stores have nothing to sell.
* The stores have nothing to sell, yet people got all the stuff at home.
* People got all the stuff at home, yet everyone is complaining.
* Everyone is complaining, yet the voting is always unanimous.

It reads like a poem, only instead of the rhythm of syllables and rhyming sounds, it’s the rhythm of logic and rhyming meanings. If I could replicate it, I might start a whole new genre of “contradictory six-liners.” It would be extremely difficult to keep it real and funny at the same time, but I’ll try anyway.

Dialectical contradictions are one of the pillars in Marxist philosophy, which states that contradictions eventually lead to a unity of opposites as the result of a struggle. This gave a convenient “scientific” excuse for the existence of contradictions in a socialist society, where opposites were nice and agreeable, unlike the wild and crazy opposites of capitalism that could never be reconciled. Hence the joke.

Then I moved to America, where wild and crazy opposites of capitalism were supposedly at their worst. Until recently, however, the only contradictions that struck me as irreconcilable were these:

Economic justice:

* America is capitalist and greedy, yet half of the population is subsidized.
* Half of the population is subsidized, yet they think they are victims.
* They think they are victims, yet their representatives run the government.
* Their representatives run the government, yet the poor keep getting poorer.
* The poor keep getting poorer, yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.
* They have things that people in other countries only dream about, yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

Hollywood cliches:

* Without capitalism there’d be no Hollywood, yet filmmakers hate capitalism.
* Filmmakers hate capitalism, yet they sue for unauthorized copying of their movies.
* They sue for unauthorized copying, yet on screen they teach us to share.
* On screen they teach us to share, yet they keep their millions to themselves.
* They keep their millions to themselves, yet they revel in stories of American misery and depravity.
* They revel in stories of American misery and depravity, yet they blame the resulting anti-American sentiment on conservatism.
* They blame the anti-American sentiment on conservatism, yet conservatism ensures the continuation of a system that makes Hollywood possible.

More at the link. A useful intellectual exercise: see if you can come up with a similar list revealing inner contradictions in Capitalism. Or American Exceptionalism.

I think it will be difficult to do with the natural connection of those above, because there are simply fewer internal contradictions.

But I await any attempts with interest.

Mar 10 2009

I want one. Or two.

Category: military,technologyharmonicminer @ 9:30 am

Having been a roadie in a former life, and occasionally still being forced to function in that capacity, this looks like just the thing to help me manage those heavy flight cases for mixers, full size keyboards, etc.

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