Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » May 2005 » UP the Meds, David...

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05/22/2005: UP the Meds, David...

David Brooks needs to Up the Meds yet again as he write some slop as his editorial The Senate's Quavering Middle for the pages of the NY Times.

Ostensibly about the filibuster, Brooks has written a diatribe about supposed Democratic issues that fit surprisingly well on the GOP foot, snug as a glove...

So, I sent him this note:

As usual Mr. Brooks:

You've got your foot up your arse and your head stuck in a GOP toilet
on this one:

You write: "But many moderates are simply people who feel
cross-pressured by different political forces, and their instinctive
response is to shrink from pressure. They lack spirit to take risks,
to actually lead."

Gee - sounds like every Republican who is about to sweat bullets over
the FIRST if ever threatened Presidential VETO on Anything - over
Federal Funding for Stem Cell research.

Here are Republican and Democrats alike coming together on an issue
favored by that "Majority Of Real American People" (whom the Prez
pretends just ought not be countenanced on what they want) being
preemptively targeted for a Pres dressing down and cowing by an
"activist president" injecting his own personal, narrow, views to
legislate from the Executive office on an issue for the Congress to
decide on behalf of the American people. Even Home-Boy Dennis Hastert
is fighting to get a floor vote on this one for the good ole' American

How exactly are these Republican's supposed to show "Spirit to take
risks?" "Show they can Lead?" With a "threat" from our Fearless
Leader hanging over their heads?

Talk about "Cross-pressure by different political forces"??? Get your
mind out of that whirlpool of flushing sludge and use that vast
intellect, I KNOW you have, to present at least an Honest argument for
cripes sake.

Goodness, you really must need them "prescriptive medicines" to
handle these wild mood swings and yo-yo brained opinional delusions.

Time to Up the Meds, Mr. Brooks.

And on this issue of Federal Funding for Stem Cell research, Michael Kinsley (LA Times) has written this editorial Bioethicists Fiddle as Patients Die: Mr. Bush, don't I matter more than tiny clumps of cells?.

Click on the "more" button to read an excerpt from this piece.

Bioethicists Fiddle as Patients Die

”…We know all that we're going to know about the moral issues, and we just have to decide. There are three issues: First, do the embryos used for stem cell research and therapy have rights? They are clumps of a few dozen cells, biologically more primitive than a mosquito. They have no consciousness, are not aware that they exist, and never have been. Nature itself creates and destroys millions of these every year. No one objects. No one mourns. In most cases no one even knows. If my life is worth no more than the survival of one of these clumps, then it is terribly unfair that I can plead my case on the Op-Ed page and they can't. But I have no trouble feeling that the government should value my life more than the lives of these clumps. God may disagree. But the government reports to me and to other adult Americans, not to God.

Second, is human cloning such a horrific concept that it crosses a line into the territory of Frankenstein and "Brave New World"? Well, they said the same thing 27 years ago about in vitro fertilization, and that is now uncontroversial. It has brought joy to millions. And it is politically unassailable, even though the in vitro process produces and destroys far more "surplus" embryos than will ever be needed for stem cell therapy. The arguments against therapeutic cloning (cloning for medical purposes) tend to be abstract and poetic, concerned with the nature of humanity and stuff. But on the subject of stem cells, I am not in the mood for poetry.

Third, there's the slippery slope. If we're willing to destroy microscopic embryos for their stem cells, why will we stop before harvesting body parts from advanced fetuses, or breeding babies for their organs? Once we allow human cloning for embryos, how can we be sure no one will bring a cloned embryo to term and produce an actual cloned human being?

The answer is that we can't. But slippery-slope arguments could have stopped every technological advance since the wheel. Scientists look for solutions. Although there are no guarantees, when you put more scientists onto a problem, you increase your chance of solving it. By contrast, professional ethicists tend to look for problems. When you put more ethicists onto a problem, you can end up with more problems. Cad that I am, for example, it never occurred to me to worry that cloning embryos for stem cells "exploits women as egg donors not for their benefit." But it occurred to Kass, as quoted in Friday's New York Times.

If the secretary of bioethics is worried that evil scientists might strap women down and extract eggs from them against their will, I agree with him that this would be a bad approach. But there may be alternatives. Women give up eggs as part of high-tech methods for getting pregnant, and some of these go unused. I guess it's not cricket to use a woman's unwanted eggs to cure dreadful diseases without her permission. But if this is what alarms Kass, the solution is a simple release form. Or does Kass think that using someone's eggs to cure someone else's disease is unethical with or without her permission? Or is he ineptly trying to get feminists on his side? Or just emptying his entire spice drawer into the stew? Or simply thinking too hard?

It's amusing in a way to think of scientific breakthroughs sitting on hold while someone noodles his way through arcane ethical mazes of his own devising. Or it would be amusing if it weren't my money. And my time.

Karen on 05.22.05 @ 05:30 AM CST

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