7 thoughts on “David Brooks Watch: There He Goes Again II – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I won’t even bother contesting this point by point. Most of your claims are open to debate, both about future public policy or matters of good manners. On the one thing open to factual debate, you are simply wrong. CNN quotes Edwards as saying, the day after Reeve died:

    “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again,” Edwards said.

    Link: http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/10/12/edwards.stem.cell/

    Edwards didn’t say “might,” he said “will.” You might want to do your own fact-check before you accuse Brooks of playing fast-and-loose. This took all of two seconds to turn up, as it was the #1 result on a Google search for the unquoted string of words “john edwards christopher reeve walk again speech”

    As they say, those who live in glass houses…


  2. I don’t care what Edwards said. “Will”, “might” who cares? If Reeve had lived, he certainly would’ve walked because spinal cord injuries will eventually be healed through stem cell research. It may take a decade, it may take two [part of this depends on how many Republican presidents we have during this period & how draconian their implementation of stem cell research]. But it will surely happen. So I have no problem whatsoever with what Edwards said.

    The only reason Christopher Reeve won’t walk again is that he’s unfortunately dead. When stem cell research is finally encouraged by federal policy (which everyone but you & diehard Republicans accepts as an eventual inevitablility whether approved in a Republican [though NOT Bush] or Democratic administration), then people like Reeve WILL walk again. And it will happen sooner rather than later. When that happens, what will you say? “Gee, I guess we were wrong about stem cell research being of doubtful utility.” Too little too late is what I’ll reply to you.

    On this issue, Republicans are like the 19th century Luddites who hated technology because they feared it would destroy their agrarian society and corrupt their values. Well, who won that debate? Not the Luddites, that’s for sure. And the right wingers won’t win on this debate either because scientific truth & knowledge trumps narrow political/pseudo-ethical consideration every time.

  3. “I don’t care what Edwards said”

    And thereby hangs a tale. So I take it that regardless of what is said, voters are supposed to simply accept Kerry and Edwards as the great white hope for America and the world?

    Possibly you should think more with your head than with your heart. Such inflamed ranting does nothing to further your argument.

    Finally, don’t presume to know me or my views. I will not be called a Luddite by anyone. I own a software company and have a significant interest in medical technology companies. I support stem cell research of any stripe, although I recognize that the current administration’s approach is a compromise that offends fewer people than other alternatives. And I am, in fact, pro-choice, and pro-captal punishment, as I believe, as do Catholics, that ones attitude toward life must be a seamless garment.

    GWB will be the first Republican presidential vote I have cast since his father’s first election.

    I don’t support mindless puffery and grandstanding of the sort in which Kerry, Edwards and their ilk engage.

    Maybe words mean nothing to you, but they do to me.



  4. There’s no difference between the way that Bush rips every Kerry statement out of context & what you do to my own here. I said that in the context of your nitpicking over individual words, I was concerned with the MEANING of his statement. Instead of writing the phrase you attacked in your comment, I should have said that I don’t care about nitpicking over Edwards statement as you do, but would rather examine it’s overal meaning. Though I’m sure you’d find something else to criticize even if I’d phrased it differently.

    And you’re oh so good at ad hominem attacks saying I’m not using my head in my writings & that they are “rantings.” Can’t you keep your comments to a legitimate debate w/o wandering off the intellectual reservation into the land of ad hominem? Oh, & that gratuitous filip about words meaning nothing to me is quite gratuitous, petulant & false all at the same time. Words mean the world to me otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But what’s important to me & what’s important to you seem to diverge by a wide margin.

    God, man–you support stem cell research “of any stripe” yet you also support Bush’s so called stem cell “compromise” (which is no compromise at all since it is of virtually no serious use to scientific researchers). A bit of a contradiction, I’d say. You say you “have an interest” in medical technology (what does that mean?). If that means that you’ve invested in it, I’d say that’s even greater hypocrisy or foolhardiness because an investment in medical technology will show the greatest return if federal policy embraces stem cell, rather than placing it in a straight jacket as Bush has done. If you support Bush’s policy & invest in such research, then you’re hurting your own bottom line (plus the health of humanity).

    And just because you own a software company does not mean you’re not a Luddite. So what if you embrace one set of technologies, while accepting the shackling of another that could actually bring tremendous benefit to humankind. Call it what you will. I call it foolish.

    “Mindless puffery & grandstanding of the sort Edwards & Kerry engage in?” Oh that’s really rich! Bush & Cheney of course are guilty of nothing of the sort, right?

  5. Richard-

    It’s funny. I woke up this morning thinking I had been unfair in my writing last night. From your response, I’m not sure that I feel I was.

    First, you editted your initial response to me, which I shall reprint below.

    You did call me a Luddite, and accused me of ‘quibbling’ about words. In your most recent post, you called my actions petulant. Who is engaged in ad hominem attacks? It was you who attacked me first. My original post was in response to the original text written “You’ve got to watch Brooks because he’s fast and loose with the facts. Of course, John Edwards didn’t say what Brooks has him saying.” When, in fact, he did say exactly what Brooks said he did.

    You say, Reeve’s death is “the only reason” he won’t walk again now, because embyronic stem cell research is not receiving federal support. However embryonic stem cell research didn’t even exist before 1998, and we are only at the early stages of knowing what its potential is.

    What I meant by having an interest in medical technology companies is that I have them both as clients as well as feel they usually make the best equity investments.

    To say that the compromise is no compromise at all doesn’t accurately reflect the current state of affairs, in my opinion:

    – About 25 million in federal funding was spent on embryonic stem cell research last year, confined to the limited number of pre-existing lines, with which I will accept there are issues.

    – No clinical trials are underway releated to any embryonic stem-cell program.

    – Last year, $190 million in federal money was spent on adult stem cell research, and 100’s of clinical trials are underway using those technologies.

    – There is no restriction on the *use* of embryonic stem cells in privately-funded investment. If embryonic stem cells are as uniquely promising as you suggest, then it would follow that market forces would flow more money into such research, particularly considering that even the aggregate stem cell money spent by the feds is paltry compared to the research budgets of even an individual biotech company like Amgen.

    – I believe the biggest ‘breakthrough’ to date in embryonic stem cell research occurred last month in the UK, where they can produce cells that contain cystic fyibrosis genes. This may allow better research into CF, since they haven’t been able to use animal models.

    – Most scientists seem to indicate the best opportunities for embryonic stem cell research involve stem cell taken from embryos created by very early-stage human cloning, which is, as they say a whole different “kettle of fish.” My point being: this is a much more contentious issue than is commonly recognized.

    The truth is that while you or I may support embryonic stem cell research, the necessarily-related issue of abortion is deeply offensive and contentious to a great many people. That group is larger than many Dems seem to recognize, and is certainly even more politically-engaged and effective than their size alone would suggest. It is an unfortunate political reality for Republicans that their wishes must be given some consideration, but both parties have their own constituencies, and both parties could be said to pander to them at different points and on different issues.

    Moving on…

    It is my personal opinion that neither campaign can overcome the media’s approach to reporting on campaigns, which only serves to debase the debate. However, everyone knows what they would get with another 4 years Bush/Cheney (although reasonable people can differ about that being good, a mixed bag or a living hell). However, because there is a certain level of empirical clarity about a Bush/Cheney administration, I am troubled by the Kerry/Edwards campaign’s use of broad generalities and unsubstantiated claims. (Just as another example, what is Kerry’s mechanism for securing Russian nuclear supplies within 4 years. I’ve looked at his ‘plan’ and can find nothing other than a simple fiat claim that it will happen.)

    My apologies if you feel I attacked you.


  6. Richard-

    One final comment. I was being quite sincere when I apologized for attacking you. While it was not my intention, I recognize that I did come off more harsh than necessary, and I think the upcoming election has us all more deeply partisan than is usually the case, at least this is true for me.

    In any event, sincerely, no offense meant, and my apologies that any was taken. It is your home here, so the last word on the matter is yours.



  7. Thanks for your apology. For my part, I’m sorry if I crossed the line of civil discourse in our exchange.

    Ok, maybe you’re not a Luddite since you do favor stem cell research. But your attitudes certainly aid & abet the Luddites in the Christian fundamentalist & Republican circles. You accept Bush’s restrictions & have serious doubts about the efficacy of research; or at least you doubt the claims of those who embrace such research. I think that you & all others who raise doubts & questions about how much impact this research can have & how much good it can do would do well to remember the history of medicine & human disease over the past 100 years or so. In 1850, no doubt most human beings believed that intractable illnesses like cholera or the plague would cause epidemics forever. In 1950, most beleived that children would suffer & die from polio into eternity. In 1980, most believed that AIDS would never be cured or even alleviated by medical research. Guess what happened? So you see, saying that stem cell research will not cure major illnesses will turn out to be another losing proposition.

    You’re right in saying that embryonic stem cell research is only in its initial stages so we don’t know what it’s potential is. But that’s precisely why we should pursue it full throttle without any restrictions or encumbrances. If the Bush guidelines remain in place, we will NEVER know what its full potential is.

    You admit that there are “issues” with the existing stem cell lines, which understates the problem by 100 fold. Very few of the lines approved by Bush are even usable. But beyond this, almost every credible scientific researcher will tell you that only embryonic cells have the capacity to be malleable enough to transform themselves into all of the various types of tissue cells which would be needed to cure the multitude of diseases in question.

    You say $25 million in research funding has been devoted to stem cell research. Excuse me while I spit up my coffee. $25 million?? In this day and age, that’ll just about cover the cost of lab equipment and the lab cleaning crew. This is less than a drop in the bucket if you compare it to the amount spent on other types of health research. You say no clinical trials are underway for embryonic stem cell research. I wonder why. Could it be that no scientist wants to do such work until the federal government clarifies its muddled policy in this area? Why would I as a scientist want to pursue embryonic stem cell research if current government policy would prevent my research from being fully utilitzed?

    YOur statement that privately financed research in embryonic stem cell resarch is the way to go shows that you have an incomplete understanding of how scientific research is pursued. If you are a scientist, the name of the game is NIH, federal funding & federal approval. The government is the engine driving scientific research for reasons too manifold to go into here. Sure, there are some limited areas where private research is pursued. But they are the exception & not the rule. Embryonic stem cell research will only reap its full reward with federal approval. Barring that, such research will probably stagnate.

    It is a complete and utter misnomer to say that embryonic stem cell research brings you into the realm of abortion. True, some right wing voters have been hoodwinked by the political/religious rhetoric of politicians & pastors which equates the two. BUt they are not equivalent. I utterly reject the notion that a single cell sitting in a freezer vat in a scientific lab is “life.” It is the potential for life. BUt I will never accept calling such an entity “life.” But eve if it were life, this cell would sit in that vat forever & never be used to create real life because the “parents” no longer need them. THey are discarded eggs.

    Look, there are always issues that need to be balanced in such debates as this. Nothing’s cut & dried or black & white. BUt if you weigh the tremendous good that such cells will bring to humanity, this MORE THAN outweighs the “evil” that might be done by destroying the cells or transforming them into cells useful in stem cell research. Those who oppose abortion & stem cell research say they’re doing so to to protect life. What about the countless lives that will be saved when this research comes into its own? I say that stem cell research is the ultimate pro-life position.

    I’m most distressed about your comments about Bush-Cheney: “everyone knows what they would get with another 4 years of Bush/Cheney” and “there is a certain level of empirical clarity about a Bush/Cheney administration.” I dispute this. We do NOT know what another four more years will bring. Will it bring war with Iran, with North Korea? Will it bring the end of social security as we know it? Will it bring a draft? Will it bring a national sales tax replacing the income tax? Will it bring ever expanding deficits, ever declining tax rolls until the bond markets collapse under the weight of government borrowing? Then you talk about the “clarity” of Bush policy. Clarity indeed. Much about Bush’s views are not known because he keeps his cards so close to his vest & restricts the circle of those who advise him every more tightly (see Ron Susskind’s article in the Sunday Times Magazine). Bush clearly told us he was a “compassionate conservative” and “a uniter, not a divider.” Clear indeed. He turned out to be nothing of the sort. I guess clarity is in the eyes of the beholder. You find him clear & I find him a dissembler of the grossest kind.

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