Friday, May 28, 2004

Pictures and profiles of Al Qaeda suspects

Right here, via The Corner.

Stem cells - why can't the ESCR proponents be honest?

Call me a Cro-Magnon if you want, but sometimes the only response some people deserve is a good old-fashioned bust in the mouth. And these lying conniving embryonic stem cell advocates are heading rapidly for that territory. I've been sitting on this post for a few days gradually sucking out venom and haven't fully succeeded.

See this by Eric Cohen on National Review Online. First the general:
The promise of embryonic-stem-cell research is very real but wholly speculative. No human therapies of any kind have yet been developed or tested, and none are on the horizon. And the notion that embryonic stem cells will cure "cancer" and "heart disease," broad categories of disease that encompass a complex array of particular ailments, is unsupported by even informed conjectures.
Now more specific:
"There are estimated to be more than 400,000 IVF embryos, which are currently frozen and will likely be destroyed if not donated, with informed consent of the couple, for research." This implies that while the Bush policy funds research on only a few dozen lines, hundreds of thousands of embryos are out there for scientific use. But this is simply false. The same 2003 study that arrived at the 400,000 number made it clear that only about three percent of these frozen embryos are actually available for research — the others remain in the custody of the parents who created them, and are specifically designated for future use in initiating a pregnancy. Whether the parents really plan to implant them or not — some parents simply cannot bear to let them go — these embryos are not public property. The study further did the math, and concluded that if all available frozen embryos were used only for embryonic-stem-cell research, they would yield about 275 lines of stem cells. Not thousands, let alone hundreds of thousands, but 275 is all scientists can expect to get from frozen IVF embryos.
But it gets worse:
This points to a serious question about the intentions of embryonic-stem-cell advocates. In the May issue of Scientific American, prominent embryonic-stem-cell researchers Robert Lanza and Nadia Rosenthal wrote that the actual therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells would be hampered by immune-rejection problems that could only be overcome by cell treatments compatible with the immune system of patients. "Hundreds of thousands of ES-cell lines might be needed to establish a bank of cells with immune matches for most potential patients," they wrote, and "creating that many lines could require millions of discarded embryos from IVF clinics."

We will likely never have "millions of discarded embryos," and nothing the president can do could change that. Moreover, the article suggests how far we might be from any workable treatments using embryonic stem cells. Does the House letter mean to call for a national project whose end is millions of embryos created for research? How many of the 206 signers understood that this might be necessary? And while it is true that many scientists believe we can find cures with fewer embryos, what will they do if Lanza and Rosenthal are right?
B-b-but we only have a few lines to work with!:
Finally, the letter offers no evidence that the number of available lines has already proven to be a barrier to any particular researcher's specific work at this point. No other advocate or scientist has offered such evidence either. It is certainly true that more money for more lines could mean more work would get done. But that is not the same as saying that ongoing work has hit a wall because of the limited number of lines now available for federal funding, or that it will soon hit such a wall.
But here's the part that really chaps me:
Stepping back, a pattern of facts emerges. Embryonic-stem-cell research is promising but so far purely speculative; the federal government in no way limits such research in the private sector; supporters of the research believe they can obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in private funding in the next few years, as the creation of new stem-cell institutes at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin demonstrates; and yet, despite the ethical objections of a very substantial portion of the public, stem-cell advocates insist that Congress should compel every American to support the research with tax dollars, and to make that happen they inflate the promise and distort the facts surrounding the research.
We have obscenely rich individuals like Ted Turner (giving a $billion in stock to the UN? He would have done better with Enron) and George Soros who fund fashionable lefty causes - why don't they pony up for this rather than roping in all of us? Obviously this isn't about human health, it's about getting their way and forcing the rest of us to participate - they can have what they want without involving the govt and they choose not to.

Enough - I'm not disgustingly rich, so if I know what's good for me I'll have to drop this now. Just read it all, and then ask yourself why it's more important for the govt to pay than it is to get the work done.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Criminalizing policy disputes

Carl Bernstein has drunk the Kool-Aid. Whatsamatter Carl, been second banana to Bob Woodward for too long?
Today, the issue may not be high crimes and misdemeanors, but rather Bush's failure, or inability, to lead competently and honestly.
Yeah, I like the idea of a President leading competently and honestly, but unlike Bernstein I think we have that now. To hint at impeachment is far beyond the pale of even rabid partisanship.

Elsewhere in the article Bernstein rants about Abu Ghraib prison, going so far as to speak of an American Gulag. That's rich, because the original Gulags in the Soviet Union were often used for people guilty of "thought crime". You know, people who disagreed with the Establishment. Working from the wrong set of principles, such people obviously could not be competent or honest, so they had to be locked up.

And if Bernstein keeps this nonsense up maybe he should be confined himself. Not to a gulag, but an old-fashioned mental hospital.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Right answer, wrong reason

Back in engineering school it wasn't enough just to get the right answer. The staff went over the supporting work, and if they didn't like it you'd still get marked wrong. It cost me letter grades more than once when I was a little too terse for somebody's taste.

But I wanted to be an engineer. If I were willing to settle for lower standards I would have been a green.

That's not to say that greens can't come up with the right answer sometimes. Looky here:'Only nuclear power can now halt global warming':
Global warming is now advancing so swiftly that only a massive expansion of nuclear power as the world's main energy source can prevent it overwhelming civilisation, the scientist and celebrated Green guru, James Lovelock, says.

His call will cause huge disquiet for the environmental movement. It has long considered the 84-year-old radical thinker among its greatest heroes, and sees climate change as the most important issue facing the world, but it has always regarded opposition to nuclear power as an article of faith. Last night the leaders of both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth rejected his call.

Professor Lovelock, who achieved international fame as the author of the Gaia hypothesis, the theory that the Earth keeps itself fit for life by the actions of living things themselves, was among the first researchers to sound the alarm about the threat from the greenhouse effect.
We've learned a lot since the last generation of nuclear power plants was built. They've performed well in terms of safety and reliability, and the next generation will be even better. And whether you buy Lovelock's beliefs about global warning or not, you have to recognize the correlation between the availability of energy and economic capacity.

So under the circumstances, I'll give Lovelock full credit for getting the right answer.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


In recognition of a recent travesty at Cannes, I present "The Man without a Country".

News cycles

That journalistic paragon Matt Drudge's front page currently contains this: "President fell off bike Saturday.. Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, 'Did the training wheels fall off?'... Reporters are debating whether to treat it is as on or off the record... Developing... " Yep, that's our diplomat - Indymedia or DU couldn't have said it any better.

Yep, President Bush had a spill:
President Bush suffered cuts and bruises early Saturday afternoon when he fell while mountain biking on his ranch, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

Bush was on the 16th mile of a 17-mile ride when he fell, Duffy said. He was riding with a military aide, members of the Secret Service and his personal physician, Dr. Richard Tubb.

"He had minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, nose, right hand and both knees," Duffy said. "Dr. Tubb, who was with him, cleaned his scratches, said he was fine. The Secret Service offered to drive him back to the house. He declined and finished his ride."

Bush was wearing his bike helmet and a mouth guard when the mishap occurred. Duffy said he didn't know exactly how the accident happened.

"It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose," the spokesman said. "You know this president. He likes to go all out. Suffice it to say he wasn't whistling show tunes."
Of course Kerry had his own little spill a while back. No mountain biker, he fell when he hit a patch of sand. He wasn't riding a mountain bike, but all the same it's that much less reason to be speaking of someone else's "training wheels".

Heads and tails

: "It has been reported that when the remains of Japanese soldiers were repatriated from the Mariana Islands in 1984, sixty percent were missing their skulls.'" Follow that link to get an idea of what kind of pictures were published in Life magazine during WWII.

Link stolen from Colby Cosh. The link that follows includes one of those prison pictures that looks like a Massachusetts bachelor party, so it may be NSFW, but he has much to say about the Abu Ghraib prison affair here. (Arse gratia artis? - oh stop it!).