xaxanprilokevlixec, 800 mg b.i.d. (orally)
Sometimes I accrue such anger in my heart, and have nowhere to put it, which means that you, my fellow blog readers, occasionally suffer for it. I had such a moment this evening while listening to All Things Considered, when I heard a column written by a 33-year-old woman suffering from A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig's Disease), read aloud by her sister. I know I ask a lot, but please give it a listen here - it's short and heartbreaking.
We've had a lot of personal experience with ALS - Tessa's great uncle died from it, as well as her friend Jennifer Estess, who famously created an organization to fight it. At the ALS benefit, we were honored to sit with Christopher Reeve, who told us first-hand how the current administration was keeping stem cell research in the Stone Age.
Tessa will never toot her own horn, so I always toot it for her: she made a documentary called "Project A.L.S." that manages to be both informative and beautifully-rendered, and it won the Audience Award at the Nantucket Film Festival, as well as the Media That Matters award at Human Rights Film Festival. All this to say: we are living in the Dark Age Before Stem Cells Change Everything.
Even select Republicans have seen the light: Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter have joined with the Democrats to push a national agenda on stem cells, and we could lead the world down the promised road, if it weren't for... yep, you guessed it. George W. Bush. The man has stonewalled every attempt at an honest stem cell program (and no, conservative commenters, don't even TRY to argue that one) and set us back decades. I don't hate right-wingers for being wrong, I hate them for being cruel.
While Bush fucking cleared brush at his farm, Chris Reeve died, then Jennifer Estess, then thousands of other people with A.L.S., Parkinsons, Alzheimers - and right now my own mom may be slowly going blind from macular degeneration. All things that could be cured if we'd been on track with stem cells. Think of the amount of suffering just in this country alone: the men unable to hug their children, the intense pain, the depression, the suicide... all while that smirking fratboy President talks about "cultures of life." Which is a code word for "as long as I keep my conservative base happy, your dad with Alzheimer's can fuck off."
Don't tell me that we're okay because states like New York and California are going ahead with their own stem cell research programs - do you know how much headway we could make if the whole country started a Manhattan Project to eradicate brain disease and paralysis? Plus, it puts more taxpayer onus on those states that are forward-thinking enough to do the research, when it would benefit all Americans (and the whole world, for that matter). It would be just one more thing that the red states would gladly take from us, even while they were "morally opposed" to how we got there. It's enough to make you want to puke all over Oklahoma.
Our friend Josh Shenk has a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly right now (as well as a fabulously well-reviewed book) about Abraham Lincoln's clinical depression, and how it made him better served to get our country through a time of crisis. He conjectured that Lincoln's melancholy allowed him access to creativity, humility, empathy, and a theological relativism... that puts him squarely at odds with Bush, who is said to be HEAVILY medicated for depression.
Granted, the Bush-antidepressant rumor is still filed under "worst-kept secret in Washington," but only a cocktail of SSRIs - like say, Prozac and Zoloft with a Welbutrin chaser - could make a man so visibly unaffected by massive human suffering, and make a President seemingly vacuous and indecisive when we need him most. And listen, if he's NOT on antidepressants, it makes his behavior even worse.
Either way, I had a little daydream. While Darcy Wakefield was describing the hell of dying from A.L.S. above, I dreamt that all current sufferers of debilitating diseases that could be cured by stem cells gathered together. They resurrected the pale ghosts of Reeve and Estess, and they lined up with all their energy for one synaptic moment. All the useless arms and atrophied muscle came to life for a split second, as they all collectively hit Bush in the face with one glorious roundhouse slap.
I'm not violent by nature, and sure, it was a dream, but man, it made me feel better.
Posted by Ian Williams at September 19, 2005 11:35 PM
It is worth clarifying the stem cell issue at the federal level. There is a currently a ban against any federal appropriation for stem cell research outside of the 60 exisitng lines that Bush approved. The trouble, of course, is that Bush was working with incomplete information when he granted that exclusion - which is to say that only 12 of those lines are active and 10 of those 12 are thought to be contaminated.
Hearing after hearing, senators and advocates have attempted to create an exclusion to the research ban for fertilized frozen embryos at fertility clinics, which will eventually be thrown away. As unpalatable as the whole concept may be to people, the basic debate comes down to research vs. garbage. This is why traditionally conservative Senators (Spector is the most vocal) have been in favor of creating an exclusion to the ban.
There are a couple of other issues... Why do we need embryonic stem cells when adult stem cells have proved effective? And, why is there so much pressure of federal research when private and state research can move forward unhindered?
First, ESC are pluripotent cells - which is to say that will differentiate as needed... become liver cells, neurons, etc... They may or may not prove to be the holy grail now anticipated, but we need to have the opportunity to test and discover their potential.
Second, the federal funding ban creates a de facto moritorium on any FDA approvals of the trials that are moving forward elsewhere. So, we could find effective theraputic use of stem cells but it would get stuck at the FDA. And no one can risk treating people without FDA approval. They would be marginalized as quacks and be open to massive lawsuits. Moreover, the FDA trials and peer review process are extremely important to the discovery of safe therapies and medications.
As to Ehren - I don't know that depression is a requirement of creativity but I do think that pain is often a well-spring of compassion, innovation, and maturity. It is definitely worth reading Josh's book.
Bush tries to walk a knife edge between what scientists think is a fruitful avenue for research, and what his core constituency are willing to tolerate and still call Bush their own. This is a purely political finesse job; and one that his base should see as cynical hairsplitting.
if people are so concerned about fertilized ava, why do they prefer they just be thrown away, rather than potentially do some good? If you are going to talk in terms of moral absolutes, which is what entailed a ban on funding of research with new cell lines, it would be more consistent to ban all research and demand destruction of existing lines.
I do not want to argue the issue of abortion, because it is not a solvable proposition. But fertilized eggs die every day, whether they succumb to freezer burn, get tossed in a dumpster, or simply fail to implant in the wombs of women.
To assign some moral primacy for fertilized human ova seems only supportable by religious faith -- to see the finger of God sparking every egg when a sperm has its way with it. I do not intend ridicule of that belief, but it is a belief upon which science is necessarily agnostic.
I believe that the bare potential for human life is a morally different thing than a human life, and that souls, should there be such, require a more substantial armature than eight or sixteen cells.
Those two beliefs are at odds, and if the United States means ANYTHING any more, it means that where two beliefs contradict, neither is entitled to be enshrined in law. But the two positions are not morally symmetric. On the one hand, stem cell research has promise to cure suffering. On the other, a dumpster is a more fitting fate for unneeded fertilized human ovum than research.
I also have a real problem with the idea that Bush supports a "culture of life." He may oppose abortion, but he heartily supports pre-emptive war, the death penalty, cutting support to the poor. He turns FEMA into a clubhouse for the political operatives from his election campaigns, resulting in the unnecessary loss of hundreds of lives. He undermines environmental protection at every turn. He hires pet scientists to support his denial about global warming. The number of people whose lives have been adversely affected, even unto death, by George W Bush are numbered in the hundreds of thousands, all over the world.
To me a culture of life would mean serious work towards an environmentally sustainable economy, a real investment in schools so that we dont just waste the human potential of the poor, an end to the egregious arms trade, an end to the death penalty, and yes, the use of fertilized human ova for medical research.
I guess I should get my own blog eh?
"...although to say that environmentalists are responsible for millions of deaths in Africa because we banned DDT here is just grossly wrong."
That's not what I said.
"Even Rachel Carson didn't call for an global ban, just a major reduction domestically."
Silent Spring was the basis for the anti-DDT movement -- not just in this country but worldwide -- and a lot of its claims have proved exaggerated, if not false.
"Similarly with GMOs, I think the precautionary principle is the right approach. Prove it's safe, then we'll start using it -- versus prove it's unsafe before we'll ban it."
According to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 45% of all corn and 85% of all soybeans grown in the United States in 2004 was genetically modified. It's estimated that about 70% of all processed foods in the United States contain genetically modified ingredients. We've been eating the stuff for over a decade. It's proven safe.
"As for the stem cell issue, isn't it bizarre (and yes, highly hypocritical) that Bush considers American blastocysts to be 'sacred gift[s] from the creator' but innocent Iraqi civilians are dismissed as 'collateral damage'?"
Do you see a moral difference between intentional deaths and accidental ones in a war of liberation? Accidental deaths in Iraq, by the way, are still far, far fewer than the intentional ones inflicted under Saddam's regime. Also, would you say the same about other wars vis-a-vis accidental casualties?
"As Tessa has thoroughly illustrated, many of the scientific assertions in Bush's four-year-old speech are false."
OK, one more time, then you may have the last word. I am going out to have fun.
I'll agree that some of Silent Spring turned out to be overstated, but the principle of caution remains sound.
I avoid GMO foods as much as possible. Again, I recognize that few GMOs have been found to be harmful, but too many questions remain for me to feel comfortable ingesting them in quantity. If you feel otherwise, then by all means -- bon appétit!
"Do you see a moral difference between intentional deaths and accidental ones in a war of liberation?"
Do you see a moral difference between blastocysts and fully-developed human beings?
Also, anytime the word "liberation" is used in connection with Iraq, I'm reminded of the Chinese "liberation" of Tibet. I'm not in favor of that one, either, BTW.
"Accidental deaths in Iraq, by the way, are still far, far fewer than the intentional ones inflicted under Saddam's regime."
Are you referring to the roughly 1.5 million Iraqis who died because of sanctions in the 1990s? Because I campaigned against that, too.
"Also, would you say the same about other wars vis-a-vis accidental casualties?"
I would say that stringent measures should always be taken to minimize civilian casualties. The best way is to avoid war altogether. If a war can't be avoided (this one could have been), then weapons and tactics that put civilians at undue risk should not be used. Examples of such weapons include cluster bombs, landmines and anything containing depleted uranium.
The claim of 60 existing lines of viable stem cells for research is one example of a blatant falsehood in Bush's 2001 speech; as Tessa pointed out, in reality, only 12 lines remain. Of those, 10 are contaminated. In all fairness, I don't think the president knew that when he made the speech.
Thanks for a good discussion. I mean that sincerely. We disagree about a lot, but we are talking. Which is a start, isn't it?
"I believe there's no 'simply' about it. ...millions of couples ... would like to beat you about the head and neck with that kind of toss off phrase."
You know what I mean, Tanya. The embryo is capable of developing into a full grown adult.
"I avoid GMO foods as much as possible."
Unless you are a very careful consumer, you probably eat GMOs every day.
"Again, I recognize that few GMOs have been found to be harmful, but too many questions remain for me to feel comfortable ingesting them in quantity. If you feel otherwise, then by all means -- bon appétit!"
The waffles are splendid! Seriously though, GMOs have FDA approval and there's not a shred of evidence that they are harmful. All evidence is to the contrary, in fact. The techniques involved in genetic modification are basically just more precise than conventional breeding.
"Do you see a moral difference between blastocysts and fully-developed human beings?"
Are blastocysts the same as embryos? That is, are they capable of developing into a fully-developed human being? My answer is dependent.
"Also, anytime the word 'liberation' is used in connection with Iraq, I'm reminded of the Chinese 'liberation' of Tibet. I'm not in favor of that one, either, BTW."
If you don't see a difference between our involvement in Iraq and China's involvement in Tibet, then we probably don't have a lot to talk about.
"Are you referring to the roughly 1.5 million Iraqis who died because of sanctions in the 1990s? Because I campaigned against that, too."
That number is B.S., but the deaths that did occur during that time can be laid squarely at the feet of the crooked UN and its Oil-for-Food program. You should look into that scandal sometime. Billions of dollars skimmed from a program to deliver food and medicine to Iraqi people.
I was referring to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who were killed by Saddam's police. His trial is coming soon, it should prove enlightening to many.
"I would say that stringent measures should always be taken to minimize civilian casualties."
I agree and believe that's exactly what we are doing. We are waging the kindest, gentlest war in history.
"If a war can't be avoided (this one could have been), then weapons and tactics that put civilians at undue risk should not be used."
I think this war was long overdue. The list of Saddam's transgressions and refusals to cooperate with the international community goes on and on. There comes a time when words either mean something or they don't.
"Examples of such weapons include cluster bombs, landmines and anything containing depleted uranium."
I don't think we use landmines in Iraq and I know we only used cluster bombs in the early stages of the invasion in areas where civilians were not present. Your fear of depleted uranium is unfounded. The military has conducted extensive studies on this subject and found no evidence of any danger from "contamination." The level of DU dust particles needed to be inhaled or ingested to cause harm is ridiculously high. It would be easier to overdose on nicotine.
"Thanks for a good discussion. I mean that sincerely. We disagree about a lot, but we are talking. Which is a start, isn't it?"
Tess great post. Reasonable tone.
Kent “assclowns” is copyright to email@example.com please send your royalty payments there.
“I do not want to argue the issue of abortion, because it is not a solvable proposition. But fertilized eggs die every day, whether they succumb to freezer burn, get tossed in a dumpster, or simply fail to implant in the wombs of women.” I brought this up to my brother who is a research scientist, suggesting that A). those are cells already destined for destruction, or B). couldn’t we develop egg donor program to cultivate the cells. He felt, and I think your statement points out that the abortion dialogue is just a mask. The real issue is about funding. The scientists actually have plenty of research lines available. Don’t argue with me, I’m paraphrasing what he said and he is not a film maker or an actor, he is a man who makes his living researching and teaching, and writing and reading med. and science journals.
“The FDA is absolutely charged with making sure we don't create new problems”
But, the FDA can be lubricated very easily if you’re a pharmacuetical firm with pull, ie., money. This is from attorneys who work closely with FDA reports. Viox, anyone. And I’m not one who say Viox is patently evil. Just that doctors didn’t tell patients of very possible side effects and problems that could occur.
Now, I’m torn over the funding thing. On one side I think the bio tech (not all but some, and if there is funding thrown too much around there’ll be more than some) could become snake oil like there was in the dot com years. Crappy coding at a genetic level is a little scarying than a black screen system crash. I also think some responsible business can fund themselves. It’s called bootstrapping. I’ve had to earn a profit from day one, but we all know some trainwreck firms that existed for six or seven years without ever having a profitable quarter, and the guys at VP level take home a quarter Mill. salaries with bonuses. On the other hand I know there was never a capitalist venture on a large scale that did not receive massive government funding or contracts in order to leap it ahead. Think trains, steam freighters, space program, highways, auto, aircraft, computers, etc...
Matt, how dare you “toss off” a phrase while people are struggling with issues of fertility. Every sperm is sacred. Cute Emily.
Kent. Bush has major flaws, as a man. But, don’t we all. I would never want that job. I think we all just imagine we could play one better on TV. As a politician he is rather subpar for the course. Of course FEMA is filled with cronies. that’s what politicians do. When I worked as secretary of a party I was than reward with a plush posting in charge of the EPA (all boys mock state government summer). Not to say I didn’t work my ass off in both positions, but the second one came because I was good, my candidate was elected and I was his man.
And for the mentions of his depression. Well, hell try this on for size. ‘Read my lips, Absofuckenlutely, I’m depressed. The dog hates me. My wife won’t talk to me. The daughters won’t keep their clothes on. The niece was paired with David Lauren, how is that gonna’ sound if they get hitched — Lauren Lauren?! I don’t mind that his dad is Jewish. I do mind that he changed his name. My name is Busch for god’s sake I didn’t change mine. Speaking of which I heard they call me shrub now is that true. I look stupid in photographs. My ears stick out. See this gray. I didn’t have that before. I’m not a born speaker, and the sound clips make me sound retarded. And stupid. All I ever wanted to do was play baseball or maybe own a team, and then I was asked to run a country and damn it now I’ve got this war going on. I’ve got to lead the country and be strong, but inwardly I’m thinking did I read that passage right God. Can I get a little translation help here? And then maybe God is mad at me cause he threw this hurricane at my country. Some rapper who makes more than me said I hate black people, and I’ve two in prominent positions and have the first colored female and first female chef ever to serve in the white house. Putin is not the man I thought he was. I miss my ranch. Hell yeah I’m depressed wouldn’t you be. Shouldn’t I be. Hell, David wasn’t all so happy when he wrote most of those Psalms, but he was a man of God. So, like that Boner feller said, “I don’t know if I can take it I’m not easy on my knees.”’
I also have major problems with no bid contracts. I am opposed to my mechanic having them on commodities such as tires, and I’m opposed to Halliburton having them. But, I play cronies in my business, as I’ve surrounded myself with quality people. They are my sounding board, and my support in really tough times they know how to do things right the first tie and get them done under deadline. I think every case really has to have it’s own decision made. Thank god not everything is voted on like it is here in San Francisco. Nothing gets done.
I don’t eat GMO just because I’d rather support smaller farms. I think the health benefits are generational not anything very measurable in our lifetimes. And aesthetically I’d rather look at an heirloom tomato than a perfectly symmetrical round one. But, then I like real breasts too, not silicone. Maybe I’m just weird.
“They don't work, Kent. And people are dying by the millions.”
Some of those methods that Kent might allude to would be bats. They are very susceptible to conditions such as noise and light that come from encroaching civilization. Pesticides also cut down there numbers. But, they consume far more mosquitoes if healthy. They are incredibly ravenous. Unfortunately, it’s a downward spiral as far as civilization for the most part.
“millions are dead because first world governments collaborate” That’s actually a very powerful statement right there. As part of the most powerful and pervasive first world government we are ALL responsible. If you really want to protest our countries wars, don’t give the multinational corporations and their puppet governments anything to fight for. I’ll be there is more power in the pocket book than in the polling booth. But, you probably need someone with the media power of Hearst to convince the masses of that.
"badbob- I know, it's amazing, isn't it? Your guy is on the wrong side of the issues nearly 94.8% of the time. I'd be stunned too if I were you."
Ian- You did view the video link right? Point is, that despite the correct grammar and the nifty use of the language your hyper-hyperbole ridden diatribe on the "stem cell thing" made about as much sense as the Nation of Islam dude talking about spaceships that Mr. Muhhamed has visited.
If I was GW I'd be on something a helluva lot stronger than Zoloft if I listened to the left. Large doses of single malt scotch maybe? No, that's not right, he's already done thattrip before correct? Catcha 22.
To be blunt your GW is on PROZAC/ZOLOFT drugs and that Lincoln was depressed (no shit Sherlock, there was a Civil War on) have about as much connection with GW being responsible for Christopher Reeves death.... wait a minute, I've lost the trechant point.
Perhaps you could contact that spaceship and ask 'em to sort it out.
"re- By the way, did you have anything trenchant to observe about the stem cell thing, or are you conceding the point?"
Other writers here have represented my postion on stem cell research adequately, I do not need to display my technical ignornance of the subject.
I'll keep it simple- I have an open mind regarding research for all the reasons you are so passionate about, but I don't want that old Frankenstein thing coming on..do you?
But then again maybe we could engineer a race of Super- Republicans..yeah, I like that! Beware.'
re Kent: What can I say? you're a Buttbuffoon!
Dare I say, I suppose I am sympathetic to the ‘man.’ Although, I was juts thiking it was pretty funny to imagine him NOT depressed. I can separate the man from ‘the office.’ And I can separate ‘the office’ from what is really happening in politics, since it’s just one part of the machine.
“he’s got a lot of blood on his hands.”
Well this administration is enacting the Wolfowitz Plan, which was forged under Clinton, and that he was unable for better or for worse to move on because public opinion was not unified enough under him for him to go to war. We can either blame, monica, Bill, the right, or take repsonsibility for the trashy new whores that we’ve become as a nation. The Plan is a public document now and should be read by all. Understand the awesome powers that this nation puts into play so that we can all have cheap sneakers, and trader joes, and everything else we have.
“he was deluded”
Yep. He was the man who the interests could use to swing the vote and get him elected. Once in the swung that massive population again in order to play out their strategy. 9-11, and a few other sthings just helped to galvanize the situation. Homeland security for the most part is an act of paranoia, some very small good, but tons of overstepping of individual and public rights.
And, what of the ‘moral remove’ the people of the United States personally put between their own lifestyles and the wars waged by the global corporations that feed on it.
We as a nation went to war.
Kaz, I’m confused by your statement.
Do you think it is a Christian war that is being waged by American troops? Or that it is the Christian right (modern boogeyman de jour) who has pushed this agenda. We have to quit blaming other people for what is wrong with our democracy.
There are always civilians killed in war, and it is very unfortunate. But, at least on the ground more civilians are killed by car bombs than out soldiers. But, the minute a civilian picks up a weapon he is no longer a civilian.
Matt — I have problems, major problems with the use of late next generation napalm like substances we used early on, and the lousy excuse that it was something other than it was. That was an irresponsible act that should not be swept under the carpet.
Looking forward to 2008.