American Elephants

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Representative of the District of Columbia. by The Elephant's Child

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton represents the District of Columbia, and though she can sit on committees and voice her opinion, she has no vote. Democrats are anxious to make the District a state, since it is reliably Democratic. They want to win. Nevermind rules, ethics or Constitution. They want permanent power and they want the rest of us to shut up. They don’t like dissent. Transforming members of Congress into lobbyists? Fine.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton left a voicemail for a lobbyist in which she brazenly begs for a “contribution.” It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of how legalized bribery is the standard operating procedure in Washington. Until money is taken out of politics, this kind of corruption will only get worse and worse. The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

When Ethics and Statistics Clash, First Thing You Know You End Up With “Death Panels.” by The Elephant's Child
January 10, 2010, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Islam, Law, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

There was an odd column in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, by Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado.  He points out that we are playing a game that could be called “Terrorball.”   The rules are, he says 1) The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans and 2) If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.

These rules help explain the otherwise inexplicable wave of hysteria that has swept over our government in the wake of the failed attempt by a rather pathetic aspiring terrorist to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. For two weeks now, this mildly troubling but essentially minor incident has dominated headlines and airwaves, and sent politicians from the president on down scurrying to outdo each other with statements that such incidents are “unacceptable,” and that all sorts of new and better procedures will be implemented to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Mr. Campos is enamored by statistics:  “Consider then that on this very day about 6,700 Americans will die. … [A]round 1,900 of the Americans who die today will be less than 65, and that indeed about 140 will be children. Approximately 50 Americans will be murdered today, including several women killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and several children who will die from abuse and neglect.  Around 85 of us will commit suicide, and another 120 will die in traffic accidents.”

He goes on at great length, but the gist of his argument is that we should stop all this nonsense that is inconveniencing everyone at airports and have a little courage.

For obvious reasons, politicians and other policy makers generally avoid discussing what ought to be considered an “acceptable” number of traffic deaths, or murders, or suicides, let alone what constitutes an acceptable level of terrorism. Even alluding to such concepts would require treating voters as adults—something which at present seems to be considered little short of political suicide.

…How long will it take to admit that an endless war on terror, dedicated to making America a terror-free nation, is equally nonsensical?

Nate Silver also “crunches the risk numbers” in an effort to point out that there’s nothing to see here, just move along.

I’m sure that is just a coincidence that these columns should appear just after the Obama administration demonstrated their incomplete grasp of the nature of the War on Terror. Do note the phrase “rather pathetic aspiring terrorist.”  After all, the number of dead on 9/11 wasn’t anywhere near the initial count of over 5,000.  What’s the big deal?  It was probably just a one-off event, anyway.

And it is also a coincidence that (brother of Rahm) Ezekiel Emanuel M.D., “medical ethicist” should run the numbers on medicine and human life and decide that old folks just cost too much in their later years. And the retarded or disableds’ life years are not as valuable as those of someone in the bloom of early adulthood, and the blind are not worth as much as the sighted.

The noted “Oregon Plan” denies cancer-fighting drugs to a patient as too expensive, but offers assisted suicide as an alternate option. The current health-care bills attempt to save money by cutting fees paid to doctors and hospitals, making health care less available for seniors, and make paid abortion a right.

Or how about all the celebrated environmentalists who call for a much-reduced population of the earth as necessary to preserve the beauty of the environment in the way that they prefer.

You would almost start thinking that the Left was fairly callous about human life, wouldn’t you?

Prurient Interest. Why Are We So Fascinated By A Scandal? by The Elephant's Child
December 13, 2009, 3:42 am
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

Let me admit that I haven’t much interest in celebrities, except when standing in line for the grocery check-out.  Surrounded with tabloids, who can resist — besides there’s not much else to look at except other people’s grocery carts and one doesn’t want to appear judgmental.

That said, it seems unfortunate that Tiger Woods has embarrassed himself, shamed his family and so on, but I am not really interested.  It is his problem to deal with, and I have no prurient interest.  On the other hand, we have the case of Max Baucus.

Earlier this year, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) nominated one Melodee Hanes, an attorney on his staff, for the job of U.S. attorney in Montana.  Jodi Ravi, a former reporter for The Missoulian revealed over the weekend that the paper informed Baucus in March that it was poised to publish a story about Hanes’s relationship with the senator and the fact that he had nominated her for the U.S. attorney job.  The next day, Hanes withdrew from consideration.  Baucus’ office never acknowledged a relationship and the paper did not run a story.

When Max Baucus’ relationship with his staffer turned personal in 2008, Baucus gave her a $14,000 salary increase. [This is where I get interested!  These Democrats always think that it’s all government money and they can just spend it however they like.]  At the time he was becoming romantically involved with her, and later took her on a taxpayer-funded trip to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, though foreign policy was not her specialty. They were both married to other people at the time of the unfortunate nomination.

Newsweek’s Kate Daily wrote that Hanes had a record of serious accomplishment before going to work for Baucus.  Melodee, said Daily, is not a “bimbo.” Certainly. $14,000 raises of taxpayer money are frequently handed out by elderly senators to efficient staffers, and U.S. Attorney nominations are usually divided up among favored staff. Taxpayer funded junkets and per diems have nothing to do with ethics.  If you want to have a little office romance, it is fairly stupid, but do it on your own dime, not on mine.  In private-sector companies, it’s usually a firing offense.

Why Science and Hollywood Don’t Mix by The Elephant's Child

All too often, issues that ought to be scientific debates slop out of their petri dishes and get involved with fashion and enthusiasm. Such has been the case with the stem cell debate. Adult stem cells have been the subject of scientific experiment since the late 1960s.

The stem cell debate began in the 1990s, and as is usual, became a matter of fashion as a succession of celebrities became involved. It reached fever pitch when President Bush limited the study of embryonic stem cells to existing lines. On one side of the battle were the proponents of embryonic stem cells who believed that only cells derived from embryos could become pluripotent and become any other kind of cell. On the other side were those who believed that it was deeply unethical to experiment with human embryos.

Well. Religion and government. Fundamentalists. Abortion enthusiasts. Outrage on both sides. Embryonic stem cells had some real problems. Cells from another individual, even an embryo, involved problems of rejection. And the nature of stem cells, which is to divide and multiply, often divided and multiplied into cancerous growths. Adult stem cells had a long head start, and had been successfully curing laboratory mice and showing great possibilities in human disease.

But Bush was some kind of religious nut, so obviously he was banning the real hope for people, especially celebrities who yearned to walk again or be cured of their disease.

Last November, two teams of scientists announced that they had successfully re-programmed adult cells to function as pluripotent cells. This presented the possibility of a win-win solution — scientists could work with the cells deemed most promising without the ethical conflict. Researchers are excited about the work and it is moving forward quickly. Induced pluripotent stem cells will be not only easier to use, but they would share both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA with the original patient.

Politicians and enthusiasts aren’t ready to give up on the battle, but there is at least hope now that science might win the argument. Wouldn’t that be refreshing.

Mad Science! by American Elephant
October 7, 2007, 7:57 am
Filed under: Science/Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Young Frankenstein

When did science divorce itself from ethics?

Cloning complex life forms; creating human embryos only to destroy them for research; engineering chimeras for medical experimentation. And now we learn that researchers are still feverishly pursuing that holy grail of mad science — creating artificial life: 

Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.

The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species… [read more]

Sure, it’s only a chromosome — the plan is to introduce the chromosome into a cell which they believe it will then take-over thus becoming a new life form — but if they are successful in creating simple life forms, someone will use the knowledge to attempt creating more complex life forms. Where will it stop? Will it stop?

When and how did the medical profession become the most non-chalant about life?

Is it because they can’t find the soul in their medical textbooks?

I listened recently to a doctor who hosts a well-known radio program, and he was completely flabbergasted that anyone could object to harvesting human embryos for use in medical experimentation — apoplectic really. Experiments that thus far have produced nothing but tumors rejection and death.

And yet just the research itself was more important to him than any consideration for the human life that would be destroyed in order to carry it out. Likewise with cloning. Scientists have become so focused on whether or not they can do a thing, that they’ve completely lost interest in whether or not they should do a thing.

When did science lose its soul?

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