Saturday, July 22, 2006

More on Stem Cells

Reuters has an article which suggests that the stem cell debate has created a fissure in the pro-life camp:

President George W. Bush may have cited his moral stance in vetoing a bill that would have expanded embryonic stem-cell research on Wednesday but the issue transcends traditional divisions over abortion rights. Strongly conservative Republicans who oppose abortion such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch have backed broader federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research for years, and more conservatives have come on board recently, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

The embryos at issue come from fertility clinics, where eggs and sperm are united in lab dishes. But many more are made than can ever be implanted in mothers' wombs, and the leftovers are discarded.

The bill vetoed by Bush would have allowed federal taxpayer money to be used to do research on those embryos donated by the parents. It is not illegal to use private funds to do so, although some conservatives, such as Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, would also seek to ban this research.

The stem cells are taken from a ball of cells known as a blastocyst, which develops five to seven days after conception. These embryonic stem cells are pluripotent -- meaning they can differentiate into all the types of cells that make up an animal, including a human being, but do not form placenta and cannot become a fetus.

Bush, an opponent of abortion, used his first veto as president to block the bill on Wednesday, saying destroying embryos for medical research "crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect."

Many people who disapprove of abortion say they do not disapprove of experimenting on these embryos, which would otherwise be discarded. "It's very difficult to justify abandoning 7,000 to 20,000 in vitro eggs as medical waste," Hatch told reporters recently.

"The president is simply wrong -- it is clear we can expand current policy in an ethical and moral manner that unleashes the potential of embryonic stem-cell research," Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of The Republican Main Street partnership, which styles itself as a centrist Republican movement.

And supporters of embryonic stem-cell research say they are the ones who can claim the moral high ground. "It is immoral for our families, neighbors and friends to be held hostage to chronic diseases when their treatments are within our scientific grasp," June Walker, president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, said in a statement.

Harry Moore of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield in Britain called Bush's stance inconsistent. "Most embryos produced by a normally fertile women will fail before implantation and not go on to a pregnancy. To call it 'murder' to use embryos donated for research is just emotional blackmail," Moore said in a statement.

I agree that there is no necessary connection between one's stance on abortion and one's position on embryonic stem cell research and have explained why here. There may be good reasons not to use embryos as a source of stem cells - other sources may be superior and less socially problematic, for example - and certainly, embryos should not be produced for the purpose of securing their stem cells. But the argument that it is immoral to do research on embryos that are destined to be discarded in any event, and should not be publically funded, does not work.

As I argued at the linked post it may be that the embryos should never have been produced, but that is an entirely separate question from the issue of what, given that the embryos are available and will ultimately be destroyed in any case, may morally be done with them.

Iraq's Unheralded Benefits

The benefits of the Iraq invasion keep piling up in the Middle East. Josh Manchester explains the latest instance of this at Tech Central Station where he argues that the invasion of Iraq has had a tectonic impact on the policies and politics in the Arab world and is paying dividends in the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. He concludes his case by saying that:

The 'big bang,' as invading Iraq has sometimes been called, was meant to reorder the nature of politics in the region. This has been accomplished in a fundamental way. The idea of dividing an enemy force into its constituent parts and then dealing with it piecemeal is at least as old as Caesar's actions in Gaul. It applies no less to US strategy in the Middle East. Every faction there has been made to reconsider its relationship with every other. Rather than there being a monolithic clash of civilizations, thus far the US is dealing with the area in pieces -- in whatever way it sees fit to do so -- whether making it tacitly clear to Syria that what happened in Iraq could more easily happen to it, or threatening Iran on behalf of the region and world, or seeking cooperation with the Saudis in hunting down al Qaeda.

Were Saddam still in power, the Arab world would not feel nearly as threatened by Hezbollah, the Frankenstein's monster of Iran's creation. Instead, they would have sided with the Syrian foreign minister's strong support for Hezbollah. Saddam himself might even have offered cash rewards to anyone attempting martyrdom against the Jews. Instead, ... the leading Arab League states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, call Hezbollah's actions "inappropriate and irresponsible." This lessens the urgency of calls from the international community, whether the G8, UN, or EU, for a ceasefire. That lessened urgency creates something very precious indeed: a moment in time and space wherein Israel has the most fleeting of opportunities for decisive action against Hezbollah, an avowed foe, a terrorist organization, and a constant threat to the security of its populace.

Israel now has the chance to destroy Hezbollah. Only time can tell what Israel will do with the opportunity it possesses. Opportunities forsaken are opportunities lost forever, as MacArthur was sometimes rumored to say. But let there be no mistake: this moment would not have been possible without the invasion of Iraq, and the destruction of Hezbollah is very much in the interest of the United States and that of any other nation that abhors terrorism.

Very little is said about this in the MSM because media types can only see what's directly in front of them, and in their immediate field of vision they see only strife and conflict. To them it all seems like chaos. The idea that Israel would be in a far more precarious position today and that Hamas and Hezbollah would be far stronger had the Iraq war never happened does not impinge upon their mental radar. Even if it did occur to them they wouldn't dare mention it lest they make our nincompoop commander in chief look strategically prescient.

Lieberman Falling

It's not looking good for the Democrats in the Connecticut senate race. The August 8th primary contest between incumbent senator Joe Lieberman versus wealthy challenger Ned Lamont seems to be tilting in favor of Lamont. This is what the self-destructive left-wing base wants, of course, because they loathe Lieberman for his support of the war and love Lamont who is a genuine cut-and-runner.

Lieberman held a 55-40 lead over Lamont in June but is now trailing 51-47.

So why is this bad news for the Dems? Because Lieberman has indicated that if he loses the primary he'll run in November as an independent and will probably win by picking up a lot of Republican votes. This will embarrass the party and those in it who support Lamont in November. If elected as an independent Lieberman promises to caucus with the Democrats, but he'll certainly feel that he owes them little allegiance after their tepid support for him this summer.