Loss for Words

I don’t usually link political stories here, but I read something today that sickened me so much that I couldn’t help but bring it to your attention. Of all the disgusting things this current administration has been behind, no testimony has been more damning to me than what the former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, offered up to the Senate on Tuesday.

Here is just one example of many that Carmona offered up.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

Disgusting.

 

The anti-Science wing of the Republican party is driving many intellectual conservatives from the GOP. The embarassing statements of most of the Republican candidates at a recent Presidential Debate, when they either denied that Evolution existed or tried not to say anything positive about the subject is truly mind-blowing to me. In the New York Times story by Gardiner Harris that the above quote came from, more is outlined about the nuttiness of the Bush White House.

The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.

There is more insanity in the piece, which really makes me wonder what the hell is going on with the White House. I knew that publicly they made some pandering statements to the Christian right, but to actually ignore science behind closed doors is scary.

40 thoughts on “Loss for Words

  1. 1.  I didn’t realize liberals had cornered the market on science.

    I was also shocked to learn that politics actually plays a role in the policy advocacy of public appointees. It’s not like other administrations exerted pressure on their representative. Oh wait, according to the quotes below, they did. It seems as if the other SG’s just had more conviction than Dr. Carmona, who conveniently waited until he was not re-appointed to take his stand.

    It seems to me that this article is more a criticism of social policies than scientific advocacy. One may not like the stem cell ban or the notion that abstinence is preferable to contraception (I think most scientific studies would prove the former better than latter in protecting against pregnancy and STDs), but they are both valid moral positions that the administration has the right to encourage via policy.

    “Each complained about political interference and the declining status of the office. Dr. Satcher said that the Clinton administration discouraged him from issuing a report showing that needle-exchange programs were effective in reducing disease. He released the report anyway.”

    “Dr. Koop, said he had been discouraged by top officials in the Reagan administration from discussing the AIDS crisis. He did so anyway.”

  2. 2.  Scott,

    This isn’t surprising at all. The worst is yet to come. I suspect that when a fuller picture of the belief systems of those in charge of the good ol’ US of A becomes clearer over the next decade, we’ll all marvel that self-delusion could possibly ever reach such heights.

    Of course when your world-view is completely guided by 2000 year-old religious thinking, you are bound to look silly in 2007. Can’t everyone see that if that one odd group of Jews was right about God, the Universe and Everything 2000 years ago, it was the ONE thing that they were ever right about?? What are the odds of that? Stop for a minute and try to think of another area of human endeavor and inquiry that is still based in the first century AD. Pretty much everything that humans thought about the world 2000 years ago has been demonstrated to be wrong…except religion.

    I’m just sayin’

    (…lights fuse, walks slowly away).

  3. 3.  1 “I didn’t realize liberals had cornered the market on science.”

    I don’t think that was the point, nor would I agree that liberals are all scientifically minded. They are just as irrational at times, they just generally don’t hit the heights of absurdity that Mssr’s Bush and Reagan do/did.

    As someone who has recently discovered that abstinence is truly the only sure-fire birth control method, I would applaud any administration’s efforts to get that particular message out in the context of real-world thinking: people like to f*, they will continue to f* and any sane person will acknowledge that fact.

    Tell kids that abstinence is the only foolproof method, but don’t pretend that no other alternatives exist—they might not be 100% effective, but they are better than nothing. Condoms do not encourage sexual behavior, the possession of penises and vaginas does.

  4. 4.  William, I’m not a science geek. I don’t believe everything that Al Gore says about Global Warming.

    Yes, stem cell research and contraception are 2 categories I disagree strongly with the current administration, but the politicizing of something like the Special Olympics is truly beyond forgiveness to me.

  5. 5.  4 – As opposed to say, genocide?

    I don’t disagree with you–and maybe it is because I am mostly lefty–but there is a wide range of moral issues that should not be politicized. This administration does it more egregiously than others, but I think it is pretty widespread.

  6. 6.  2 Your comments are too wacky to even debate (…ignores fuse…)

    As to the original post, I read the statement “why would you want to help those people?” as referring to the Kennedys, not the disabled.

    And the surgeon general attending the special olympics is purely a political maneuver, so whether he attends or not is by its very nature political. Its not like he makes a dent in the number of volunteers at the games.

  7. 7.  Where’s the guy who posts on BB about his book “that they don’t want you to read”?
    I get so tired of the agendas of all the politicians these days. Either they’re figuring out a way to line their pockets or pandering to a powerful faceless group. No wonder <50% turn out to vote.

  8. 9.  A science vs. religion “conflict” is as inane as the alleged “scouts vs. stats” stuff. There is no reason one cannot respect both, a la Gregg Easterbrook. That certain political figures, particularly in the current administration, refuse to do this does not surprise me.

    I want my beer and my tacos, please, but I’m a liberal Roman Catholic with a degree in engineering, so what do I know.

  9. 10.  6 Ignore fuse at your own risk. Of course, recognizing it means you are going to hell, or something…

    Nobody said it better that when The Daily Show aired a clip of the Republican candidates being asked if they don’t believe in evolution, and a handful raised their hands, to which Jon Stewart deadpanned “you all may exit, stage left”.

    No one is stupid enough to think abstinence is better than contraception at preventing STD’s or pregnancy. That is a totally different conversation (or statement, there is no argument). This conversation is how best to lower the levels of each. A basic fact of that is that 15, 16, and 17 year olds are going to be doing the dirty. You might reach a few of those by a pure abstinence policy. You would reach more by also informing them about contraception. I have no problem promoting abstinence (however ridiculous that idea may be in the 21st century for a majority of the population), but you have to supplement that message. If you are doing what is “best for the country”, I see no other rational policy.

    And come on, lets be real here. The Republican platform in general is against evolution, against stem cell research, in denial about global warming, etc. The left side of the political spectrum BY DEFINITION is more scientifically grounded, housing aethiests and environmentalists. The right side is grounded more in religious/moral tenants. This is a very, very basic assestment, but in general correct. That does not mean one is better than the other. I prefer a little to one side, but I dabble on the other side as well.

  10. 11.  10. Not sure if the right side of the spectrum is really in denial of global warming, or just not convinced that it is man made vs a natural cycle. There are some problems with the sample size, and causation factors. vr, Xei

  11. 13.  Scott, did you and Mike’s Baseball Rants plan the “Loss for Words” double title?

  12. 14.  11 I can definitely see why that argument would be made, but to me it seems that what it inherently infers is that the person believes part of what the scientists claim (that they have the technology and capability to show that the earth’s temperature fluctuates, going back millions of years) but denies the rest (that as of now, it is MUCH MUCH higher than it has ever been, most particularly in the past 50 years). I don’t think I have seen any scientific journal claiming that this dramatic rise is “normal”, and the bible doesn’t really deal with global warming (at least not directly :-)).

  13. 15.  I disagree with the tenet that attending the special Olympics is a political act. Sure the Kennedy’s support it, but so do many conservatives. To be told by someone in the administration not to attend because the Kennedy’s run the thing is a political act. To attend the event is not. It’s not like showing up is saying that you love Ted Kennedy’s policies. If this was the case, I doubt people like George Will would have appeared at the Special Olympics. I’m not someone who thinks that everything one does is a political act.

    I’m Agnostic and I’m not about to claim that I don’t side against religion ruling policy, but I also am not a zealot for my side. (for example, I had no big problem with the Under God put back into the Pledge of Allegiance, as I’m worried about bigger issues which definitely ostracize certain people in society. My wife, who is a Christian, thought the Under God in the Pledge Allegiance shouldn’t be allowed, but my feeling is to know when to fight your battles and the bigger issue is not allowing Prayer in the Schools, which would ostracize many children.

    There is not one republican running that I don’t feel would do a better job than Bush, but for some of them to deny Evolution or try to put Creationism on the same footing is still a scary concept to me. The way people with Moderate viewpoints like the Surgeon General, Christy Todd Whitman, and Paul O’Neill have been treated by this current administration is disgusting. I wouldn’t want a Dennis Kucinich-type as President, either, so here is another rant from a Passionate Moderate.

  14. 16.  Eric- I had noticed that Mike had posted a piece with this title and I had just read the NYT piece, which made me feel stunned. Thus, I decided to offer up the same title for a much different posting. Obviously, it was a bit of a misnomer, as I am not at a loss for words on this topic.

  15. 17.  Scott, just so you know I wasn’t criticizing you but I thought it was a rare Toaster joint post.

    I have checked out some of your online clips. Funny stuff. Do you ever perform in San Diego?

  16. 18.  I was glad someone commented on it, as I titled it that way so it would seem like a misprint on the Toolbar.

    Thanks for the positive feedback. Actually, I have performed many times in Irvine, but have stopped playing the area, as I could never move up from middle act there. When you are playing the IMPROV’s in SoCal, the headliners are mega stars since they mostly live in the area. The middle acts are big acts as well. Even the MC’s generally have TV credits. It’s a really tough market to thrive in, if you are just trying to do comedy.

    I don’t see myself in the area anytime soon, as I lose too much money going out there. It’s a buyer’s market in LA and NY, so I’ve begun staying in between coasts, where I have more cache (cash-e)

  17. 19.  Look up who said the following quote:

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

    What’s shocking to me is that no person running from President in 2008 would say something like this. Our country has moved so far to the right that no politician (left, center or right) would ever, ever utter words like these.

    From creation “science” to the opposition to the HPV vaccine, I can find a litany of things that the GOP does that I don’t agree with. But, to me, it’s not so much about being anti-science, as being anti-people. The stubborn refusal to yield an inch of ground has made us all worse for the wear.

    And, I hope that in the very near future we have a Republican utter words like those quoted from Eisenhower above.

  18. 20.  “I didn’t realize liberals had cornered the market on science.” Scott didn’t make that argument. It’s unfortunately a typical right-wing tactic to throw out a wild, baseless accusation to seek to change the topic of discussion.

    There is ample, irrefutable evidence that the neo-fascist wing of the Republican party, which is indeed the predominant wing of the Republican party, has actively and to an unprecedented extent, politicized, blocked and abused scientific research in this nation. To our great detriment the Bush administration has impeded scientific investigation at a host of disparate federal agencies.

    I read yesterday that China had executed a former public official for corruption in office. I only wish such a law could be enacted here, post-haste.

  19. 22.  Austin has a great comedy scene, which features a lot of comics with very ironic styles or really big names. I don’t fit either of these descriptions, so I’ve never even sent promo to the club. As I said, I like most of the comics they book, just know that I’m not a great fit for what they are looking for.

    I have played all the other major cities in Texas, (Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio), but don’t have anything scheduled in the state over the next 6 months. If this changes, I will post a notice.

  20. 23.  Stem cells?

    First of all, Bush was the first president to offer federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It went from nothing to something. Did your liberal heads explode yet? Clinton never laid out a dime.

    Secondly, not one person has been cured of anything with embryonic stem cells. Ever. It has been so overhyped that we should expect our flying cars and jetpacks before we see Superman walk again. Me? I’m waiting for cold fusion.

    Finally, and I thought Scott claimed to be a libertarian, the federal government should not be funding this kind of research: it is nothing more than corporate welfare! If there is money to be made in embryonic stem cell research, then the private sector will find a way to make it happen. I believe in the marketplace. We shouldn’t be giving handouts to big pharma. If a breahthrough is ever made, do you think Eli Lily will turn around and give it away for free as a sign of gratitude for all the govt. largesse? Fuck no.

    I don’t think the govt should be spending any money on medical research at all. It’s corporate welfare, plain and simple. Besides, why put so much faith in the govt to solve every problem? All you are doing is ceding more sovereignty and power to them. Every time you start a thought with, “The govt should be doing this or that,” you are doing nothing more putting us on a road to serfdom.

  21. 24.  I can’t argue with you on this, JGPyke. My problem is when the government dictates that certain stem cells are off limits, because of moral reasoning. Even on something like cloning, which I feel very uneasy about, I side on letting American researchers work on it, as I would rather we be in the forefront than China or Russia.

    I value Libertarian principles, but unlike most people I know who actually claim they are a libertarian, I acknowledge that there are some government programs that are worthwhile that go beyond defense and intrastructure.

  22. 25.  I don’t necessarily believe in some kind of radical libertarianism, but OTOH I’d love it if we had a bunch of them in govt. And corporate welfare has got to end–same for farm subsidies, ethanol subsidies, etc. In fact, a lot of these subsidies hurt the third world most, since we prop up prices of our own goods here with taxpayer money and that makes the third world agricultural goods non-competitive.

    As for cloning, there is currently no law on the books banning it in America. An absence of federal funding does not a ban make. Some states do have some bans and limitations, though. http://www.ncsl.org/programs/health/genetics/rt-shcl.htm

    Federalism, baby. It seems like Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota have the most restrictive laws, but outside of the Big Ten universities in some of those states, I don’t really associate any of those listed as bastions of cutting edge science anyway. It’s like banning snowshovels in Miami, a symbolic gesture at best.

    Regarding the stem cell thing, I personally don’t like the morals/ethics involved and side with the so-called moralists on that. But you’ll notice that I never brought that up, because the rational/logical arguments against federal funding of this kind of research are strong enough on their own. That’s where the policians always shit the bed: they go for an emotional appeal instead of the logical one. Both sides do it: no one has a monopoly on that.

    In fact, I would guess that a lot of the reactionary refutations of man-made global warming are partly to blame on the emotionalism that dominates the proponents of the theory. The hypocrisy doesn’t help, either. But I didn’t mean to get into a whole global warming thing, I just meant that politicians go for the emotional pandering instead of letting the reasoning do the heavy lifting. All we ever hear is, “The science is settled: we’re killing our grandchildren.”

  23. 26.  BTW, Scott, I would amend your above statement to say, “The government dictates that certain stem cells are off limits, from federal funding, because of moral reasoning.” There are no prohibitions against private funding or private research on other lines.

    You probably meant that already, but in all seriousness, a lot of people (maybe most, even) don’t understand that. They think it’s been “banned,” which it flatly has not.

    Whenever the topic comes up, I am surprised how little people know about it. They always think, “Bush has banned stem cell research.” No, he has funded it. He has banned federal funding from being used for certain kinds of it. There is a big difference.

    Am I against stem cell research? I dunno. But I do know that I am against having the government confiscate a portion of my paycheck to hand over to big pharma, who will only screw me in the end anyway. Let them pay for it themselves.

  24. 27.  In all fairness, jgpyke, you did compare stem cell research to cold fusion.

    The “problem” with having only private funding for medical research is that the incentives are profitable more than the are useful to the society at large. A private company doesn’t have the money to engage in really speculative research if it’s not going to turn a profit right away. Is there any wonder why we have a dozen ED medications being advertised every second of the day?

    Even the biggest anti-government person out there has to concede that there should be science done without a regard to immediate profit-making.

    I am sure someone more versed in this than I am can tell us things that started out as pie-in-the-sky government projects eventually ended up enriching all of our lives.

    Whether or not W’s actions are a “ban” or not is really a semantic debate. It’s not like the administration decided to not fund stem cell research because it was expensive, and is giving us all a tax break in return. It was a moral choice. The same portion of your paycheck is still getting handed over to big pharma, it’s just being spent on something else.

  25. 28.  Tom: cold fusion and embronic stem cells are qualitatively the same here. Big promises, no results. That may change someday.

    And whether it’s a “ban” is not semantics. Nothing has been banned at the federal level. That’s the problem with liberals: a lack of a government handout is not a ban.

    It’s like saying Bush has banned clown suits just because he failed to subsidize them. There is no ban, no prohibition.

    No president has ever funded embryonic stem cell research except Bush. There is no semantic debate there.

    And as long as there is no violation of the equal protection clause or similar equity laws, the govt is free to place whatever restrictions it wants when it hands out money. If they want to give block grants to schools for math books, that doesn’t mean history books were “banned.” Those are simply the strings attached. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to take the money. It’s the exact same thing here. If you want to research these specific stem cell lines, then you are eligble for a government handout. If you want to do it on other lines, then that is on your own dime.

    The reasoning is beside the point.

    If I give my daughter a dollar to be spent on a veggie burger, I didn’t “ban” ice cream. If she doesn’t want the veggie burger, then she doesn’t get the money. Was I being moralistic by saying what she could or couldn’t spend the money on? Maybe. But those are the conditions.

    I see no difference here.

  26. 29.  I think you make some good points, and I like the clown suit example a lot, and I really like the example of you and your daughter.

    The difference I see is that the Administration’s position is akin to funding clown suits with blue wigs but not one with red wigs, and then saying, “Hey, we fund clown suits.” Well, why are they bothering to make that distinction?

    I think our elected government should come up with a better reason than “because I said so.”

    The money used for funding is money that we as citizens paid into the government. If W wants to donate his own money, he can do so how he chooses.

    When he’s spending our money, he should do it in a manner that’s best for the country as whole. Let’s remember that our founders tossed out the King– “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    Or, in short, the government is not my daddy.

    Now, if there’s a rational argument on why one type of clown suit should be funded, and one kind should not, let’s hear it.

    (An aside: One of the things I really like about Sicko were the expats in France saying, “In America, the citizens fear the government. In France, the government fears the citizens. Something to keep in mind on Bastille Day this weekend).

    I must plead ignorance on the difference between the promises of cold fusion and stem cells. I don’t know how old stem cell technology is, either. I don’t know if another president had the opportunity and then didn’t take it. I really don’t have any idea.

  27. 30.  And, as a follow up point:

    Being illegal and just being bad government are two separate questions, and they are both valid. No one thinks that Clinton exceeded his powers in pardoning his brother or Marc Rich. Whether or not that was the “right” thing to do is another question.

    Maybe the better way to put this question is to say ask whether every action undertaken by the government, as long as it’s not illegal, is a legitimate use of power.

    In my opinion, no. For example, a 100% marginal rate tax would be legal, but it would be the wrong thing to do.

  28. 31.  Tom–good extension of the clown suit analogy. I see what you mean by pols wanting to have it both ways.

    So you’re against a 100% tax rate? I guess you’re not a liberal after all. Sorry for the false accusation earlier.

    “In America, the citizens fear the government. In France, the government fears the citizens.” That is very telling to me, but not in the way you perceive it. Here, our govt derives its rights from the people. Therefore, we should fear giving it too much power. In France, the people are granted rights by its govt. Thus, the govt fears giving the people too much power.

  29. 32.  jgpyke, you must not be aware that government funded health care research is really the best we have. In research, NIH is the gold standard. The best scientists take pay cuts to work there. Unfortunately, much of the raw research goes free to the drug companies, who then siphon the profits, stiffing the taxpayers who paid for the original research.

    You spout a lot of rhetoric but not much fact. Research by drug companies primarily goes into how they can differentiate their prescription drug from their competitors. The private sector doesn’t do the type of long-term investigatory research that leads to significant advancements in medicine.

  30. 33.  “not one person has been cured of anything with embryonic stem cells. Ever. It has been so overhyped that we should expect our flying cars and jetpacks before we see Superman walk again. Me? I’m waiting for cold fusion.”

    This statement reveals – and this is understatement – your lack of any substantive knowledge about stem cell research. For those who don’t know, the achievement of cold fusion was claimed by one researcher. When other scientists tried to recreate his accomplishments independently, they were unable to. Thus, the claimed achievement of cold fusion was debunked almost immediately.

    To compare it to stem cell research is complete idiocy. Here are the words of the NIH.

    “In 1998, for the first time, investigators were able to isolate this class of pluripotent stem cell from early human embryos and grow them in culture. In the few years since this discovery, evidence has emerged that these stem cells are, indeed, capable of becoming almost all of the specialized cells of the body and, thus, may have the potential to generate replacement cells for a broad array of tissues and organs, such as the heart, the pancreas, and the nervous system. Thus, this class of human stem cell holds the promise of being able to repair or replace cells or tissues that are damaged or destroyed by many of our most devastating diseases and disabilities.”

    For those who have an interest in the subject I urge you to read up on it at the NIH’s web site. http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/scireport/execSum.asp

  31. 35.  Al, the key phrase is this:

    may have the potential to”

    Again, I repeat, not one person has been cured of anything from embryonic stem cell research. Ever. It is a fact.

    And since all of this remains in theory, it is the same as cold fusion. That was my point. In theory, there could be cold fusion (the theory has not been debunked, only one guy’s claim of success). In theory, someone may be cured of something someday by embryonic stem cells.

    Homer Simpson: “In theory, communism works. In theory.”

    Cut the ad hominem. I know what I’m talking about, and it ain’t cherrypicking quotes from what some govt lackey hopes may somehow, someday, possibly, pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top happen. Embryonic stem cells may yet someday do some good, but they are an overhyped pipe dream.

    A lot of science is littered with empty promises. Where’s my jetpack? What happened to global cooling? When’s the silent spring? Peak oil? Population bomb? Mass starvation in the United States?

    I’m not anti-science. I am just anti people who act like scientists are some irrefutable high priests. They are just people trying to draw conclusions; some are even agenda driven, believe it or not.

  32. 36.  You just keep repeating the same idiotic rambling statements. Perhaps your family should send for the men in the white coats.

  33. 37.  “You just keep repeating the same idiotic rambling statements.” Uhh…I just realized, Mr. President, is that you posting here at the toaster?

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