Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Truth About Stem Cell Research, The Media and More

The mainstream media's reporting of the stem cell research debate is disgraceful by any standards. The picture they present is a distorted one that has little to do with fact and everything to do with the promoting of an agenda. Here are a few facts they aren't telling you. Any responsible journalist would not failed to mention any of these. Of course, if they were responsible journalists they'd be ignored by our media except for the occasional smear job they'd be given the honor of receiving.

For starters let's review a little background info. President Bush is the first president to provide federal funding for stem cell research. That's right. President Clinton refused to commit to the issue and when doctors demanded funding in 2000. He claimed it was a touchy subject best left to his successor, who'd have time to review and ponder the situation.

In 2001 President Bush struck a balance between the two sides of the issue. Most had expected him to take one position or another on the issue. With necessary thoughtfulness, the President instead decided that Federal funding would be given to research done on non-viable embryos, those from which human life can no longer be formed. At the same time, the destruction of viable embryos which can grow to become babies if implanted would not be funded. And why not, even according to stem cell research's most vocal proponents, there is no difference between the cells of the viable embryos and those of the others (some scientists contend that adult stem cells, which are also being used for research, are less potent than those taken from embryos but none contend that the viability of the embryo plays a factor in this - and in any case, once the stem cells are taken the previously viable embryo ceases to be so). The only difference between them is that one embryo is a developing human life and the other isn't. Those who are now pushing for more funding had to come up with the excuse that there are too few existing lines (of already non-viable embryos) to work with, a claim that they are hard pressed to back up and which does not supersede the ethical issues involved in creating any stage of human life, with the potential to grow into a fully functional human being, merely to destroy it to be used on research.

Note that President Bush didn't outlaw the use of even the viable embryos for research. He simply stated that all federal funding be allotted to research on non-viable embryos, the stem cells of which all scientists agree are just as potent. President Bush also did not seek to stop funding committed by foreign governments to studies conducted abroad, nor did he prohibit state funding of this research, he simply put up ethical boundaries by which certain research would be granted federal money.

Now fast forward to the present day. Stem cell research has gone on for 6 years. Throughout this time the world of science has been given grants by the state of California, foreign governments have poured money into research as have private donors, and the federal government has committed billions to embryonic stem cell research that falls within its guidelines. One might comment that many other promising areas of medicine have been neglected throughout this time and one would be right. But instead the American Medical Association, who have never seen a grant opportunity they didn't like no matter how well funded their projects are from other sources, is demanding further funding with no ethical restrictions.

Despite the fact that 6 years of research have been done with governments and foundations across the globe pouring more and more money into this research, scientists have demanded more and more funding. Nothing is enough. Democrats, trying to make this a political issue, go along for the ride and are only too happy to take every Republican who is either ignorant of all of the above or who actually believes that the future of this project depends on federal revenue despite the fact that any increase in federal funding, even the amounts they propose, would be a mere drop in bucket compared to the amount already spent worldwide on this endeavor. They are receiving federal money. The federal government is sponsoring stem cell research. What's more, all federal funds allocated to this research are courtesy of President Bush, who funded a project that President Clinton had refused to for all intents and purposes.

Instead of reporting the real situation, the media paints a picture of a scientific community unable to perform a life saving experiment. By only allocating billions and by insisting on certain guidelines that have no bearing on the effects of or the ability to perform the research, President Bush is depicted as having shaken the bottle that contained the cure for rabies out of the hand of Louis Pasteur. President Bush, with the superhuman yet villainous abilities his critics in the media ascribe to him, has single handedly halted the cure for AIDS, Heart Disease the tightening of one's knee joints and the inevitable flatness of uncapped soda. And no one challenges them for the ridiculousness of their assertions.

To recap: Instead of innocuous but truthful headlines that would read something along the lines of "President Bush Refuses to Remove Viability Restrictions on Stem Cell Funding," and instead of mentioning that it was President Bush who commenced embryonic stem cell research funding, we are instead treated to a farcical circus of headlines such as "President Vows Veto On Stem Cell Research" courtesy of the Washington Post propaganda machine. These headlines are then read abroad by agencies wholly unfamiliar with the issue and are accordingly reported as "Bush turns back on science to veto stem cell Bill," this comedy courtesy of the London Telegraph.

What's more, aside from the obvious distortions, the end result of this nonsense is that any hope for serious discussion of whether funding should be allocated to other areas of research, given the amount already poured into this form of research cannot hope to take place. Do other forms of science hold more promise? Should they too be explored in greater detail? These discussions cannot take place as long as an ignorant media seeking solely to promote a false agenda control the conversation.

Stem cell research is not the only subject in which the mainstream media have taken over the conversation to the detriment of progress. Skewed information making informed debate and the progress which stems from it impossible is an infection that affects every subject the media is allowed to falsely define. Yet whenever the President articulates his views people listen. In every speech given on a substantive issue those who hear it are largely receptive to views advocated by the President. However, once the media has broken any given speech down to sound bites and inflected their own spin before and after, the damage is done. As a result, those who rely on standard television, radio or print news and who fail to do their own research are not only given false information, they are left unknowingly ignorant of pertinent facts.

The solution to this can only be one thing. On every issue of substance, the President and his supporters need to articulate their views, not just repeatedly but constantly. And this goes beyond stem cell research. When the media discusses NSA surveillance but fails to report that every president since Carter has employed similar methods without court approval, based on their constitutional power granting authority over military matters, when they seek to define the debate on Iraq without ever mentioning that President Bush gave Saddam over a year to comply with inspections, that all UN intelligence reports as well as those of French and German Intel reported that Iraq had left over WMD and that both sarin gas and tons of uranium were found afterward they remove pertinent facts from the debate even on important issues of national security. And in all of these cases the President needs to take command of the issue. Each time he reaches out
to the public and explains his position he enjoys an increase in support. And while he's at it if his staff could point out the hypocrisy of the media, the ones who report every 1% drop in the polls as headline news but who never give mention to an increase in support by five times the size. Yes, those hypocrites.

The President made a great decision in appointing Tony Snow as his Press Secretary and Snow deserves the thanks of the nation. He's one Press Secretary who doesn't mince words and who wastes no time at White House briefings pointing out certain reporters as the fools they are. But we need more of this.

Take an example from last year. The President lost ground last year when he apologized for failures in Katrina relief and to some extent this has hurt his popularity till today. But when we look at the facts what do we see? The President dispatched FEMA quicker than they'd ever been dispatched in
any previous disaster, despite the fact that for the first 24 hours, Louisiana's own Governor asked that no federal forces be sent. Mike Brown was the most experienced Director of FEMA appointed to that position. Unlike any other, he had previously been Assistant Director and had held senior positions at FEMA for years. Before then he'd been a competent and successful attorney. But because he was not able to properly respond to media inquiries while working around the clock in ravaged New Orleans and with no PR staff, the media chose to trash him and pointed to his side hobby of running dog and pony shows.

To anyone who knew the facts this tactic was beyond the pale. It was akin to saying that an experienced doctor is unfit to practice because he doesn't speak well and he spends his Sundays frequenting coin and stamp fairs. Yet the tactic worked because no one responded. The President nobly took responsibility for actions that were in reality beyond his control when he may have been better served, and the truth would have been better served had the White House instead pointed to the deplorable way partisan Democrats in Congress and even more partisan Democrats in the media distorted the facts in a despicable effort to exploit a natural disaster for political gain. As I mentioned, the President is still affected by this.

Let's learn a lesson and not allow the Democrats to do this again. Just point out the true reasons for their actions and the falsehoods they knowingly spread (though in the case of the media I'm not sure of the "knowingly" part, perhaps "ignorantly and without an iota of fact checking" suits them best). The nation is best served by exposing the truth, the facts, about stem cell research and about the deplorable state of our media.

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