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March 31, 2009

Green Team

Coming soon to your neighborhood....

The Green Team, featuring Will Ferrell.

Tribe Countdown

The opener is a week away, and DiaTribe blogger Paul Cousineau is in Goodyear, Arizona reporting on the team. With the notable exception of Terry Pluto, the local sportswriters can't touch the Indians coverage provided by Paul and Tony and Buff, the Tribe team at TheClevelandFan.com.

So it's doubly cool when Paul runs into Pluto at the ballpark in Goodyear, and gets to sit in the sun and pick the brain of a Cleveland sportswriting legend, and then tell us all about it. Then go check out Paul's link-filled Lazy Sunday column, and you're right where you need to be. Almost...

Turns out Tony Lastoria is at Spring Training too, though he hangs out mostly at the minor league camp, cause that's his beat....(dozens of good photos at that second link). Here's Tony's Indians MInor League Prospects site, where you can pick up his book.

And Buff will be back with "The B-List" when they start playing games for real next week.

And speaking of beating the pants off the local ink-stained wretches, Hiko's Browns coverage is always priceless. He could never get a column past any newspaper editor, but such is the beauty of New Media.

March 30, 2009


David Horowitz is distressed by conservatives unhinged over Obama

It's good counsel, I'd say. It's easy to get carried away.

UPDATE 4/2: Related thoughts from Hugh Hewitt

Here's some more sanity from Horowitz' FPM: Get off the stupid birth certificate issue

Wrong Venue

Claudia Rosett says it's a mistake for Obama to lend legitimacy to the nascent Alliance of Civilizations by attending their confab in Istanbul next month. It's another U.N.-spawned vehicle for recycling corrupt U.N. bureaucrats and advancing a pro-Iranian, anti-West agenda. Can't the U.N. do that without any help?

March 28, 2009

Higher Re-education

I've long been a fan of Erin O'Connor's blog Critical Mass, and two worthwhile posts jumped out at me on my last visit. First, a two-part YouTube video documenting the execrable University of Delaware "ResLife" indoctrination program that caused so much controversy a couple of years ago.

(For countless more examples of political indoctrination, censorship, and violations of free speech rights on American college campuses, see The Torch, the blog of FIRE.)

And with the Ward Churchill trial currently underway in Colorado, Erin asks if anyone even remembers how Churchill came to be exposed as the academic fraud he is, leading to his termination from the U of C. I didn't...but she'll remind you.

March 27, 2009



The LeBron James clip from the "60 Minutes" interview is all over the web today, and by the way....thank goodness for Sunday's network television feature on the Cavs star. The poor guy can't get any national exposure lately.

The "60 Minutes" piece, which reportedly has been in the works for two years, tops off a month in which LeBron has pretty much eliminated any doubt about who the league's best player is, and who its MVP will be. The Cavs' league-best record, the current 11-game winning streak, and their remarkable 34-1 home mark have helped elevate James into MVP status.

Until this year, LeBron had always humbly deferred to Kobe Bryant when asked who he thought the NBA's best player was. And up until this year he may have been right. But LeBron's defense has improved significantly this season, and his leadership of the team on and off the court is evident to anyone paying attention. Those factors and the fact that his overall floor game is superior to Bryant's, (even though Kobe may still be the better pure scorer) has moved LeBron past Bryant in the eyes of many commentators and analysts for MVP consideration.

For now, the prevailing sentiment is that the 24-year old from Akron is the best player on the planet. Which is nice for Cleveland fans, who haven't been able to lay claim to the best player in a sport since Jim Brown dominated the NFL down on the lakefront 45 years ago.

And the milestones keep piling up.... a team record for Cavs victories in a season (with 11 games to play)....a Central Division championship...and just recently, James became just the second player ever to record seasons of 2000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists four times in his career, the great Oscar Robertson (who did it six times) being the first. Only five players have ever done it even once.... the other three names - Jordan, Havlicek, and Bird. Did I mention 24-years old?

Then along comes ESPN's John Hollinger this week to tell us that, not only is James the dominant player in the league this year...not exactly a news flash, he admits....but that he is putting on one of the great NBA single-season performances of all time.

That James is playing well is hardly a secret -- virtually every writer in the country has him either first or second on the MVP ballot heading into the season's final stretch. But the vagaries of the game's stats have made it difficult to appreciate what a historically great season he's having.

James doesn't lead the league in a single individual category, and his scoring and rebounding numbers are both down from a year ago. Yet when one looks at his accomplishments in total, and adjusts for both his minutes and his team's pace, he's having one of the greatest seasons in league history.

On a per-minute basis, he's averaging more points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals than he did last season -- when he already was having a sensational season that included the league's best PER -- and is shooting better from the field, from the line and from 3-point range. Somehow, he's averaging fewer turnovers, too.

Add it all up and James' 31.69 PER through Sunday's games isn't only the best in the league, holding off a stern late charge by Miami's Dwyane Wade -- it's second only to Jordan in the past 35 years, and if James has a strong closing finish, it could end up as the best.

Here's more from Hollinger on his player efficiency rating system, and how it demonstrates LeBron's dominance.

The playoffs await, of course, and Kobe may have the last laugh....and he's had a good run. But the torch has been passed.

UPDATE 3/29: PD: Pulling away from the field?

March 23, 2009


Went almost a week without posting. Didn't hurt a bit. Felt good, in fact. But it does mean there's some stuff saved up...

On our nation's financial condition, which the White House sees as anywhere from "catastrophic" to "sound", depending on whether the president needs to pass a stimulus bill or heed advice that he sound reassuring, even his political supporters are pessimistic. Paul Krugman for one has seen the new Geithner plan, and says it won't work.

Steyn is required reading with "The Outrage Kabuki", saying "The first two months of the Age of the Hopeychange have been an eye-opener. I expected it to be ideologically distasteful to me, but I didn’t expect it to be so inept." And Matt Continetti and Jim Manzi are suggesting practical alternatives to our budget and bailout policies that are worth considering.

Victor Davis Hanson and Scott Johnson on feeling depressed in the Age of Hope and Change. Tom Smith is more optimistic, in part because the same old media gatekeepers no longer man the gates, and self-publication and blogging will be a force for freedom going forward.

Post-partisanship in action: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford wanted to use some of the stimulus money to pay down his state's burdensome debt, rather than expand state programs only to lose federal funding down the line. He describes what happened in a WSJ op-ed:

Last week I reached out to the president, asking for a federal waiver from restrictions on stimulus money. I got a most unusual response. Before I even received an acknowledgment of the request from the White House, I got word that the Democratic National Committee was launching campaign-style TV attack-ads against me for making it.

Is this the new brand of politics we were promised? Instead of engaging with me and other governors on the merits of our dissent, I am to be attacked in television ads? In the end, I just don't believe a problem created by too much debt will be solved by piling on more debt. This doesn't strike me as an unreasonable or extremist position.

Could it have more to do with the perception that Sanford is an appealing national political figure for the Republican Party? Never too early to start the sliming.

James Kirchick on the sad legacy of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

As details emerge about the apparent involvement of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn in a 1970 Weather Underground bombing of a San Francisco police station, the Obama Justice Department has contacted the San Francisco Police Officers Association, and told them not to talk about the still officially unsolved case. Why would that be?

If Obama doesn't stop repairing all those tattered relationships with our allies, we'll soon have none left at all. This snub of Sarkozy seems more clumsy than calculated, but so far, pretty much everything Obama has done with our allies has been clumsy. OK, man...our expectations have been sufficiently lowered since January. Most of us would settle for a little competence right about now.

Meat Bracketology: "...if we weren't meant to eat animals, how come they're all made out of meat?"

March 16, 2009

All-Time Tribe Greats

At Sully Baseball, something of interest for Tribe fans....a selection of two "all-time" Indians teams...the "home grown" version, players who came up through the Indians system, and the "acquired" team, comprised of players acquired in trades. Both groups are pretty impressive....I'm just wondering how the hell Brook Jacoby got in there. Links to a similar comparison for most other MLB clubs included. (hat tip to Swerb, the straw that stirs the drink at TCF)

Al-Dura Documentary

There's a new German documentary out on the 2000 al-Dura affair, and the truth is slowly but surely coming out. It's too late to save the lives of the many innocent Israelis, Palestinians and others killed by the violence the hoax incited, but late is better than never. (via contentions)

Previous posts on al-Dura:

New Dreyfuss Affair?

New al-Durah Film

March 15, 2009

Climate Change Is Redundant - Part LXXVI

Seems 800 scientists gathered in New York last week for the 2nd Annual International Conference on Climate Change, and it turns out the debate is not over after all. Marc Sheppard reports on what went on. Sure glad the Obama administration isn't going to allow base political considerations to corrupt free scientific inquiry and the pursuit of the truth. Hey, the 31,000 scientists who signed the Oregon Petition are appreciative too.

More on the conference from Richard Schulman at Brussels Journal.

Ronald Bailey at Reason.com has several dispatches from the conference. Here's the last one, with links to the others.

Redefining Out of Sight

Plus ça change....

In yet another example of the president striking a grand rhetorical pose to please his base, only to subsequently assume a position that closely mirrors Bush administration policy, Obama has decided to redefine those troublesome captured (and yet to be captured) "enemy combatants" out of existence by choosing to call them something different.

Andy McCarthy comments:

Obama wants to have the advantage of — and take credit for the security provided by — the Bush post-9/11 policies. However, he has a rabid left-wing base that rejects the notion that there is a war and wants terrorism returned to the courts (and by the way, if/when that happens, that base will immediately go back to arguing that the court proceedings are inherently unfair, which is what it did for the eight years before 9/11). Throughout the campaign, Obama stirred this base — which consequently voted in droves for him — by trashing the policies he now wants to leave in place. So now he is in a quandary: "How do I keep these policies while preventing a revolt from these crazy people — er, I mean, my voters?"

What Obama, Holder & Co. have done on "enemy combatants" is a somewhat more elaborate version of what they've done on Gitmo, rendition, state-secrets, interrogations, etc. Call it, as the editors of NRO have called it, "Change George Bush Could Believe In."

Essentially, we're no longer going to call our captives "enemy combatants" ... but we're still going to detain people without trial, and Obama claims the unilateral authority to decide who gets detained.

UPDATE 3/16: Taranto, after noting the re-branding of enemy combatants says...

In case you think the Obama administration has gone soft on terrorists, blogger Lyle Denniston notes that in another case Eric Holder's Justice Department has asserted that "aliens held at Guantanamo do not have due process rights." (Hmm, "aliens" seems like such a harsh word . . .)

Just between us, they're still enemies, and they're still combatants. But if calling them something else will enhance America's security by confusing the civil liberties weenies for a while, that is a good thing.


The one shortcoming in this semantic offensive is that the Obama administration does not seem to have put forward a euphemism for "enemy combatant."


We visited Guantanamo a few years ago and were struck by how hospitable the place was: Detainees get three ample meals a day, books and games, mail privileges and generous accommodations for their religious practices. The U.S. treats them the way any guest would want to be treated (with obvious limitations owing to their desire to kill us all). So why not call them "company"?

More Reaction on Stem Cell Policy

Not sure how I missed Yuval Levin's Washington Post article on Obama's stem cell research announcement the other day. Levin was the Executive Director of the President's Council on Bioethics, and this piece is well worth your time.

And speaking of time well spent, I have been meaning to tout Levin's book, "Imagining the Future - Science and American Democracy", since I finished it a couple of weeks ago. It's a quick read at just about 135 pages, and I found it to be one of the most illuminating and sensible things I have read in years.

Levin examines the back and forth between the political left and right in this country where science is concerned, and the very different perspectives we bring to our thinking about the future. He touches on some contemporary issues, and stem cell research is among them, but this is not a book about specific policies.

It's more of a big picture look at the role of modern science in our society....how science raises profound political, moral and ethical dilemmas for our system of self-government, and how our political debates often do more to confuse and obscure those questions than they do to resolve them. It is timely and beautifully written, with admonitions for both the political left and right, and with neither side spared an airing of their contradictions and rhetorical excesses. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and am hoping to spend more time on it in this space soon.

There, that's pretty much the way we rehearsed it, isn't it, Yuval?


Also new and worthwhile as updates to our previous post on the SCR issue are this WaPo op-ed, (which talks about the "moral stand" that Obama has yet to take on the SCR issue), a good piece by Steve Chapman, and this report from Fox News, showing how the recent spending bill seems to indicate even less contrast between the Bush and Obama administration positions than appeared to exist just last Monday.

UPDATE 3/16: Don't miss P.J. O'Rourke

March 12, 2009

An Irrational Obsession

On the week of the festival of Purim, two excellent companion pieces by Jeff Jacoby and Michael Ledeen recount the story of the Book of Esther, and draw the clear modern parallels. It's all good.

March 10, 2009

Posturing President Punts

President Obama took the opportunity to hold another media moment yesterday, this time on his reversal of the limits on federal funding for certain types of embryonic stem cell research. Even beyond the specter of the president fiddling while the economy burns, Obama chose to generate more heat than light on the subject of stem cell research with his preening as the champion of science over ideology, and ultimately decided not to even take a position on the key issue at stake....whether or not to support the creation of embryos specifically to be used (and destroyed) for their stem cells.

Democrats made hay in the election campaign by willfully distorting the positions of the Bush administration specifically, and conservatives generally, on the issue of stem cell research. That is, to portray Bush and the Right as being "opposed to stem cell research" in general, which was a lie even had the distinction been made between adult stem cell research and the more controversial embryonic variety. The implication of course was that these people cared less about finding cures for dread human diseases than Democrats did, and the less the people knew about the complexities of the issue, the better it suited the Democrats.

As some, but not nearly enough Americans are now aware, the Bush policy had been to enthusiastically encourage adult stem cell research and to fund it with taxpayer money, and also to encourage and fund embryonic stem cell research on existing stem cell lines. What Bush would not do was permit taxpayer dollars to be spent on the creation of human embryos, so they could then be destroyed for their stem cells, a position he took after convening a distinguished Presidential Council on Bioethics to deliberate and advise him, and after listening to the concerns of millions of his fellow-Americans who were and are repulsed by the idea.

And for all the hoopla and posturing yesterday about rescuing pure science from the ideological clutches of the neocons, Obama contributed plenty of rhetoric and precious little leadership, punting that responsibility to the Congress and the National Institutes of Health. He chose instead to (first, as always, gratuitously bash his predecessor) and then to relax funding restrictions on research using the hundreds of thousands of existing embryos currently being stored in fertility clinics around the country as sources of embryonic stem cells. As to where President Science stands on the important moral dilemma facing American society in terms of how we should limit (or not limit) researchers on the matter of creating individualized (read: customized) human embryos for the purpose of supplying stem cells...or tissues or organs...he does not say. The buck stops where?

Again, to clarify...because it's important...Bush did not "ban" stem cell research. He did not even ban embryonic stem cell research. Even the most controversial sort of ESCR continued during the Bush administration, albeit unfunded by the American taxpayer, even as partisan Democrats demagogued the issue as if Bush were standing in the way of an imminent cure for your Uncle Charlie's Alzheimer's. Who politicized the issue again?

The WaPo account (via contentions) includes this:

The task of deciding what kinds of studies will be supported now falls to the National Institutes of Health, which finds itself confronting far more extensive questions than its officials were contemplating. It has 120 days to do the job.

Among other things, officials will have to decide whether to endorse studies on cells obtained from much more contentious sources, such as embryos created specifically for research or by means of cloning techniques.

“He left it wide open,” said Thomas H. Murray, director of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank. “Now we are going to have to face a host of morally complicated, politically charged questions. There’s not an easy path forward for them out of here.”

But beyond all the subtleties of the SCR issue that never get mentioned because they get in the way of Republican-bashing, for Obama to suggest that politics should be somehow extricated from this scientific issue is exactly wrong. We are dealing with the shaping of public policy, a decidedly political undertaking. Robert P. George and Eric Cohen say it much more eloquently than I could in their WSJ op-ed:

Mr. Obama made a big point in his speech of claiming to bring integrity back to science policy, and his desire to remove the previous administration's ideological agenda from scientific decision-making. This claim of taking science out of politics is false and misguided on two counts.

First, the Obama policy is itself blatantly political. It is red meat to his Bush-hating base, yet pays no more than lip service to recent scientific breakthroughs that make possible the production of cells that are biologically equivalent to embryonic stem cells without the need to create or kill human embryos. Inexplicably -- apart from political motivations -- Mr. Obama revoked not only the Bush restrictions on embryo destructive research funding, but also the 2007 executive order that encourages the National Institutes of Health to explore non-embryo-destructive sources of stem cells.

Second and more fundamentally, the claim about taking politics out of science is in the deepest sense antidemocratic. The question of whether to destroy human embryos for research purposes is not fundamentally a scientific question; it is a moral and civic question about the proper uses, ambitions and limits of science. It is a question about how we will treat members of the human family at the very dawn of life; about our willingness to seek alternative paths to medical progress that respect human dignity.

For those who believe in the highest ideals of deliberative democracy, and those who believe we mistreat the most vulnerable human lives at our own moral peril, Mr. Obama's claim of "taking politics out of science" should be lamented, not celebrated. (emphasis mine - DW)

A Time article celebrates the "almost audible" sigh of relief from labs around the country, and laments the "long eight years for stem cell researchers as the ugly stepchildren of science." And one additional paragraph in the Time piece is especially telling as it relates to the ultimate goals of certain embryonic stem cell proponents...

As welcome as the reversal is, some researchers grumble that it is too little, too late. Since, and in spite of, the ban, scientists have achieved remarkable advances in stem-cell science, which may one day obviate the need for embryos altogether. New techniques in generating stem cells from skin cells may prove in coming years more efficient and reliable than using embryonic stem cells.

And this is a problem...how? Advances obviating the need for embryos....more efficient and reliable stem cells? Why again are they grumbling?

It is pretty remarkable that the scientific advances made since 2005 noted above are little discussed in the national debate (such as it is) over ESCR. In September of 2005, research conducted at Harvard University proved that embryonic stem cells can be produced without creating or destroying a human embryo at all. These promising findings coincided with results of research at other leading universities showing that other stem cells from umbilical or placental blood can also be induced to show the same pluripotency (the potential of a cell to develop into multiple types of mature cells) that embryonic stem cells possess, and in which is posited their great potential for life-saving cures.

ESCR opponents rejoiced at the news of these discoveries, delighted that the moral objection to this practice might now be rendered moot, since the embryonic stem cells favored by researchers for their versatility would soon be available without having to create and subsequently kill human embryos. And you'd think that stem cell researchers would be delighted as well....all the pluripotency they relish, without any of the moral baggage....not to mention an end to the hectoring from the Right. But you'd be wrong.

If all they wanted was an unlimited supply of pluripotent embryonic stem cells for research, why would the scientists noted in the Time article be grumbling? And why would President Obama rescind the 2007 Bush order encouraging the NIH to develop these new non-embryo-destroying sources of stem cells? (see bolded section of George/Cohen op-ed)

There are problems with actual clinical treatments for actual human ailments using embryonic stem cells, as most of the articles will eventually get around to admitting in the 17th paragraph or so. For all the vast potential suggested by ESCR researchers (which I don't doubt for a minute, just to be clear) it is still just potential, while adult stem cells are already in either clinical trials or actual treatments for some 73 human diseases or conditions.

And the argument has not eluded me that ESCR researchers might be farther along than they are had they been the recipients of massive funding from Uncle Sam over the last eight years. They might be. But it's not like American researchers have been the only ones working on developing the potential of embryonic stem cells either.

As to the reasons for resisting alternative sources of embryonic stem cells by ESCR researchers and their patrons in the bio-technology industry, the Time article gets right down to it. Citing one immediate result of Obama's kicking the can down the road on the question of creating embryos specifically for their destruction, the article says...

Without being able to create embryos and their stem cells specially for individual patients, researchers say there is a risk of incompatibility between patients and any stem cells created from unrelated embryos. Even though embryonic stem cells can be guided to become any type of cell in the body, if they are transplanted into patients — as insulin-producing cells for people with diabetes, for instance — they must be tissue-matched to the patient to eliminate the risk of rejection. So for now, any practical benefit of having more embryonic stem cells exists only in the lab, not in the clinic.

Unless and until, that is, we as a society allow, for example, parents (or at least well-to-do parents) to create an embryo (their own, perfectly tissue-matched embryo) in order to extract well-suited stem cells to treat, for example, an ailment suffered by their 3-year old child. What would then deter us as a society from allowing a set of parents to let an embryo gestate long enough to grow certain helpful tissues...or perhaps a kidney...before it has outlived its usefulness to them?

Moreover, should we let scientists and/or bureaucrats at the National Institutes of Health make those decisions for us as a society?

Robert P. George, (the same distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, and member of Bush's Council on Bioethics referenced above) wrote a piece for the Weekly Standard in 2005 that is, as they say, not available without subscription. I will rely on the continued good graces of that fine publication to excuse my trashing of any "fair use" guideline as I excerpt liberally from it below.

George noted the discoveries that year of alternative methods of producing pluripotent stem cells, and suggested a couple of ominous possible developments. First, the problem of the growing lobbying power of the biotechnology industry, and second, the possibility that over time, the American people might gradually lose their sense of revulsion at the idea of "fetal farming". One can already sense that revulsion starting to slip away...in just over three years.

Up to now, embryonic stem cell advocates have claimed that they are only interested in stem cells harvested from embryos at the blastocyst (or five-to six-day) stage. They have denied any intention of implanting embryos either in the uterus of a volunteer or in an artificial womb in order to harvest cells, tissues, or organs at more advanced stages of embryonic development or in the fetal stage. Advocates are well aware that most Americans, including those who are prepared to countenance the destruction of very early embryos, are not ready to approve the macabre practice of "fetus farming." However, based on the literature I have read and the evasive answers given by spokesmen for the biotechnology industry at meetings of the President's Council on Bioethics, I fear that the long-term goal is indeed to create an industry in harvesting late embryonic and fetal body parts for use in regenerative medicine and organ transplantation.

This would explain why some advocates of embryonic stem cell research are not cheering the news about alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells. If their real goal is fetus farming, then the cells produced by alternative methods will not serve their purposes.

Why would biomedical scientists be interested in fetus farming? Researchers know that stem cells derived from blastocyst-stage embryos are currently of no therapeutic value and may never actually be used in the treatment of diseases. (In a candid admission, South Korean cloning expert Curie Ahn recently said that developing therapies may take "three to five decades.")

In fact, there is not a single embryonic stem cell therapy even in clinical trials. (By contrast, adult and umbilical cord stem cells are already being used in the treatment of 65 diseases.) All informed commentators know that embryonic stem cells cannot be used in therapies because of their tendency to generate dangerous tumors. However, recent studies show that the problem of tumor formation does not exist in cells taken from cows, mice, and other mammals when embryos have been implanted and extracted after several weeks or months of development (i.e. have been gestated to the late embryonic or fetal stage). This means that the real therapeutic potential lies precisely in the practice of fetus farming. Because the developmental process stabilizes cells (which is why we are not all masses of tumors), it is likely true that stem cells, tissues, and organs harvested from human beings at, say, 16 or 18 weeks or later could be used in the treatment of diseases.

Scientists associated with a leading firm in the embryonic stem cell field, Advanced Cell Technology, recently published a research paper discussing the use of stem cells derived from cattle fetuses that had been produced by cloning (to create a genetic match). Although the article did not mention human beings, it was plain that the purpose of the research was not to cure diseased cows, but rather to establish the potential therapeutic value of doing precisely the same thing with human beings. For those who have ears to hear, the message is clear. I am hardly the first to perceive this message. Slate magazine bioethics writer Will Saletan drew precisely the same conclusion in a remarkable five-part series, the final installment of which was entitled "The Organ Factory: The Case for Harvesting Older Human Embryos."

If we do not put into place a legislative ban on fetus farming, public opposition to the practice could erode. People now find it revolting. But what will happen to public sentiment if the research is permitted to go forward and in fact generates treatments for some dreadful diseases or afflictions? I suspect that those in the biotech industry who do look forward to fetus farming are betting that moral opposition will collapse when the realistic prospect of cures is placed before the public.

Here is that remarkable five-part series by Will Saletan: The Organ Factory

And here is Will Saletan today: "Winning Smugly"

Jonah Goldberg on SCR breakthroughs

UPDATE 3/13:

Charles Krauthammer:

...given the protean power of embryonic manipulation, the temptation it presents to science and the well-recorded human propensity for evil even in the pursuit of good, lines must be drawn. I suggested the bright line prohibiting the deliberate creation of human embryos solely for the instrumental purpose of research -- a clear violation of the categorical imperative not to make a human life (even if only a potential human life) a means rather than an end.

On this, Obama has nothing to say. He leaves it entirely to the scientists. This is more than moral abdication. It is acquiescence to the mystique of "science" and its inherent moral benevolence. How anyone as sophisticated as Obama can believe this within living memory of Mengele and Tuskegee and the fake (and coercive) South Korean stem cell research is hard to fathom.

That part of the ceremony, watched from the safe distance of my office, made me uneasy. The other part -- the ostentatious issuance of a memorandum on "restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making" -- would have made me walk out.

Restoring? The implication, of course, is that while Obama is guided solely by science, Bush was driven by dogma, ideology and politics.

What an outrage. Bush's nationally televised stem cell speech was the most morally serious address on medical ethics ever given by an American president. It was so scrupulous in presenting the best case for both his view and the contrary view that until the last few minutes, the listener had no idea where Bush would come out.

Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men. Such as his admonition that we must resist the "false choice between sound science and moral values." Yet, exactly 2 minutes and 12 seconds later he went on to declare that he would never open the door to the "use of cloning for human reproduction."

Does he not think that a cloned human would be of extraordinary scientific interest? And yet he banned it.

Is he so obtuse as not to see that he had just made a choice of ethics over science? Yet, unlike Bush, who painstakingly explained the balance of ethical and scientific goods he was trying to achieve, Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not.

This is not just intellectual laziness. It is the moral arrogance of a man who continuously dismisses his critics as ideological while he is guided exclusively by pragmatism (in economics, social policy, foreign policy) and science in medical ethics.

March 6, 2009

A Chance to Reboot

Peter Wehner...on the omnibus spending bill, with its 8500 earmarks...

If what Barack Obama said during the campaign about his fierce opposition to earmarks was true, this is a terrific chance for him to show it. If he were to veto this legislation, or return it to Congress with stern instructions to rework the legislation in a way that was free of earmarks, it would be a gutsy and admirable thing to do. It would show he is impressively independent of Congressional Democrats and is willing to fulfill his promise of “change” and page-turning politics. It would also be quite popular in the country.

Few people question Barack Obama’s talent. The question for many of us, including those of us who have spoken well of him in the past, is whether his actions as president align with his words as candidate; whether the hope he seemed to embody was real or imagined. The early returns are disappointing, to say the least, whether it involves his massive spending proposals, the violation of his own ethics rules relating to lobbyists, his unwillingness to engage Republicans in a serious bi-partisan way, or his Administration’s childish effort to target Rush Limbaugh and rely on the coarse political tactics of Paul Begala, James Carville, and Rahm Emanuel.

President Obama has a chance to begin to live up to the promise he showed on the campaign trail. Vetoing this legislation is a great place to start.

Talk about the triumph of hope over experience.

March 5, 2009

Close to Home

Interesting AP interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, even without the sharp criticism of Vladimir Putin that made the headline. Its understandable, but still kind of strange how Gorbachev seems to be more admired and popular in the U.S. than he is at home.

And Putin's political rival, Russian democracy advocate Garry Kasparov has a cautionary op-ed in the WSJ on the same day. Kasparov says Putin is under great pressure at home, and that "it's no longer taboo to speak openly about the post-Putin era."

....the Kremlin just struck a deal with China to send Russian oil to China at rock-bottom prices (under $20/barrel) for 20 years in exchange for $25 billion in loans. Powerful countries don't cut such deals unless they are desperate for cash. What's happening in Russia is that we are witnessing the survival gambit of a corrupt regime. The question is whether the West will bail out the Russian dictatorship or let it fall.

Some may doubt the fragility of the Putin government. But there are plenty of examples in history of supposedly entrenched regimes falling quickly. In late 1989, many in the West were surprised to see the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Others didn't foresee the sweeping away of totalitarian regimes in Poland and Hungary.

Mr. Putin and his allies live in fear of a popular uprising because it would likely force them into bankruptcy, exile and even prison. They cannot be expected to operate Russia as a rational state actor. Indeed, they may relish a violent clash with a contrived enemy in hopes of building nationalistic support -- the war with Georgia this past summer may just be a prelude.

The West must not be tempted by a desire to maintain comfortable relations with the current government in charge of Russia. After years of criminal mismanagement, the Russian economy is falling apart more rapidly than those of other industrialized nations. The popular outrage that will lead to regime change will stem from the public realization that the Russian economy is in worse shape than other leading nations.

March 4, 2009

Routinely Amazing

Jim Ingraham on LeBron:

You know what I like most about LeBron James? He plays basketball like all of us play basketball ... in our dreams.

It's like the heroic stuff we mere mortals — and by that I mean everyone in the basketball food chain from Damon Jones on down — sit around only dreaming of being able to do. Well, LeBron actually does it.

Repeatedly. Routinely. Time after time.

You know, it's like you're watching the Miami game Monday night, and crunch time arrives — not just crunch time, but the crunchiest moment in crunch time — and LeBron is dribbling around the top of the key, and you say to yourself:

"Well, he needs to power drive to the hoop here and at least draw a foul or something ..."

So, of course, LeBron then power drives to the hoop, elevates over the moon over Miami, and throws down the most earth-shaking, game-breaking, De-Wade-flating, Heat-baking, Celtics-baiting, Kobe-quaking, pancaking, scintillating, bombasticating, ain't-no-imitating, in-your-face-no-matter-which-way-you're-facing thunder dunk, delivered with such force that it takes the breath away of an entire generation.

And you say to yourself, "Yeah, that'll do."

Good grief. What did we do to deserve this?

It's almost like fate has said to Cleveland sports fans, "OK, you're going to go more than 40 years without a championship, but then you're going to get a player you won't fricking believe."

March 2, 2009

Abandoning Durban II

In the Credit Where It's Due department, chalk one up for Team Obama. After a brief dalliance with participation in the planning for the so-called anti-racism conference dubbed Durban II, Obama has decided to follow Bush administration precedent, and end any U.S. participation in what will clearly be nothing but another anti-Israeli hatefest.

UPDATE 3/2: More from Claudia Rosett, who wishes we would make our rejection of the conference more unequivocal, by way of a formal boycott and/or a strong public statement, rather than just quietly slinking away.

See also comments from Ed at Hot Air

Religious Zeal

(via Dr. Sanity)

March 1, 2009

Corrections Forthcoming

George Will's recent dust-up with climate alarmists is summarized and linked nicely over at Watts Up With That, one of the best blogs in the climate rationalist camp....(and also named Best Science Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards.)