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Monday, June 14, 2004

Discovery Institute Goes After Stem Cell Research

PZ Meyers at Pharygula elaborates.

Minions of the Discovery Institute don't restrict themselves to only fighting for the indoctrination of high school students with creationism—they've also got a wider goal of infusing society with their anti-science dogma. One Discovery Institute Fellow, Wesley Smith, has been all over the place ranting against stem cell research lately, typically with as little actual grasp of the facts as the DI usually brings to bear against evolution.

For instance, how is this for a lovely title: "Embryonic Stem Cell Research Likely Won't Cure Any Diseases"? Now that's doom-and-gloom for you. The gist of his argument is that 1) biotech companies are not getting rich on embryonic stem cell research now, and 2) it won't work anyway. The first point is irrelevant. Basic research often isn't going to be immediately profitable, which is why we need government sponsorship; that our current administration has actively crippled this kind of research might, perhaps, be contributing to the reluctance of the biotech industry to leap into it.

His second point is backed up with some incredibly dishonest quote mining. What he does is quote scientists as being discouraging about the prospects for the research, while omitting key conclusions that contradict his points.

Rather typical for Leviticus Crowd science.

Meanwhile 58 Senators have sent a letter to the Bush Administration requesting the Administration reverse their policy. The Bush administration has refused.

Virginia and the New Jim Crow

Jonathan Rauch evaluates Virginia's new law, forbidding same-sex couples from even setting up their own private contracts to protet their relationships. Money quote:

Before Thomas Jefferson substituted the timeless phrase "pursuit of happiness," the founding fathers held that mankind's unalienable entitlements were to life, liberty and property. By "property" they meant not just material possessions but what we call autonomy. "Every man has a property in his own person," John Locke said.
It is by entering into contracts that we bind ourselves to each other. Without the right of contract, participation in economic and social life is impossible; thus is that right enshrined in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. Slaves could not enter into contracts because they were the property of others rather than themselves; nor could children, who were wards of their parents. To be barred from contract, the founders understood, is to lose ownership of oneself.
To abridge the right of contract for same-sex partners, then, is to deny not just gay coupledom, in the law's eyes, but gay personhood. It disenfranchises gay people as individuals. It makes us nonpersons, subcitizens. By stripping us of our bonds to each other, it strips us even of ownership of ourselves.
Americans have a name for the use of law in this fashion, and that name is Jim Crow.

The Leviticus Crowd finds nothing wrong with this. And no anti-gay marriage "conservative" has condemned it.

Rauch continues:

Far better, in any case, would be for the legislature to salvage its good name by repudiating and repealing the law.

The legislature needs some help in recognizing its error. Dyana Mason of Equality Virginia, a gay advocacy group, notes that the new ban is beginning to attract some outside notice. A nascent movement to boycott Virginia has formed. A few newspapers, including this one, have editorialized against the law.

That is a start. But when Rhea County, Tenn., tried to ban gays from living there, it became a national laughingstock and hastily backed down.

Obstructing gay couples' private contracts is no less vindictive and abusive, and it deserves the same nationwide opprobrium -- especially among conservatives who distinguish between denying marriage to gay couples and denying civil rights to gay individuals. If Virginia's attack on basic legal equality does not offend and embarrass conservatives, what anti-gay measure possibly could? And if this law is not snuffed out, what might be next?

Reporters should be asking this question at White House Press Briefings. The Bush administration has said they support private contracts between gay people to protect their relationships. The crowd supporting the Bush/Musgrave Amendment have also said this.

Theocratic Nation

Chuck Muth comments:


"Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man," said son Ron Reagan Jr. at his father's sunset funeral service at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley on Friday. "But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage."

Apparently those remarks were blacked out in Texas, as the Texas Republican Party decided to wear its faith on its collective sleeve and stir up a new political holy war less than 24 hours later by adopting the following religious statement into its official party platform at its state convention: "The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian nation...founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principles based on the Holy Bible."

Good grief. There they go again.

While this is a nation whose citizens are primarily Christian (including yours truly), this is decidedly NOT a Christian nation...any more than it is a "white" nation just because the vast majority of its citizens are white. Indeed, the fact that we are NOT a Christian nation was affirmed in official U.S. policy during our founding. You could look it up.

The Barbary Treaties were agreed to in Tripoli on November 4, 1796 and ratified by the United States Senate on June 10, 1797. They were signed by one of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, who was President of the United States at the time. Article 11 of the treaty reads, in part: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…"

The treaty was adopted unanimously. No debate. No dissension. Case closed.

We are a constitutional republic, not a theocracy. Yes, most of us are Christians. But that does not mean most Christians want to live in a Christian version of Iran. We wish to freely practice our religion, not impose it on others. This kind of crusade by the Texas GOP is not helpful and only serves to stir up a religious hornet's nest unnecessarily. It’s hard to imagine this is something Ronald Reagan, "a deeply, unabashedly religious man," would cotton to. They ought to knock it off.


The Texas GOP adopted a party platform plank over the weekend stating that this is a "Christian nation," sparking a whole new brouhaha over the proper separation between church and state. Do you agree with the Texas party resolution? Is it helpful to inflame Christian religious passions here in America at the same time the U.S. is fighting radical Islamic passions around the world? And shouldn't a political party worry about politics and let the churches worry about religion? Is this an issue and a fight that Ronald Reagan would have embraced? Join the Discussion Board and throw your two cents in by surfing over to:

Chuck has hit the nail on the head here.

Hate Speech Laws Censor Brigitte Bardot

Here's a tidy little reminder of what life would be like if the politically correct thought police get their way in this country. French actress Brigitte Bardot was convicted yesterday of inciting racial hatred and ordered to pay $6,000 -- her fourth fine since 1997. And what was her crime?

She wrote a book.

That's right...she was punished in a French court of law for something she wrote in her book. So what did she say? According to the court, her book "presents Muslims as barbaric and cruel invaders, responsible for terrorist acts and eager to dominate the French to the extent of wanting to exterminate them." Obviously, truth isn't a defense when it comes to free speech in France. It sounds like the old sex kitten adequately described Al-Qaeda.

This is what life is going to be like in this country when the leftist, hyper-compassionate elites get their way. They want to criminalize thought and criminalize what they classify as "hate speech." It's the same thing with hate crimes...punishing someone for what they were thinking at the time they committed a crime is a slippery slope.

- Talk show host Neal Boortz, 6/11/04 quoted in Chuck Muth's News and Views

EY: The Hate Crimes law being considered now does not ban "hate speech". Nevertheless, these laws still arguable criminalize thought rather than actions.

Anti-Gay Iowa State Senator Loses Republican Primary

This is a cautionary tale for Governor Tim Pawlenty and other Republicans who wish to make Gay marriage the number one issue of the year. A Senate Minority Leader, Ken Veenstra lost in the Republican primary to college professor Dave Mulder.

David Yepsen from Des Moines Register comments.

Veenstra made a name for himself at the Statehouse when he crusaded for a constitutional ban on gay marriage and led the opposition to the nomination of Jonathan Wilson, a gay Des Moines lawyer, to the state Board of Education.


Part of the reason for his high-profile, anti-gay efforts in the Legislature seemed to be a desire to bolster his standing with social conservatives in the heavily Republican northwest Iowa district. But GOP strategists said Wednesday the tactic didn't work, and Veenstra even lost his hometown.

At one level, his loss changes nothing. In that district, the Republican nomination is as good as election, so Mulder is expected to hold the seat for the GOP in November. Nor will it change the ideological balances in the Senate because Mulder campaigned as a pro-life social conservative. But Mulder isn't expected to be the anti-gay crusader Veenstra was.

His victory is a rejection of the sort of divisive politics Veenstra practiced. Even in northwest Iowa, the most socially conservative part of the state, voters' priorities are things such as getting the economy going and keeping public and private schools healthy. The politics of hate couldn't save Veenstra, and that lesson won't be lost on other Republicans as they plot a strategy for the future.

Hat Tip: Dennis Sanders at Moderate Republican. As Sanders said, Karl Rove should take notice.