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Jewish World Review June 24, 2004 / 5 Tamuz, 5764

James Lileks

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Kerry's Science Buddies and the Silly Sanctity of Life | John Kerry doesn't just talk to foreign leaders; he counsels with Nobel science laureates as well. Kerry wants to lift the ban on federal money for experimenting on human embryos, and 48 of the nation's finest eggheads agree: President Bush's stance on the issue puts "ideology over science."

Ideology, in this case, means "a deeply held belief." It's peculiar, but true: Some people have a strange, amusing hang-up about the sanctity of human life, and they don't like vivisecting human embryos for any reason. Not even if the experiment brought Ronald Reagan back to life and restored his brain.

To these "ideologues," slicing and dicing embryos is almost like setting up baby farms so we have a steady supply of fresh organs. Silly ideologues! After all, if we'd listened to the superstitious fools in the 18th century no one would ever have dissected a human body, right?

Are these ideologues taking a page from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Earth First!, burning down labs, threatening doctors, setting the embryos free to live in the wild? No. They are declining to spend federal money on the matter. Private investors are perfectly able to throw billions into this field if they wish. John Ashcroft will not show up in his Cotton Mather costume and block the door.

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It's part of a campaign to show how Bush is an anti-scientific throwback who'd like nothing more than federal laws insisting the planet is 6,000 years old, and space ends about seven feet after Pluto.

In a speech in Denver, Kerry said, "We need a president who will once again embrace our tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear." What fear is the senator talking about? Does he think Bush is terrified that stem cells will grow 50 feet tall, stomp around and crush whole cities? What fear is the senator talking about? Kerry goes on:

"Franklin Roosevelt built great national laboratories. Abraham Lincoln created the National Academy of Sciences. President Eisenhower established the White House science adviser. President Kennedy started America on the path that ended up with a man setting foot on the moon. And President Clinton helped lead us to a map of the entire human genome."

That's right. He helped lead us to the map. "Over here, boys! I spy a sequencing pair that might govern the pineal gland! Shazaam!" And what has President Bush done? Besides put us on the path that will end up with Americans on Mars? Nothing!

Nothing! Granted, the latest budget increases science R&D by 7 percent. Take out the moneys targeted for defense and homeland security initiatives, and it's a 4 percent raise. But to hear Kerry talk you'd think Bush was sending everyone who wore a white lab coat and thick black glasses to Gitmo.

Of course we can spend more. We can always spend more. This isn't to demean science, or even the government's role in promoting new advances. Rah, science. Rah, targeted grants for promising ideas. Rah for funding boring things when necessary. No, the issue is Kerry's belief that federal funding has some special holy quality because ... well, because it's federal funding.

It's hard to outspend Bush, but he'll try. How will he pay for his spending proposals? Kerry's camp says he'll "codify the economic substance doctrine, which defines a tax shelter as any transaction that is conducted purely for tax reasons with no economic merit. In addition, Kerry will close Enron-related tax shelters." By himself! Then he'll clean the Augean stables and knock off for lunch. He'll also set up an "Education Trust Fund, paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for families making more than $200,000 per year."

Ah yes, those guys. The geese that lay the golden eggs. By the time Kerry's done with them they'll pay for new schools, a bigger drug benefit, national health care, universal Internet access, a hundred thousand new soldiers, and the spiffy new gold-braided kneepads all diplomats must wear when consulting with the Europeans. Why not just cut them open now and see where all those golden eggs come from?

In the name of science, of course.

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


06/17/04: Behold the Summer of Bill Clinton!
06/10/04: Whatever happened to respect for the presidency?
06/03/04: Tales at the intersection of war and popular culture
05/20/04: Athletes on Notice: Strive Unflaggingly
05/13/04: America likes Rumsfeld, and the Dems can't take it
05/07/04: Kerry Supporters Have a New Take on Vietnam War
05/05/04: New cell phone does everything, but there's a problem...
04/29/04: John Kerry, prisoner of symbolic politics
04/22/04: Shall we grovel? Kerry Plan to Restore America's Place in the World
04/08/04: Sept. 11 Might Have Been Different If ...
04/02/04: Slinging slime or citing facts?
03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
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12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks