10/30/2006

learn something new every day

I knew Thomas Friedman is a rich guy; most people with fame, multiple books, and lots of speaking gigs are. But I didn't realize he rode with the billionaires. Apparently his wife of almost 30 years is a Bucksbaum of the billionaire real estate entity. Her family owns something like 200 million square feet of retail space.

No wonder Friedman has always been so simplistically optimistic about globalization. And she's a Stanford grad, too; yet one more reason to think about grad school out there...

10/29/2006

final thoughts

(P) Even though it's still a week and a half until the election, short of something amazing happening, it looks pretty clear to me that the tactics of supporters and opponents of the Missouri Stem Cell Initiative are pretty much set. It left me wondering, then, about a pretty simple question. When I was driving home this afternoon, I saw a bumper sticker on a big SUV in front of me that said, "They're lying. It's cloning. Vote no."

And that's exactly what I had been thinking about. Why the lying? I find many parts of the email from Professor Harbour, for example, to be deceptive, but aside from the part about violating free speech, it's a fallacy largely either of omissions or red herrings, not lying. But some of the other things, like that bumper sticker, or ads from Vitae, Life Communications, or the Missouri Roundtable, are flat out lies. When they do surveys of public opinion about human cloning, what people are against is the ability to make a human being in the mass-produced, sci-fi kind of way. Amendment 2 explicitly criminalizes human cloning, and it provides very specific definitions that are clearly what people mean when they express concerns about cloning. When people talk about big checks for poor women and college students, they're just lying. The amendment explicitly criminalizes that.

Now, there are all sorts of reasons why people lie, some more nefarious than others. But what I can't quite satisfy myself on is an explanation of why lie about this issue. The opposition position is essentially a moral one. Is it wrong to fertilize an egg with a sperm outside of a human body? Or at least, is it wrong if that blastocyst is not implanted in a woman's womb? If the death of an embryo really is the death of a human being, then perhaps we do need restrictive legislation in Jefferson City.

But lies greatly undermine one's credibility when making a moral claim. Also, in an area like this that does have some more complex scientific issues behind it, lies are very confusing. One of my gravest concerns is that the whole concept of morality being important in beginning of life issues is being eroded by the extremism and manipulation in the public message presented by groups that oppose embryonic stem cell research. Sure, there are concerns about harm to women and commercialization of the technology and so forth, but those are so far removed from this particular initiative that the most appropriate response appears to be laughter. We have been doing this for decades. Embryos have been destroyed for years. If this really is wrong, we're essentially committing acts of genocide in fertility clinics.

Yet instead of talking about that basic, central question, the opposition has gone off on several tangential discussions, none of which are unique to the Missouri amendment (or embryonic stem cell research more generally). The only thing I can think of is that this has brought to public attention in Missouri the conflict with science that religious right leaders have engaged in all over the country, generally below the radar. There have been attempts in Jefferson City to pass restrictive legislation, and that uncertainty is part of why researchers have left Missouri already; after all, that's the prime point of the amendment. It doesn't provide tax dollars or anything; it prevents lawmakers from outlawing the research or withholding grants simply because it involves embryonic stem cell research. Who can forget the ridicule that Kansas got with the school board decision about creationism? It's almost like people who oppose this are embarrassed to admit publicly that they think killing embryos is wrong. Why would it be ok to do in vitro fertilization and discard a dozen embryos, but not be ok to perform research on embryos, many of which would be discarded anyway?

But rather than asking these questions, we are left with lies. Why? To me, that seems an admission that given an informed, democratic outcome, opponents of Amendment 2 know they lose. Most people, yes, even here in Missouruh, think it's ridiculous to prevent research that might help improve the lives of people or prevent couples that want to have children from trying everything possible to have children, so long as there are reasonable restrictions like those laid out in the amendment.

If you really thought we are making a mistake, do you really think lies will convince us of the moral superiority of your position?

Addendum: One last thought I had. This is a moral issue, and there's no act of government that can make something immoral acceptable. So I wonder if there would be a way to get everybody on record who opposes the amendment (or at least key figures like representative Bartle and Senator Talent) promising not to use or recommend for others to use any treatments derived from embryonic stem cell research. Even if SCNT and embryonic stem cell research were banned at the federal level, US scientists (and the venture capital that follows them) would find somewhere to practice research (in fact, it's my understanding that Missouri institutions like Stowers are currently paying researchers to work in other countries). Not for the sake of saying I told you so, or for denying care in the future; I wouldn't actually want to hold anyone to it. But rather as a way of demonstrating now the real level of committment people have to the professed beliefs.

10/27/2006

world champions

'nuff said.

Just be ready for work Monday morning.

10/26/2006

short and sweet

(PR) Or annoyingly detailed? I'm torn on which way to go. Hence the boldface, for you skimmers.

For startes, if you haven't read the initiative or what people who support it actually say, read it! This is one of those cases where it is so straightforward, that if you just read it you'll immediately see the fear mongering and manipulation for what it is.

Primarily, my response is one of passion and directness. I feel very strongly that in a pluralistic society, there are naturally going to be core issues about which people will disagree. But I also feel that when positions are presented less than genuinely, it is important to point that out. Misinformation and deception are poisonous. And that's exactly what this letter looks like to me. Basically, it's either one believes that a professor at the med school is so ignorant and naive about doing background research and constructing an argument (and so careless about making unsubstantiated statements) that he didn't realize how deceptive his lengthy email is, or it was constructed that way on purpose. If it really is the former, then I am sorry. You have my apologies, and my urging to perhaps sit in on an English class or two. The reason Wash U attaches the legal disclaimer is because that email account is for work related correspondence. Students who use wustl accounts for both school and personal use, in contrast, have no such disclaimer. I also never said Professor Harbour was misusing his Wash U resources; I pointed out he was using them. There's a big difference; I was pointing out how ridiculous it is to talk about voices being muted.

If, as I suspect, it's the latter, then it is most appropriate to respond strongly. The first paragraph couldn't be better crafted to lead into this. This letter is hard to write, I'm not political, I don't believe in imposing my views on others, but the proponents are just so inaccurate my unique scientific and medical expertise compels me to speak out. If that's the case, then why don't you answer the actual arguments made by supporters of the amendment? Why are you writing such a long and fearmongering letter with surprisingly little scientific or medical insight? Why do you ignore the central component of human cloning, namely, the fact that the embryo has to be implanted in the womb in order to become a person, and the central component of in vitro fertilization, namely, the making of a blastocyst outside of the womb (and many, many more than are actually used by the couple trying to get pregnant)?

The energy analogy is quite flawed. Petroleum is used in a myriad of products. My goodness, petroleum is used in order to make photovoltaic cells. But you don't claim to be an expert on that, even though you talk about it. Nuclear weapons are very serious things. But you don't claim to be an expert there. Funding of election issues is very interesting, but you don't claim any special expertise there, nor do you even explain anything (The Stowers donated virtually all the money. What a time for some outrage about the role of billionaires in the political arena; when they do something that doesn't benefit the radical right. Care to suggest that we should limit the influence of money on politics? How much more money does Senator Talent have in the campaign for the Senate seat?). The integrity and academic freedom of our medical institutions is very important, but nothing at all to substantiate a rather disturbing claim about violations of free speech. Rather, the email is loaded with emotional appeals to fears of what might happen. And of course, to add that final human touch, it's signed Bill (and Tonya) Harbour.

I am convinced this is not an issue for experts. There's nothing hard to understand, no convoluted language, no fine print. There are no taxes or anything; it's just a constitutional amendment to prevent Missouri lawmakers from passing restrictions in the future. Either you think it's wrong to make human blastocysts, or you think it's wrong to prevent research that might lead to better understanding of diseases and ways to cure them. The whole thing is like 2,000 words long (as the actress from Everybody Loves Raymond has been pointing out, except making it sound like 2,000 is a lot of words. Oh my goodness, that's, like, four pages. Seriously, Ms. Heaton, have you ever read legislation that can fit on four pages? I would love to see how long a 2,000 word script would last.) But I particularly enjoy the irony that Professor Harbour presents his qualifications as a doctor to argue that doctors shouldn't make these decisions. Rather, lawmakers in Jefferson City should ban these practices, even if they're legal in other states or allowed by the federal government. Yet, what exactly that proposal would look like goes unmentioned. Should we ban the process of making a human blastocyst? After all, that's what Professor Harbour is indicting. Fertility clinics have for decades been doing precisely what he and others are saying will bring detrimental harm to women; the harm that is cited is from fertility clinics. There are embryos just lying around frozen, not being used. The only ones that can be used are ones given with explicit voluntary consent of the donor; eggs can't be donated solely for the use of research. There is a review board for people doing embryonic stem cell research. But nevermind those pesky details. Surely if this passes, people will just ignore the law and exploit women to clone human beings.

S has covered the scientific end of my thoughts better than I could, so just read the comment left there for detail about that.

Finally, lest you think I am singling out Professor Harbour, know that I have the same dislike for similar messages from others. For example, I have already written an extensive post regarding the ads run by the Vitae Foundation. And then this evening, while I'm typing this watching Suppan struggle a little bit in Game 4 of the World Series, I see a most interesting ad. An ad that surely can end the debate, at least about the silencing of critics (as if that was ever a legitimate argument). It had famous Missouri athletes and even an actor and an actress in it, and it was most definitely against amendment 2. Let me preface this by saying two of them are some of my favorite athletes. The other athlete and the actress and actor I'm sort of ambivalent about. But all five are wrong, and misleadingly wrong in the ad. It involved Mike Sweeney (Royals), Jeff Suppan (Cardinals), Kurt Warner (former Rams QB), Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), and Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ). It was run by the Life Communications Fund. The repeated message is to not be tricked or deceived by the Missouri initiative. What is so incredible, though, is the way they play fast and loose with the facts; the script is what is being tricky and deceiptful. Where does the $6 billion California has spent come in? Why are we implying that the complications that have happened at fertility clinics are the fault of embryonic stem cell research? It's a blatant lie to make it sound like women now have a right to be paid for their eggs. In fact, the initiative specifically prohibits women receiving valuable compensation. What she literally means is that women can be reimbursed for certain costs involved, but that's sure not how they've scripted it to sound. You really have to see this ad for yourself. They're attacking everything from the California initiative to in vitro fertilization, all while making it sound like all the problems are because of the Missouri amendment.

Interestingly, I can find articles and blog posts about the Life Communications Fund, but I can't seem to find a website. The KC Star seems like they're wanting to get input from Sweeney and the Royals about the ad, so maybe there will be more to read about over the weekend.

Addendum: This is another video that is just breathtakingly deceptive.

Addendum 2: Found a website. Interesting. I wonder how they feel about in vitro fertilization. What does happen to all those fertilized eggs that aren't implanted? And what about the ones that are implanted and die anyway? Those mass murdering wannabe moms...

10/24/2006

no silver spoon handy

Reach for a silver teething ring, instead. Jodi got something from Tiffany's in the mail, and among other things they had a $150 silver coated teething ring. Clearly the key for getting baby started out right.

Speaking of people with money to spend, it was fun and aggravating to drive home from work and see our newly refinished metro station parking lot crammed with cars. It must be rough all you World Series ticketholders.

10/23/2006

part 3

Professor Harbour to me:

"From: Harbour@vision.wustl.edu
Subject: RE: please authenticate
Date: October 23, 2006 12:18:57 PM CDT
To: nsdempsey@gmail.com

"But don't confuse me for just an ill-informed blog ranter."

Actually, this is exactly what I was thinking.

The materials in this message are private and may contain Protected Healthcare Information. If you are not the intended recipient, be advised that any unauthorized use, disclosure, copying or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please immediately notify the sender via telephone or return mail."

Me to Professor Harbour:

"From: nsdempsey@gmail.com
Subject: Re: please authenticate
Date: October 23, 2006 6:59:33 PM CDT
To: Harbour@vision.wustl.edu

Professor,

If you prefer to keep me ill-informed, that's certainly your prerogative. As it is mine to be perturbed by claims regarding freedom of speech violations at a university I know and love without any warrant behind the claim. I have many questions, but if you do not feel like answering the one I posed, I see little sense in sending any others.

Regards,

Nathaniel"

the internet is awesome

It's been a while since Charles and I had some good conversations. Where've you been recently? I suppose that whole school starting again probably means a bit of work for a principal. Hope the school year is going well.

But, perhaps I've found a new ideologically opposite friend, although it's too early to tell for sure.

Professor Harbour wrote me back, and this time explicitly asked that I post his email. I disagree with some claims made, but I'll wait a day or two before offering specifics in case he has further clarification.

Professor Harbour to me (note, the original part of the email has been redacted; look at my prior post to read it):

"From: Harbour, William Mailed-By: wusm-pcf.wustl.edu
To: Nathaniel Dempsey
Date: Oct 22, 2006 11:22 PM
Subject: RE: please authenticate

Nathaniel,
I am ashamed of you. If you had questions about my email, it would have been professional and appropriate of you to email me personally to clarify your misunderstandings before broadcasting your ill-informed comments on your blog site. First of all, I told you by email that there were no footnotes in my original email, and I don't know how they got in your version. However, I guess clarifying that issue before publishing your blog would have been inconvenient for your attempt to defame my character. Also, I am amused by your claim that I am misusing the Washington University name to promote my agenda. The truth is quite the opposite. Washingnton University has inappropriately gotten politically involved in this issue and has attached its name to Amendment 2, even though many Washington University faculty members are against it. Is that a truthful representation of Washington University? If you really care about the truth and not just blathering on without facts, email me directly and I would be happy to answer any questions you have. If you are really as ethical and professional as you want your readers to believe, you will post this email as a rebuttal to your previous diatribe.
______________________________________
J. William Harbour, MD
Washington University School of Medicine

The materials in this message are private and may contain Protected Healthcare Information. If you are not the intended recipient, be advised that any unauthorized use, disclosure, copying or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please immediately notify the sender via telephone or return mail."

And me to Professor Harbour:

"From: Nathaniel Dempsey Mailed-By: gmail.com
To: "Harbour, William"
Date: Oct 23, 2006 9:25 AM
Subject: Re: please authenticate

I am sorry if publishing an email sent by you from a wustl.edu account is shameful. It is this perspective of limiting dialogue that interests me. I don't know much about the science. I am deeply concerned, however, about claims about Washington University stifling debate. Make no mistake, I am continuing to follow up about this. However, the Cardinals are also in the World Series and I do have other responsibilities.

My question about your email was if you sent it. You said you did. Is there not room for divergent views on this? I strongly defend my right to post whatever ill-informed, inaccurate, offensive, wrong, and any other content I want on my personal blog. My name, contact information, and photograph are posted there for those who want to disagree. If you post a response, it is public for all the world to see, as well.

As far as the truth, there are many things I would like to know. For starters, there is anti-Amendment 2 dialogue everywhere. On what basis do you say dialogue is limited?

If you have responsibilities that prevent you from having the time to converse about this over the next week or two, that's fine (and I will of course note that when I do a follow-up post). But don't confuse me for just an ill-informed blog ranter.

Also, if you really are concerned about electronic communication you send being posted online, you really shouldn't send anything not related to work or school from your wustl account (and even then, you shouldn't write anything that you wouldn't mind being posted on a website somewhere). Electronic communication is saved forever; emails get forwarded from person to person to person. I posted your entire email, credited it to you, and then wrote my commentary. Some people would be even more shameful, as you call it. If I had wanted to do this anonymously, I would have sent my request for you to authenticate this from a Yahoo account and not used my full name so you couldn't have found my blog.

Regards,

Nathaniel"

10/22/2006

we are crazy

For Ross and Elizabeth's birthday we went to SportsZone for dinner and enjoying game one of the World Series. Well, apparently this was a popular game and we couldn't exactly get a couple tables with enough space for all of us.

Except, outside. tygfgxd

Sorry for that. My computer was momentarily taken away from me.

Back to the story. We couldn't get tables inside. So, we set up camp on the patio. They've got a big flat screen and two smaller ones on either side. Perfect. Except it was reeeallly cold. But no matter. Cardinals won!

10/21/2006

appears to be legit

Professor Harbour wrote me back saying he wrote it and to feel free to distribute it. So, I think I'll follow up at some point soon, particularly the part about silencing dissent. I find that really fascinating, because it's frequently a rightist talking point, when in reality, it is often liberal professors who get silenced (in no small part, due to the effort of vocal conservatives trying to restrain them).

10/20/2006

more stem cell fun

(P) So I got this from a friend and found it really interesting:


"From: "Harbour, William" Harbour@vision.wustl.edu
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2006 20:39:48 -0500
Subject: Thoughts on Stem Cell Amendment from the Harbours

Dear Friends,

This is a letter that I find difficult to write because I am not a political person, and I don't believe in imposing my views on others. But I am deeply troubled by the inaccuracies that are being used to shape public opinion in favor of the Missouri stem cell amendment on the November ballot and I feel a responsibility to speak out since I understand the scientific and medical issues.

If you read nothing else, please read this: Amendment 2 is a deceptive piece of legislation that may mislead Missourians into approving a constitutional right to human cloning, something over 80 percent oppose. It would create a uniquely privileged status for biotech special interests to do human cloning experiments with taxpayer money.

If the industrial revolution were just now starting and we had the choice of developing a society dependent on solar energy rather than oil, is there any doubt that we would choose solar energy? I think that we face a similar choice today regarding embryonic stem cells versus adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells may seem to the lay person to offer greater promise for cures, but even if this were true (which it is not), embryonic stem cell therapies will create an insatiable and unceasing demand for more and more womens¹ eggs. And once a hugh biotech industrial complex is establish that is dependent on women's eggs to generate more and more cloned stem cells, it will be impossible for us to get rid of it. In contrast, investing our resources in adult stem cells will ultimately result in similar or greater cures than embryonic stem cells without creating a biotech industrial complex that pursues women¹s eggs the way oil companies plunder our land for oil profits.

The basic arguments for the stem cell amendment are essentially that (1) embryonic stem cell research has tremendous potential for curing a wide variety of diseases, and (2) any concerns that this research will be abused are unfounded because we can trust the medical and scientific community to regulate itself.

Being knowledgeable of stem cell biology and related medical research, I am deeply skeptical that either of these arguments is true.

As many of you know, I am a physician-scientist at Washington University School of Medicine and have received millions of dollars in research funding, part of which has been for stem cell research related to cancer. I approached this amendment without preconceived opinions and have read the amendment carefully. I have listened to the arguments on both sides. After sifting through the rhetoric, I have concluded that there is nothing about embryonic stem cells that would indicate that they are better than adult stem cells for curing human disease. In fact, there are many problems with embryonic stem
cells, such as rejection and cancer formation. Further, adult stem cell research and therapies do not endanger women who must donate eggs for embryonic stem cells.

These deceptive tactics by the amendment proponents say to me that ³you are not intelligent enough to understand the issues so I will intentionally deceive you for your own good.²

As a medical professional, I believe that my responsibility is to make sure the public understands the issues so that they can make up their own mind. Thus, my goal in this letter is not to convince you of my personal opinions, but to make sure you have the facts from a doctor and scientist who understands the issues and does not have political or monetary motives.

Some of the most common arguments in favor of the amendment are as follows:

Argument # 1: Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is the type of process for creating stem cells that is at stake in this amendment, is not human cloning.

MY RESPONSE: When scientists talk about cloning, SCNT is exactly what they are talking about. SCNT is the medical dictionary definition of cloning. The amendment proponents claim that SCNT is not cloning unless the cell is placed into a woman¹s womb, but that has never been the medical definition of cloning. That is like saying that a nuclear bomb is not a eapon unless it is dropped on people. The potential for harm and abuse is great, even if one does not intend to act on this potential!

The fact is that this amendment not only allows human cloning, it creates a uniquely protected right to perform human cloning!

Argument #2: Embryonic stem cell research has the potential for curing many more diseases than adult stem cells.

MY RESPONSE: There is no scientific evidence for this claim. Many people have been led to believe that we have not yet seen the incredible curative potential of embryonic stem cells because this research is banned. The truth is that embryonic stem cells is not banned and never has been. Embryonic stem cells have been researched for many years and have been reported in the medical literature as early as 1963! And yet, there is no evidence that embryonic stem cells have cured any disease, even in animals.

But what is really frustrating for someone like me who is involved in stem cell research is that the success of adult stem cells is being ignored by the amendment proponents. Advantages of adult stem cells over embryonic stem cells: (1) they are the only stem cells that have been shown to cure disease in animals, (2) they do not require egg extraction and the associated risks to women, (3) they have amazing plasticity (the ability to change into many different cell types) that far exceeds anyone's expectations. For example, stem cells from bone marrow can be turned into brain cells.

If adult stem cells are likely to be just as good, if not better, than embryonic stem cells, why expose women to risky egg extraction and create a huge demand for eggs that will surely end up in the exploitation of poor, disadvantaged women and young, college-aged women with limited financial resources?

Argument #3: SCNT will not endanger women.

RESPONSE: To be honest, this is my greatest concern. Despite loud cries to the contrary, the widespread use of SCNT for medical research and treatment will unquestionably jeopardize the health of women, particularly poor disadvantaged women and young, college-age women with limited financial resources who will be tempted to allow themselves to be given synthetic hormones and undergo surgical procedures to extract eggs in exchange for monetary awards. We are not talking about a few hundred cloned embryos, but rather, millions and millions will be needed for this research!. And the need for more eggs will never end. Even if laws are passed to regulate this process, profiteers will undoubtedly go to third world countries to find willing subjects.

Argument #4. How could this amendment be a bad idea when leading scientists and physicians support it?

RESPONSE: Many scientists and physicians, including myself, support adult stem cell research, but are deeply concerned about embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. The reason that you do not hear more experts speak out against this amendment is that their voices have been muted. The amendment proponents have identified one wealthy couple in Kansas City who donated virtually all of the $16 million that is being used to saturate the media with pro-amendment information. Meanwhile, those who are concerned about this amendment have been denied the opportunity for public debate and discourse by our medical schools and universities. Suffice to say, the freedom of speech violations at ostensibly liberal universities to suppress voices against this amendment are breathtaking!

Final Thoughts

If for no other reason, I am deeply disturbed by this amendment because of the deception being used to promote it. For example, Cynthia Kramer, who is running for state office in our district, has used this issue to promote her campaign by implying that her life-threatening disease could have been treated more effectively with embryonic stem cells. After questioning her campaign office and reading the text of many of her interviews and website statements, I can find no evidence for this claim. In reality, she received adult stem cells in the form of a bone marrow transplant, and the fact that
she is still alive is evidence that this adult stem cell transplant was successful! When she went to Israel seeking a OEcure¹ for her disease, they told her to come back to Missouri where she could get the best care available anywhere!

I personally know of many other examples of deliberate deceptions, intentional misinformation, and freedom of speech violations.

My practice focuses on patients with cancer, and I am profoundly wounded when one of them dies of their disease. I am in the trenches every day, and I understand what is at stake. But I am convinced that this amendment is not the right direction for our state. There are much more effective ways we can spend our money and time. without endangering women

We all have to make our own decisions, and democracy only works well if we make those decisions based on facts. Whatever opinion you develop on this issue, I hope that it is based on facts. Please feel free to email me if you have more specific questions or if you would like to talk.

Thanks for your attention.

Bill (and Tonya) Harbour

______________________________________


J. William Harbour, MD


Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Endowed Professor
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, Missouri 63110
The materials in this message are private and may contain Protected Healthcare Information. If you are not the intended recipient, be advised that any unauthorized use, disclosure, copying or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please immediately notify the sender via telephone or return mail."


I am curious first if anyone knows this particular professor. Click here for his faculty page.

More generally, I find it really interesting how carefully targeted the messages are. The anti-initiative ads run by the Vitae Foundation during male dominated sports programming made women out to be these victims who needed strong, moral men to stand up for them in the face of some ill-defined enemy behind amendment 2. This letter ads a new component targeting a more educated and progressive crowd. Heaven forbid, embryonic stem cells are evil oil comanies and adult stem cells are magical solar energy! And look, if this is successful, not only will poor women in the US be targeted for dangerous egg harvesting, the evil biotechnology industry will go to poor, defenseless third world countries and harm people there, too. Those evil special interests.

A second thing I love is how he presents himself as an expert on stem cells, then implies he is quite knowledgeable in other areas, too. Like financial matters. And the history of industrialization and energy policy. Kind of like how he says he's not political, then writes a rather political email. My personal take is that expertise is completely irrelevant to this particular initiative; in fact, the great irony is that he's saying he's an expert to defend that argument that the experts shouldn't be allowed to make the decisions about research. Rather, moralizing legislators should make that decision.

A third thing I love is how he has footnoted things without providing the footnote. No doubt, this was in the original email, and someone in the email forwarding chain just decided those weren't necessary.

One last thing I'll point out is that I'm actually rather perturbed that someone using my school's resources is making rather stark and disturbing claims about how "those who are concerned about this amendment have been denied the opportunity for public debate and discourse by our medical schools and universities. Suffice to say, the freedom of speech violations at ostensibly liberal universities to suppress voices against this amendment are breathtaking!"

Excuse me? You sent this from your Wash U account! [If you don't know, the email extension .wustl.edu is a domain registered and used by Washington University in St. Louis. My email address is ndempsey@wustl.edu, for example.] You are leveraging your Wash U credentials. Yet you don't ask for support on this issue, either. Feign outrage to make you sound more credible, but don't ask alumni to investigate this rather serious charge against, oh, only one of the greatest medical institutions in the world. I sent an email to the professor asking him to authenticate it, just in case this really isn't something he sent. I'm curious to see what response I get.

For a little balance to this email, check out the Missouri Coalition for Life Saving Cure's website.

10/19/2006

sweetness

Not only was that a great series with a classic ending, but the ESPN prognosticators are almost universally calling for the Tigers to win the World Series.

Ah, there's nothing like the reverse ESPN endorsement.

10/18/2006

long time, no rant

(R) It's been too long since I last complained about St. Louis drivers. It's been raining forever here, and this morning I'm on the entrance ramp merging onto eastbound I-64 (sorry, highway 40) from Kingshighway in the Central West End. This is a clover leaf, and it's nice because the interstate is 4 lanes here, but the right lane exits at Vandeventer, so there's no through traffic in the lane we merge into. Well this morning, with wet roads, the car two cars in front of me decides to stop as we're merging. Not, slow down to 15 mph around the curve because it's raining. No, come to a complete stop. On the entrance ramp to the highway.

Now, I understand having to slam on the brakes when the freeway is backed up. But when you just don't know how to merge, it is really really annoying. Get off the interstate if you don't know how to drive. Seriously. Try practicing at night or during the middle of the day. Don't be out in bad weather during rush hour in the city.

10/15/2006

winter in Missouri

I went out to my car for work this week, and I could see my breath!

But no worries, it is plenty steamy in here as I type this from my iMac set up on the dining room table. We decided to go all out and clean the carpets. Picked up the Rug Doctor from Home Depot, unloaded two rooms worth of stuff, and now have a hallway/storage closet in our living room, dining room, kitchen, and entry way. Suffice it to say no one is getting in through the front door. Cookie is going crazy. If you know her, just think about that for a second.

But no worries, by the multiple buckets of not so clear water we dumped, clearly a success. Now just to watch some Chiefs action and playoff baseball and eat a couple hot dogs and some chewy Chips Ahoy. It's a rough life.

Almost as good as somebody getting a free steak dinner at her parents' cabin.

Mark your calendars, peoples. Kick ball again next Sunday at two by the school (meet in the cul-de-sac on Nina), Halloween at our place Saturday evening (that would be the Saturday right before Halloween, for you slow ones).

10/10/2006

fall in Missouri

It was beautiful this weekend! A little warm for the full fall foliage brilliance, but enough to see trees of many colors rolling over the horizon driving back and forth across the state.

Kelli, it was great going to your wedding. I'm so happy for you and Nick! I can't imagine what you'll do for fun in Hermann this week.

Thursday was good, stopped by to see Sarah's way too energetic cat that her landlord doesn't know she has. Then Friday lunch at Flat Branch with Trina and Mike and stop by Blue Springs to see my uncle on the way in to town. Pizza and a movie at the Lee's new place. Tried the pumpkin pie, got as far as the first part; 40 minutes prep time. None of us read the rest of the directions in the store, in particular, the whole let cool for at least two hours after baking. So, pumpkin pie had to wait for eating until Saturday. Sadness.

Then Saturday up for waffles and bacon before going to grandmother's to chat and play games. One of the last remaining views of Liberty from her deck as rolling hills of farmland rather than flattened streets of Chipotle. (No kidding, there's now a Chipotle where my grandmother grew up). Then the capstone; wedding at the church. Me being the smart Liberty native I am went on autopilot toward Kelli's house. Fortunately, I realized in time the wedding was at her church. No biggie.

Then back to my neighborhood for reception fun at Wynbrick before packing stuff up from my house and going down to claim some pumpkin pie, after a brief stop of course on the way down (which somehow involved a quick tour of Kansas) to say goodbye to people who had since gathered at a place across from Kelli and Nick's called Quaff. Seriously, that's it's name. Several slices of pumpkin pie, whipped cream, monkey baseball, and Chiefs football later, we're back on the road for St. Louis. I had two things for my brother and at least managed to get him one of them.

Julie took my car to see her sister and a friend at Rockhurst that morning, so I went with Andy and Carrie to check out Lakeland decked out in my traditional attire of blue jeans and poker shirt. I wonder what our kids are going to do for a more traditional style? That's rhetorical, of course. This group is quite appealing, too.

10/02/2006

but the website looks so welcoming

(P) I just saw a TV ad against the Missouri Stem Cell vote (amendment 2). Well, at least, it was sort of against the vote.

It didn't oppose the amendment directly. Rather, through a crying woman sitting on a bed, it ran the gambit of fear and manipulation and abuse of women about donating eggs and cloning and stem cell research and everything else. The ad starts off with the woman reflecting that she just needed money for college (as if the pro-life donors behind such advertising campaigns would actually fund major scholarship programs for poor women to attend college, but that's neither here nor there) so she sold some eggs, and it goes downhill from there.

So what is this, at best, misleading and deceptive group quite willing to employ the most desperate tugs at heartstrings through the use of a crying woman reflecting on pain which the amendment doesn't even cause? Actually, it's the Vitae Foundation. Their website seems so positive, with its clean lines and calm, uplifting prose.

"Vitae believes in the power of the message. Educational messages that are respectful, helpful, and encourage dialogue in a non-threatening manner, have become the hallmark of the Vitae success." "Reaching minds...saving lives" And so on. I'm not familiar with the group, but if it really is a moderate group trying to reach people, the ad buy they made is sure going to ruin that effort and just make people like me all the more cynical about such groups. And interestingly, they post several TV ads on their website, but I couldn't find the one I just saw. Perhaps they don't want people to know they're running it? [Or it might just be a new one that coincidentally hasn't made it up on their server yet, of course, too.]

If this is the best message they can come up with that is educational, respectful, and helpful, then I feel quite comforted that amendment 2 is going to pass by a landslide. For goodness sakes, they've got Oliver North on their website saying the group saves lives. He's not responsible for anything morally questionable, is he?

I can't believe Senator Talent, in a closely contested election where he claims to be in touch with Missouri voters, who actually worked at Wash U, one of the most ardent supporters of this, is on record opposing the amendment. It would be really ironic if the stem cell issue brought enough people out to vote to bring down Talent in a state Bush won both times.

Of course, this summer Talent also removed his name as a consponsor from the Senate anti-cloning bill, so maybe he's really just another one of those wishy washy rich Chesterfield Republican types whose moral compass doesn't point much farther than navigating elections? Is that too harsh Professor? Plenty of time before now and November to prove me wrong and stand up for something, anything, really, beyond the evilness of cold medicine.

Addendum: I just saw it again, and I realized one of the more subtle things that really bothered me. The website makes a claim that they try to target their message, in particular reaching younger women of child-bearing age. Well, I am watching a Monday Night Football game in St. Louis between Green Bay and Philadelphia. I would love to see the demographic data that says that's a prime use of dollars for such a purpose. But then again, that's part of what really gets me so riled up. It is the perfect demographic for them. This ad is not targeted at women at all, who know a lot more about fertility issues generally than men. It's targeted at men who aren't as familiar about what's involved with the process of selling/donating eggs to fertility clinics while watching a program that gets the hormones running a little. And then it takes genuine concern for women and uses it to instill guilt and a sense of needing to protect this sweet little innocent girl who just didn't know how horrible it all is. I find that appalling, not only in the sexist sense that women need to be protected (and protected from whom is an interesting question itself, from immoral liberals who think women should have to sell their eggs in order to pay for college?), but also that the group decided to attack a rather peripheral and insignificant aspect of the debate as it applies to the particular Missouir initiative. It's not about new eggs at all. The moral issue is about whether one believes that future humans are prevented from coming into being by stem cell research. The fact that the ad completely ignores the main thrust of the debate, I would suggest, is a huge indict of those who say it's an immoral practice which the state should actively prohibit. After all, if they were confidant that people were sympathetic to that line of reasoning, that's what the ad would be about.

10/01/2006

check it out

The Royals managed to finish the season not being the worst team in baseball. Even knocked Detroit out of the division lead and home field advantage.

That's what they call a moral victory, right?