Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Mashup Part Two (8/24/10)

(Part One is here.)

  • In case anyone missed it, yesterday was a really bad day in the “war on brains” (noted herehere is the story from the New York Times)…

    WASHINGTON — A federal district judge on Monday blocked President Obama’s 2009 executive order that expanded embryonic stem cell research, saying it violated a ban on federal money being used to destroy embryos.

    The ruling came as a shock to scientists at the National Institutes of Health and at universities across the country, which had viewed the Obama administration’s new policy and the grants provided under it as settled law. Scientists scrambled Monday evening to assess the ruling’s immediate impact on their work.

    The lawsuit at issue was brought last year on behalf of the adoption agency; two stem cell scientists, Dr. James L. Sherley and Dr. Theresa Deisher; embryos; and others. The judge dismissed the suit last year, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing, meaning they were not materially affected by the rule change.

    But the Court of Appeals reversed that ruling last year, saying the two researchers could be harmed by the new policy since they worked exclusively with adult stem cells and would face increased competition for federal financing under the new policy. After the appeals court ruling, all but Dr. Sherley and Dr. Deisher were dropped as plaintiffs to the suit.
    Oh, and by the way, Drs. Sherley and Deisher were bankrolled by the uber-conservative Alliance Defense Fund; here is more on the players in this drama from Think Progress (and how con-vee-nient that the ADF was “dropped as plaintiffs” now that their legal gambit has worked and their money is no longer needed).

    Continuing with the Times…

    With the case back in his court, Judge Lamberth ruled that the administration’s policy violated the clear language of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a law passed annually by Congress that bans federal financing for any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

    In rules announced last year, the administration allowed financing of research into any embryonic stem cell lines that either were allowed by the Bush administration or had been created using embryos discarded after fertilization procedures and in which unpaid donors had given clear consent for the embryos to be used for research purposes.

    The Obama administration said that its rules abided by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment because the federal money would be used only once the embryonic stem cells were created but would not finance the process by which embryos were destroyed. The judge disagreed, writing that embryonic stem cell research “necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo.”
    So basically, Judge Royce Lamberth ruled against the plaintiffs, then they filed with the DC Federal Appeals Court, and that court decided that they could sue (again, Think Progress has more on that bunch in the link above). So when they went back to Judge Lamberth, he had to come up with some kind of pretext for allowing the suit to continue.

    One of the problems, though, is that Judge Lamberth’s temporary injunction…

    …returned federal policy to the “status quo,” but few officials, scientists or lawyers in the case were sure Monday night what that meant.

    (Dr. George Q. Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children’s Hospital Boston) was among those who said they believed that it meant that work financed under the new rules had to stop immediately; others said it meant that the health institutes had to use Bush administration rules for future grants.
    And as the story tells us, Lamberth’s ruling could also extend even to the Bush-era guidelines, so we really could be returning to square one, as it were (as noted here, however, the Obama DOJ plans to appeal).

    In response, I would say that this post, bad language and all, captures pretty accurately how I feel about this.

  • Also, I have to tell you that Joke Line pushed one of my buttons big time yesterday (here, on the supposedly fading electoral fortunes of the congressional Dems and, by extension, President Obama)…

    The idea that these tumultuous anxieties would somehow be addressed if the President behaved more like Reagan is foolish. The idea, promoted by the Democratic Party's myopic left, that being more "progressive" might clarify things and restore the party's status is a fantasy.
    Let’s begin by stating point blank that I never, for a moment, suggested that Obama should act like The Sainted Ronnie R. Also, I always understood the word “myopic” to mean, in this context, lacking foresight or demonstrating a “narrow view” of a particular topic.

    So, then, was the left “myopic” when advocating for the public option in health care reform (here)?

    Were we “myopic” when we said that the “stimulus” was too small last year (here)?

    Were we “myopic” when we said that the President should get the hell out of Afghanistan last year since the al Qaeda presence didn’t justify our troop strength (here)?

    Were we “myopic” when we said that HAMP was an utter failure (here)?

    And are we “myopic” for wondering why the hell Elizabeth Warren is not, at this moment, in charge of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection for which she has personally advocated (here)?

    We know that “punching the DFHs” is something that Klein and his Beltway brethren do as a reflex to just about every story (and almost always in response to adoration of Repug orthodoxy), but when it comes to “myopia,” I would file this under the heading of “physician, stop being such a bloody wanker and heal thyself” (i.e., blame the right-wing noise machine for health care propaganda, but when it goes beyond them, don’t pretend it isn’t happening).

  • Update 9/2/10: And I'm sure Michael Scherer reads Joke Line also (here).

  • Finally, Repug U.S. House Rep Ed Royce tells us the following (here)…

    If it wasn’t bad enough that we lost in the hockey finals to “Our Neighbor to the North” at the Winter Olympics earlier this year, we now trail Canada in a slightly more consequential indicator – economic freedom. Every year the Heritage Foundation issues the Index of Economic Freedom and for the first time in, well ever, we no longer represent the “freest” economy in North America.

    (When it comes to our current economic difficulties) following the Canadian model would help us tremendously. In 1993, Canada faced a deficit of about 9% of its GDP and stagnate growth. Believing that severe cost cutting in the public sector was the only way to sort Canada's finances, the government cut back public spending and converted the deficit into a small surplus. During the following decade, the Canadian economy soared; growing 41 percent.
    In response, I give you the following from Paul Krugman (here)…

    Canada was able to offset the contractionary effects of fiscal austerity through increased exports to a booming US economy…

    Yep, you can have fiscal austerity without contraction if you have a massive devaluation against your main trading partner. So we can have austerity without a new depression as long as all the world’s major economies devalue against … oh, wait.

    And monetary policy, of course, wasn’t up against the zero lower bound, so the Bank of Canada could and did offset fiscal austerity with looser monetary policy (which partly explains the drop in the loonie.)
    (By the way, the “loonie” is the Canadian dollar coin, not necessarily the nickname of last year’s NHL penalty minute leader, Zenon Konopka of the Tampa Bay Lightning :- ).

    Also, as noted in the comments to Krugman’s post, Canada’s economy features (featured?) the following…

    1) A federal Goods and Services tax VAT of 7% on nearly all sales levied in addition to provincial sales taxes.

    2) A large trading partner with a booming economy (Dot com bubble anyone?)

    3) A 1995 Federal budget (that) also increased numerous taxes, including on corporations and banks, and a 1.5 cents per litre increase in gas tax.

    4) Budget cuts (including) agriculture subsidies, corporate welfare, and cuts to Defence (the spelling is a giveaway that we're talking about "The Great White North," of course).
    Oh, and by the way, here is one more feature of the Canadian economy we would do well to emulate (and which was utilized by a moose-hunting former governor). What say you in response, Repugs?

    (cue the sound of crickets…)
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