Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Battle Over Stem Cell Research Rages

The Senate approved a bill today to increase funding available for stem cell research. A similar bill has already been vetoed by President Bush, citing the moral implications of destroying embryos for research. Early indications are that Bush will also veto this bill, despite the research community’s contention that expanded research on embryonic stem cells could provide cures for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and juvenile diabetes.

As Congress prepares to vote on this bill, most probably sending it to the White House for the president’s consideration, one has to question the various roles associated with this bill.

I am a huge believer in the role of medical researchers in the progress of our quality of life. Not only do people have longer life expectancies, but people live with less pain and suffering. Physical ailments which used to be permanently debilitating are no temporary inconveniences. Diseases that could be fatal or crippling are now treatable or even curable.

Some would say that these researchers are playing God, that they are determining life and death without considering the moral implications. But to me, it seems that these people are heroes, finding ways against the odds to save people from suffering, and extend the lives of so many people. To me, the accomplishments of these researchers mark the progress of our society.

Is an elected official a better judge of how researchers should conduct their research? Are they better able to determine what research is morally just and what is not? What’s more, if we determine that elected officials should judge the morality of this research, is it right for one elected official to override the views of many elected officials on issues of morality?

If embryonic stem cell research can be such a powerful tool in fighting diseases, I firmly believe the method should be funded by the state. But while my opinion means little, certainly the views of so many elected officials should mean something. How can Bush ignore these views, promoting his own moral code over the views of so many others, including the sick and needy?

It’s hard to determine how quickly this bill will pass through Congress, and thus when it will land on Bush’s desk. But let’s hope that, when that time comes, he can reconsider his objections, and allow the researchers to do their job, to help the people who need help by finding cures to what ails them.


Posted by Scottage at 12:03 AM / | |  

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friendships Gone By: Regrets or the Chance to Rekindle Them

One of the great benefits of being a nomad is the number of truly amazing people you meet along the way. I’ve lived in 26 cities since graduating college, and each city has been marked not so much by the geography but by the inhabitants, the distinct cultures, and the remarkable personalities I came to know.

On the other hand, moving around as much as I have has prevented me from making the lasting, long-term friendships with these people that I would have hoped for. What’s more, my own personality flaws prevented me from opening up and embracing some of these remarkable people, even when I wanted to. As I moved from place to place, these people drifted in and out of my life, seemingly never to be seen again.

Suddenly, this is beginning to change. With my new MySpace profile, I’ve started to reconnect with some of these people from my past. It’s a slow process but a great process, as each new person’s profile I see connects me with another name and face from my past. It’s an amazing trip down memory lane, as I rediscover some of the people who made me who I am today.

Further, as I work on myself, working hard to eliminate the issues that have plagued me all these years, I find myself more apt to become the type of person that could be a good friend, and really get to know these people. But has the opportunity passed me by? Could I ever truly reconnect with these people, and establish friendships with them?

In many cases, the challenge will be greater; somehow, these individuals will have to see past the version of me from days gone by, a person who was not always the nicest or kindest person, the person who took the easy way before taking the right way, and a person who has worshipped the almighty dollar above all else. To these people I will owe an amends for my past deeds, and the promise of living a better life from here out.

My priorities have changed, and today friendships are valued above all else. Getting to know the friends from my past would be a blessing beyond compare, and while it would be easier to leave the past behind me, the easier chance is rarely the most rewarding. I hope to be given the chance, and believe the endeavor to be worth the effort. And in the end, the reward just may be some truly special friendships.

What better reward could I ask for?


Posted by Scottage at 1:51 AM / | |  

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Tipping Point in Iraq – Closer Than We Think?

Imagine a scenario where, instead of seeing 50 Iraqis killed in bombings, along with 5 Americans caught in the crossfire, we were seeing 50 Americans killed in bombings with 5 Iraqis meeting accidental death. This is the danger of reaching the tipping point in the Iraqi conflict. If the US becomes the common enemy in Iraq, if we pass the proverbial tipping point, this scenario and worse could play out before our eyes.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called The Tipping Point, which explains why change happens so quickly and unexpectedly. It talks about situations, normally conflicts, being in delicate balance until one final event pushes the entire nature of the conflict over the edge, altering the givens of the conflict and endangering the life of all participants.

Conflicts in the Middle East are extremely susceptible to tipping points. This is because Middle Eastern powers have different rules of alliance; most believe that the enemy of their enemy is their friend, at least on a temporary basis. Thus, as a power’s chief threat changes, mortal enemies can become temporary allies. And former allies, now enemies, can quickly get caught in the crossfire.

A perfect example is the 1983 bombing of the US marine barracks in Lebanon. Until this time, the US had been supporting the President Amin Gemayal and the Christian Lebanese government. But when the US weighed in on the battle for Souk el-Gharb, they became a bigger threat then the Druse or Syrians. Only a month later, Gemayal was a party to the attack on the marine’s barracks in Beirut where 241 US servicemen died.

The primary lesson from the Lebanon attack is that siding with any power in the Middle East can be dangerous. As soon as you try to impose your will, you risk becoming the enemy, and facing a force much greater than the force you helped create and support. This is precisely the danger being faced by the American servicemen in Iraq today.

The present Iraqi regime has taken power solely because of US support. However, how long that support will last is in serious question. A shift in power in the US may bring about troop withdrawals from the region. Should the US withdraw from Iraq, the Iraqi government will be vulnerable as well. That is, unless they find a more stable ally.

Iran has been making overtures to the Iraqi government that they could provide support, perhaps even a military presence in Iraq, and once again long-time enemies could become short-term allies against a common foe. And with the recent rhetoric of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, calling for attacks against American forces instead of attacks against Iraqi troops, the tipping point may be nearing.

Today, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, predominantly Shiites but including some Sunnis as well, marched between the holy cities of Kufa and Najaf to protest American occupation of the country. They called for the police and army to join the struggle against the American military. There was practically no violence at the rally, as all hatred was pointed towards the Americans.

Have we reached the tipping point yet? Have the events of the past few days moved us closer to the point where the danger to American servicemen rises exponentially, as they have no allies and no safe haven? Only time will tell. Let’s hope that, when the tipping point arrives, we have protected ourselves enough to not suffer the level of casualties seen in Beirut.


Posted by Scottage at 1:15 AM / | |