Saturday, July 30

Frists amazing break with the Radical Right on Stem Cells

Cross posted on Dailykos:

Yesterday on C-Span, Senator/Doctor Bill Frist announced his position on funding of Stem Cell Research, making a strong break with the Bush Administration and the GOP majority.

He supports it.

Click to view statements from

Senator Frist's comments on the Senate Floor:

"Since 2001. when Stem Cell reseach first captured our nation's attention, I've said that many times - the issue should be and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. Not just because the science holds tremendous promise, but because it's developing with breath-taking speed. Indeed, stem cell research present that first major moral and ethical challenge to bio-medical research in the 21st Century."

"Everyday we unlock more of the mysteries of life, and more ways to enhance our health. This compels profound questions."

"How we answer these questions today, impacts not only current research by future research as well."

"So when I as a heart transplant surgeon, remove that human heart from someone who is brain-dead and I place it in the chest of someone who'se heart has failed them - in order to give them new life - I do so within an ethical construct that honors dignity and respect of a donor and a recipient. Like transplantation, if we can answer the moral and ethical questions about stem cell research I believe we will have the oppurtunity to save many lives and make countless other's lives more fulfilling. That's why we must get our stem cell policy right. Scientifically and ethically."

"As we know, Adult stem cell research is not controversial on ethical grounds, although embryonic stem cell research is. Right now, to derive these stem cells and embryo, or a blastocyst, which man including myself consider nascient human life, must be destroyed. But I also strongly believe as do countless other scientist and clinicians and doctors, that embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and cure that adult stem cells can not provide.

Let me just say that I believe today, as I stated four years ago in 2001 prior the current policy was established, that the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research. As I stated in 2001, we should fund research only on embryonic stems cells derived from blastocyst which are left over after fertility therapy. Which will not otherwise be implanted or adopted, but instead are destined with 100% certainty by the parents to be discarded and destroyed."

Although it may be difficult to take Dr.-I-can-diagnose-a-blind-near-brain-dead-woman-via-videotape Frist completely seriously. The fact that the GOP's own Senate Majority leader has taken such a position in direct opposition to that of the President -- breaking dramatically from the lock-step mode that Republican's have been held hostage to by the Christian Right for the past 5 years - should prove quite interesting as they are forced to temper their "Democrats support Death" arguments of the past several months.

But Frist is far from the only prominent Republican to take such a position - former UN Ambassador John C. Danforth has made similar claims.

BY a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.


Friday, July 29

Over There: Finally the Truth about Iraq?

Stephen Bochco's new series Over There, a gritty hyper-realistic series about American Soldiers in Iraq, premiered this week on the FX Network.

Premering with an episode that was full of both sex and violence, Over There attempts to bring the same realism to soldiers under fire that Bochco's previous hit shows Hill Street Blues, LA Law and NYPD Blue brought to Police and Attorneys.

Introducing a somewhat cliched squad of characters featuring the loudmouth Sargent "Scream", clueless Lieutenant "Mad Cow", two different "angry black men" - one mad at the world and full of excuses "Smoke", and another an elightened would-be gospel singer only angry at himself "Angel", as well as Bo - an upbeat go-getter with a partial football scholarship just needing some additional support from the GI Bill to attend Texas A&M who get hit with a roadside bomb and loses part of his leg, and "Dim" - a Cornell dropout with major marriage troubles.

<> Bochco has already stated that doesn't intend for the show to slant any particular way politically and that appears evident from the first episode - only in the sense that both rah-rah gingoism as well as self-doubt and anti-american sentiment will be portrayed without either being shown as more "correct" than the other. The soldiers themselves gripe, but they don't neccesarily look at the issues in a context much larger than surviving the next day, or the next few hours. On the other hand one captured insurgent leader yells as he's being hauled away "Are you taking me to Abu Ghraib? Should I take my clothes off now?" Despite Bochco's denials Politics may indeed become a center-peice of the show starting next week as a the injured Bo is replaced in the unit by an Arab-American soldier.

The show has great promise and potential. For one thing, it's the first program - News, Reality or Fiction - to actually attempt to accurately portray what has been going on during the two years of war we've had with Afghanistan and Iraq. The visuals are quite graphic as the upper body of one insurgent is shown literally expoding into peices while his legs continue to walk forward. Later, when the battle is over the brand new fresh-off-the-plane recruits look glumly over their own handiwork -- displaying a mixture of remorse, resolve and in one case a bloody-minded sports score mentallity. " Yeah, I capped this one right here...and that one too"

Even more interesting than the show itself, will be the reaction of the right-wing. With Rick Santorum on a book tour talking about how the society has grown more coarsened, and the potential for the censorship which has already gripped broadcast TV as well as radio threatening to including cable and satellite as well (putting the breaks on shows such as The Sopranos, Sex in the City, Deadwood, FX's The Shield and Rescure Me)-- this just might be both our first and last chance to see exactly what our sons and daughters are going through - over there.


Sunday, July 24

Torture: not just for Breakfast anymore

From Reuters: President Bush attempts to block legislation to establish minimum standards on the treatment of Terrorism Suspects:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.

The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter. [...]

"If legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," the bill could be vetoed, the statement said.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who endured torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said after meeting at the Capitol with Vice President Dick Cheney that he still intended to offer amendments next week "on the standard of treatment of prisoners."

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was working on legislation defining the legal status of enemy combatants being held in Guantanamo, also said he would offer an amendment.

Now couple that revelation with the information which continues to leak about the additional Abu Ghraib photos and video which the President also refuses to release - as reported on Dailykos:

On July 22, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) denounced the latest efforts of the Bush Administration to block the release of the Darby photos and videos depicting torture at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison facility. On June 2, 2004, CCR, along with the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace filed papers with the U.S. District Court, charging the Department of Defense and other government agencies with illegally withholding records concerning the abuse of detainees in American military custody. Since then, the organizations have been repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to investigate what happened at the prison..
Some of the reports that have come from lawmakers who have seen these photos and video indicate that they have witnessed rape, the sodomy of children and even murders of captives in Iraq.

I have to say I'm in agreement with Dailykos poster Hunter who states:

I think it's time to invent some new swearing, because there isn't anything currently in the language that fully encompasses the White House's unapologetic attempts to ensure the Bush administration's own crafted and approved "interrogation" policies be allowed to continue unhindered. Yes, according to the Bush administration, any attempts by Republican senators to legislate against, say, the sodomizing of detained children are unduly infringing on the president's fight against terrorists.

Truly, there is no sunken depth to which this White House does not feel comfortable indulging itself in.


It's not the leak, it's the Collateral Damage

Crossposted on Dailykos:

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times featured an article on possible Obsruction of Justice and Witness Tampering Charges against Karl Rove.

WASHINGTON -- The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation has shifted his focus from determining whether White House officials violated a law against exposing undercover agents to determining whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges, according to people briefed in recent days on the inquiry's status.

Differences have arisen in witnesses' statements to federal agents and a grand jury about how the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, was leaked to the press two years ago.

In the end it may not be whether or not Valeria Plame was technically an active undercover operative within the last five years or not, and it may not be not even matter whether or not the information being released about her had originated from a classified State Dept Document. What may ultimately take down Rove and CO, is the Collateral Damage from their own actions.

This thought originally occured to me after both Bill Bennett and Michael Isikoff appeared on Hannity and Colmes last week.

It was Isikoff who pointed out that often investigations of this type won't hit the original target, but will ultimately have a major impact via "Collateral Damage". However, it it was Bennett who unwittingly made it clear what that damage would be.

Bennet has been a respected politician for some time, and I was somewhat disheartened by his performance on Hannity as he continued to generate excuse after excuse for Rove's behavior in revealing Plame's identify to Matt Cooper -- but he went further and ranted about how "President Clinton had commited dozens of crimes before the [Ken Starr] Grand Jury" - which is patently, not true. Rove is looking quite seriously at a criminal indictment, while Clinton was not charged with any crimes by a court of law.

Let's just take a little stroll through down Grand Jury Memory Lane:

Ken Starr's investigation exonerated the Clinton's of any crimnal involvement with Whitewater, they were exonerated in involvement with the suicide of Vincent Foster, and also exonerated in the File-Gate allegations (which claimed that they had illegally attempted to obtain FBI Background files in order to attack their political opponents with personal and secret information).

Even if you look closely at Clinton's infamous "Is is" statment - it becomes clear that he was admitting that his attorney might have been stating something falsely depending on weather "IS" was in the present tense, or the past tense when he said "There IS no relationship between Monica Lewinsky and the President".

Leaving all that aside, there were articles of Impeachment drawn up as a result of Starr's investigation - but the most damaging portion of those articles wasn't about what hair-splitting neo-truths that Clinton said during either the Paula Jones deposition or to the Grand Jury.

It's was about the things he said to his own aides Sydney Blumenthal and others that were flat-out lies. Such as "There was no sex of any kind" and "I heard that Monica was a stalker".

Starr Allegation #9

The President improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition.

Starr Allegation #10

President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the grand jury investigation by refusing to testify for seven months and lying to senior White House aides with knowledge that they would relay the President's false statements to the grand jury -- and did thereby deceive, obstruct, and impede the grand jury.

Clinton's Attorney's pointed out in rebuttal that at that particular point in time, none of the people Clinton made these statements too were included on a grand jury witness list, and hence - weren't "Witnesses" in the literal sense.

But the U.S. Codes for Witness Tampering doesn't make such a distinction:

A prosecution under this section or section 1503 may be brought in the district in which the official proceeding (whether or not pending or about to be instituted) was intended to be affected or in the district in which the conduct constituting the alleged offense occurred.

Moving back to the present, it seems to me that all Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has to do is look at the statements made months ago by Scott McClellan that "I talked personally to Karl Rove, and Mr. Libby, and they assured me they are not involved [in the leaking of Valeria Plame's identify]" and point out that this deliberate spreading of a LIE through proxy agents such as McClennal is in fact Witness Tampering and Obstruction of Justice, even though McClellan himself had not yet appeared on any witness list at that time.

If so, that's Game, Set and Match folks -- and just may indicate the real reason that McClellan suddenly refused to provide any further information on his previous answers all last week. If he'd continued to try and answer the questions, he could have put ROve, Libby and himself in even greater legal jeopardy.