Oct. 12, 2004

Remembering “Chris”

Christopher Reeve died over the weekend, raising the question of how long it would take for someone in the political realm to use his name for political purposes. John Kerry waited approximately a nanosecond  and hasn’t stopped. President Bush waited a day before tossing off an obligatory message about Reeve’s courage.

The commemoration of Reeve takes two forms. Some remember him as a remarkable man, who, through sheer toughness and willpower, did something few if any people have done before: recovered from near-total paralysis; regained very limited motion several years after his original accident; regained sensation in 80 percent of his body; and personally revived the business of research into catastrophic spinal injuries. He accomplished astounding things – with the help of doctors, family and friends. (Robin Williams played a particularly heroic role, which has gone unreported. He helped finance Reeve’s treatment, especially early on, because the two as drama students had made a pact to help one another, should either one fall prey to disease, injury or hard times.) Reeve’s personal story ought to inspire anybody who wants to give up when the going gets tough.

A second kind of commemoration uses Reeve as the poster boy for stem-cell research, particularly embryonic stem-cell research. John Kerry told an audience that Reeve, very shortly before lapsing into a coma, left a euphoric message on Kerry’s cell phone. Kerry proceeded to predict that science someday would enable people to recover from injuries of the sort that paralyzed Christopher Reeve, and issued a couple of careful boilerplate comments about stem-cell research.

The use of Reeve in this fashion, while one he would condone, is designed less to stimulate debate about stem-cell research than to cut it off and claim a moral imperative for finding laboratory-ready fetuses pronto. This approach, wonderfully skewered in a recent Weekly Standard piece by Wesley Smith, utterly ignores the moral dimensions of the issue. It also leaps to the assumption that fetal stem cells possess properties not found in other stem cells that don’t require murder – including blood-cord stem cells and adult stem cells.

Reeve was right about the importance of trying to find “cures” for such injuries. But we have an obligation to ensure that the solution doesn’t create horrific new problems and does not in the long run do more to destroy human dignity than to rescue it.

Red Journalists and Blue Journalists?

The answer is: You bet. Two stories over the weekend give some sense of the growing tensions in the media business regarding the November elections. Mark Halperin, political editor for ABC News, issued a staff memo insinuating that the Bush administration’s re-election campaign depends on the use of falsehood and character assassination, while the Kerry campaign – which also lies and smears, according to Halperin – does not rely on such tactics, but merely employs them. The underlying message was clear: If the two camps engage in identical behavior, assign malevolent motives to Team Bush and neutral motives to the Kerry Camp.

Meanwhile, Sinclair Broadcasting announced that it would run as a “news” story the documentary “Stolen Valor,” which contains testimony from Vietnam prisoners of war who alleged that their captors used John Kerry’s 1971 Senate Testimony against them. Democrats are threatening to sue over the decision. No word yet on whether Republicans will ask the Federal Elections Commission to declare ABC and CBS as official partisan appendages of the Kerry for President Committee. For a glimpse at the inside-the-media-business scuffling over these two developments, check on Peter Johnson’s report in USA Today.

The Brothel Test.

Speaking of partisan rooting sections, the New York Times Magazine carried a fawning profile of John Kerry in last Sunday’s edition. The 8,000-word production, written by Matt Bai, didn’t have the intended effect. One telling paragraph – in which Kerry longs to go back “to that place” when terrorism was but a “nuisance” analogous to petty larceny or prostitution – has inspired an anti-Kerry ad, not to mention a withering assault from Rudy Giuliani during a conference call organized by the Bush-Cheney campaign. This illustrates the dangers of falling into the embrace of the press: Sometimes journalists become so smitten with politicians that they fail to distinguish between a timeless insight and a fatal outbreak of vanity.

Political Correctness in Action (I)

Wangari Maathai, this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate, is the first African woman to win the prize, but not the first idiot. She has now become the latest to claim that evil scientists created AIDS.

Political Correctness in Action (II)
Artist Maria Alquilar is furious because residents of Livermore, California have been poking fun at the large mosaic she created for the entrance to the city’s public library. The mosaic features depictions and names of great minds through the ages. Unfortunately, Alquilar misspelled 10 of them – including Einstein, Shakespeare and Michelangelo. Says Alquilar, “I just wasn't that concerned," she said. "None of us are particularly good spellers anymore because of computers. When you are in a studio full of clay, you don't give it much thought.
“When you look at Michelangelo's David, do you point out that one (testicle) is lower than the other?”
It is???

Vandals Hit GOP Headquarters

Here are a few updates from the world of voter fraud and intimidation. This from Florida. This from Spokane, Washington. This from Canton, Ohio, and this round-up from John Fund of the Wall Street Journal:

And finally, this …

Nobel economics Laureate Edward Prescott has made it official. Supply-side economics – you know, what they used to call “Voodoo Economics” – has become the new orthodoxy. He told reporters this week that the president’s tax cuts weren’t too large, but too small – with the clear implication that Senator Kerry’s “tax hike for the rich” is economic poison.

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