Sunday, March 08, 2009

Phickle Thoughts

My family visited last week. We had an excellent time with them. I've been pushing for them to come visit us for quite a while, so to finally have them out here was a blast.
While doing our sightseeing we came across a movie being filmed. The movie was Salt, starring Angelina Jolie. We were able to stand there and watch them film for a little bit, and sure enough, we got to see Ms. Jolie. She was wearing a big coat, hat, and backpack for the scene, but she was still gorgeous. It was very cool. Next to seeing the Hippo at the zoo, it was one of the highlights of the trip.
There was a pretty solid conversation in the comments of the last post. If you didn't check them out, I encourage you to do so.

One of the things that a lot of people might have missed was Rachel's comment that the clinic will be suspending their pre-implantation selection procedures.
In a similar bioethics vein, Obama is going to be allowing unrestricted funding for research on embryonic stem cells. This is disturbing for two reasons: first, there are the ethical qualms regarding the destruction of embryos. Second, it strikes me that this is a policy that's really all about the money.

There are alternative stem cells (like adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells) that are not controversial. Over the past couple years non-embryonic stem cells have been shown to be almost exactly as useful as embryonic stem cells. There was a time when it was thought embryonic stem cells were superior, but the more scientists have worked with the alternatives, the more they've realized that they're just as versatile as embryonic stem cells. So, if there's a non-controversial option, why use embryonic stem cells?

It's because a lot of people have a lot of money invested in embryonic stem cell lines. See, the scientists that do the experiments on stem cells don't cull the cells themselves. They buy them, just like they buy their slides and petri dishes and everything else. Researchers get grants from the government, and they use that funding to buy their materials. The previous prohibitions meant they couldn't buy embryonic stem cells. That was bad for the people selling embryonic stem cells (and good for people who sold non-embryonic lines, and somewhat frustrating for scientists because they had limited sources of sellers and they had to be extra diligent to make sure they were complying with the regulations). Obama's reversal of this policy means scientists will now be able to buy embryonic stem cells (my understanding is that embryonic lines are easier to gather, and therefore are probably a little cheaper). This doesn't mean they'll be able to do more or different research. It doesn't mean there will be new breakthroughs. It just means money for the people who sell embryonic lines.
And to contrast nicely with my criticism, I'll say that it makes me glad to see that the American public isn't buying what the Republicans are selling when it comes to the stimulus package. Republicans have been constantly preaching the "government is the problem not the solution" line, and thankfully the message doesn't seem to be taking. Because, much like Obama said in his inaugural address, it's time to move beyond the debate of whether the government is the solution or the problem, and time to look at where government is working and where it isn't. If people want to criticize the stimulus they should do so not on principle but on specific shortcomings.
And now, to return to criticizing Democrats: the fact that Bush and the Republicans ran up a gigantic deficit doesn't mean it's "your turn" to do the same. Get over what happened the past 8 years, and get to work fixing things. Otherwise, you'll find yourself on the outs again real quickly.
Finally, now that I'm done with the bar exam, I've started writing a little bit again. I'm working on a novel, and I'm part way through my third chapter. I'm not going to share any more about it here, I just wanted to say that it feels awful good to be done with the bar and back into working on fun stuff.

But I need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor


Mike said...

I still wouldn't mind something of an inkling of what your novel is about. :)

Matthew B. Novak said...

Right now, it's about 35 pages... sorry, I couldn't resist.

Seriously though, if you're that interested, send me an e-mail and I'll shoot you a quick summary.

phyl said...

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Matthew B. Novak said...

In light of that last comment, I rest my case that this is all just about money.