Friday, April 10, 2009

Something old, something new…

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, April 10, 2009

In the rush to bring about the change promised throughout his long two-year-long campaign, President Obama has sought to differentiate his policies from those of his predecessor. We don’t have to look very hard to find evidence of this effort. Almost every news headline concerning Obama (and there are plenty as our American news media plays along at his heels, leaving tongue tracks on the carpet like a slobbering lap dog) exposes another “new” concept that when studied, shows nothing new.

“The Redefinition Express” leaves the station at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue each morning with a fresh load of freight. The freight consists of news releases and internal memos that are intended to present an image of a new administration that is entirely different.

It started with Obama re-packaging the Bush surge doctrine that worked successfully in Iraq, and applying it to Afghanistan. However, in the all the news stories about this surge of U.S. troop levels, the word “surge” has been purged. Why? Well, the answer is in the internal memos between Obama’s people and Senate leader, Harry Reid. Reid agreed to go along as long as that evil ‘s’ word was not mentioned.

In another silly example of Orwellian newspeak Obama’s people have been ordered to refer to our defense against the Islamic terrorist’s declared war upon us as anything but a “war on terror”. It seems we were wrong to assume the intent – of those who strap bombs to themselves and wander into populated areas, or to commandeer jets full of passengers and fuel – was to initiate terror. They were merely attempting to manufacture a “man-caused disaster”. We were the mistaken ones if we became terrorized while watching our fellow citizens and emergency workers buried unceremoniously beneath a mountain of concrete and steel.

I do not disparage Obama for trying to point out valid differences between himself and Bush. However, I do believe that words carry weight. If the terrorists declared war on us, then our response to their attack should be designated as part of that war. Likewise, if we are sending a surge of troops to Afghanistan, call it a surge.

Now, concerning the G-20 Summit and Obama’s capitulation to the foreign leaders whose interests clearly are not our interests, I must defer to one who holds more credibility than I when it comes to foreign affairs. I recently found this correspondence between two former presidents:

Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. America…has a set of interests distinct from those of Europe, and peculiarly her own. She should, therefore, have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe. While the last is laboring to become the domicil of despotism, our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of freedom.

I agree with the above statement and while this was written 185 years ago from the desk of Mr. Thomas Jefferson to President James Monroe in October of 1823, its main points are as relevant today as are those of his most famous writing – The Declaration of Independence.

As I watched and read the words of our current president I saw a departure from that spirit of independence that compelled Jefferson and his compatriots so many years ago. Obama seemed intent upon weakening our position as a sovereign state among the nations. Obama conceded that Wall Street was the source, not only of our nation’s economic troubles, but also of the global economic turmoil, as if he is in agreement with the Marxist who sees capitalism as the root of all evil. His words of concession diminish our superior status and seek to relegate us to just another nation on the global stage.

As Obama seeks out advice from, and agreements with Russia, China and other socialist nations, he will certainly accomplish his goal of change. The increasing talk of a global regulatory body that will oversee all major banks and financial institutions – especially those on Wall Street – and a new global currency to replace the dollar is indeed a change. But this change holds more significance and more danger than merely a change in definitions.

A Farewell to the Cowboy

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, April 10, 2009

It is interesting to read my fellow columnist’s opinion. He seems to be walking a fine line between imperialism and isolationism.

The push to globalize economics where U.S. interests are served has been part of American policy for decades. Suddenly, when failure on Wall Street launched global repercussions, some would have us deny all responsibility. Previous administrations have promised a culture of accountability. Now a president who accounts for the reality of the global market is criticized for his candor.

The Bush Administration sought the cooperation of a coalition of nations to pursue his war of choice in Iraq (though it ended up with a fairly unilateral endeavor propped up by a handful of countries manipulated into limited participation). Now, when Obama is seeking to gather international support for policy in Afghanistan, North Korea and elsewhere, he is being criticized for weakening our standing in the world.

It was all well and good when George W. Bush sought to throw more troops at the quagmire of Iraq. Now, when Obama tries to increase troop levels in Afghanistan he is drawing the ire of those who lent support the Iraq surge.

Some claim it is a reversal of strategy for the Obama team who campaigned on troop withdrawal. Actually, the effort in Afghanistan is in keeping with the president’s philosophy that that was the war we should have been fighting when we decided to pursue Iraq (where the threat was inconsequential at the time).

I, for one, oppose the surge of troops in Afghanistan, no matter what name it is given. I think we too often apply military action as a first resort. The Soviet defeat in the country as well as the resurgence of the Taliban make it clear that military might alone is not the solution.

I am no expert, but many who are say that the surge is the wrong recipe for success. Some say the region is ripe for diplomatic measures, with warring factions open to the idea of negotiations. Others believe the focus of the mission is somewhat blurry. Recent speeches by Obama and administration officials have mentioned al Qaeda more frequently than the Taliban. Critics think the influence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan is marginalized and that the threat should be addressed in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Like my brother, I feel that renaming the war on terror as “overseas contingency operation” (or whatever it is now called) is silly. Especially if it means that the policies will remain pretty much the same. The Bush administration introduced the term after 9/11 and has used it to imply that we were engaged in a conventional war. The problem with this is that it has led to an arrogance of policy. Strategies, methods and operations which are deemed necessary and appropriate when in the midst of a conventional war against a nation state are inappropriate, unethical and dangerous when employed within the context of this struggle against an extremist ideology. I support throwing out the phrases “Long War” and “Global War on Terror” only if it means we adopt a realistic approach to a real threat.

I disagree, however, with my brother’s isolationist view. The world was a far different place when Thomas Jefferson penned the words to which Gordon referred. Part of that change has resulted in the superpower dominance that he has celebrated. The United States has intervened in world affairs when it has suited its interests. When it has been expeditious America has sought international support and worked to form alliances. To insist that now that our interests are threatened along with our supremacy, we should place independence above accountability seems absurd.

The world is ensnared in global struggle. It is not the time for the “cowboy” foreign policy of the past, or for unilateral aggression. As a member of the global community the U.S. must recognize the common bonds that join it to its neighbors. Of course we must remember that we are a superpower. But we should bear in mind that with great power comes great responsibility. As Obama reaches out to our partners and allies, I trust he will do so responsibly.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Science Has Returned to the White House

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, March 27, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, President Barack Obama signed an executive order reversing a policy that denied access to valuable research. Scientists and medical researchers applauded the shift from the dark ages to a new age of enlightenment that embraces science instead of distorting and suppressing it.

No one could accuse Obama’s predecessor of promoting scientific research. In fact, the Bush Administration’s reputation for obstructing the scientific community is notorious. Thousands of scientists signed on to an indictment of the highest level of the administration for interference and abuses that had widespread effects on issues from health to climate change. Reports from the Environmental Protection Agency were purged of language that was inconsistent with the administration’s energy agenda or was inconvenient to parties with vested interests in high-emissions activities. Despite objections from the staff of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), data and research about the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education vs. comprehensive education programs were misrepresented. A fact sheet on the CDC’s own website, which included information on proper condom use, the efficacy of different types of condoms, and what effects condom education has on sexual activity, was replaced at the behest of administration officials by a document over-emphasizing the failure rates of condoms. Information was posted on the National Cancer Institute website, which suggested a connection between abortion and breast cancer that had long been refuted by scientific study. Myriad other offenses were cited by the Union of Concerned Scientists who issued a full report, which is available at

Bush gave stem cell researchers a slap in the face in 2001 when he restricted study to a handful of cell lines and banned public funding for further research. The 21 existing lines were limited in their diversity and hundreds of new lines showed promise for the treatment of diseases like Parkinson’s. The decision further hindered progress by blocking cooperation between privately- and federally-funded research.

The administration chose to limit medical advancement in order to solidify a select group among its political base that sees stem cell research as a moral issue. This sect of conservatism has been successful in presenting a false connection between stem cells and abortion. Fear tactics have been employed to build up slippery slope scenarios that are scientifically unfounded.

Myths abound about both the embryonic stem cell process and the effectiveness of alternative adult stem cells.

Pro-life propaganda equates stem cell research with abortion and the destruction of a fetus despite the fact that the embryos originate in fertility clinics and would be discarded if not used for research. Some argue that a program called Snowflake Children (which adopts embryos from fertility clinics to be implanted in infertile women) could make use of those that would otherwise be destroyed, but the numbers that will be used by this project are insignificant compared with the hundreds of thousands that will be discarded. Still others claim that advances in adult cell research have made it possible to create induced pluripotent stem cells that are comparable to their embryonic counterparts. The fact is that these processes are imperfect at best. Early methods required use of viruses to induce the reprogramming of adult cells, which increases the risk of cancer. A recent breakthrough has offered a reprogramming process that doesn’t use viruses, and that has caused many to declare embryonic stem cell research obsolete. The fact is most scientists agree that the resulting cells are at least in some ways inferior to embryonic cells and that their viability is in question. In any case, the reprogramming of cells requires vast resources above and beyond those required to employ embryonic cells which already have the flexibility and power to create any human cell.

The consensus in the scientific community is that both adult and embryonic cells need further study. Obama’s decision to reopen the science books allows that study to proceed.

Health foundations and researchers are excited by the promise of progress toward the treatment of conditions like diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s made possible by this change in policy. The freedom of federally funded and privately funded scientists to collaborate on research is a key difference as is the ability to work with ethnically and genetically diverse cell lines. New projects will be eligible for federal funding, which will increase their chances for success. Private research will also be brought under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health (NIH) providing greater funding. NIH involvement brings with it ethical oversight, which may help calm the fears of stem cell research opponents.

Moral controversy remains and will continue, fueled in part by disinformation and deceit. However, the moral obligation to provide the best medical treatment science will afford should not overlooked. Embryonic stem cell research is not the only answer, but Obama has reopened the door to finding new solutions.

“…Decisions based on facts, not Ideology…”

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, March 27, 2009

The quotation above comes directly from the speech given by our president the day he issued an executive order that would allow the use of our Federal funds to pursue research that would result in the exploitation of human embryos. It is my hope that this promise of Obama’s will be one that he does keep; in contrast to the many he has already broken in his first two months of leadership.

It is the endeavor of pure scientific research to always seek the facts; regardless of what direction those facts may lead. I agree with Obama that science should be free of bias, and political pressure should not inhibit true reporting of those facts or encourage the reporting of fallacious discoveries.

However, in the case of using the embryos of humans as if they were mere waste products, science must also be guided by a greater purpose that would retain the dignity of human life and preserve our collective morality as a society.

In the opening paragraphs of my fellow columnist’s laudatory treatise, he makes the inference that we have suddenly been thrust into a new age of enlightenment by the progressive leadership of Obama. His following paragraphs seem to imply that Bush had been the one who closed the door on all manner of scientific research. Well, let’s examine that charge for moment.

I think he was referring to the following piece of legislation – better known as the Dickey Amendment. Let me quote the most applicable portions, in which the signee prohibits using appropriated funds for:

The creation of a human embryo for research purposes; or research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death…

If that is the legislation that stifled scientific research and kept us hidden in the dark ages as my brother claims, then he should at least credit the rightful signee of that bill. It was not George Bush who signed that law and it was not initiated because of some “sect of conservatism”. President Bill Clinton signed it after Congress passed it in 1995. Again, these are facts, not ideology.

Furthermore, it was Bush who opened the door on funding of adult stem cell research, which ultimately resulted in the discovery, in the fall of 2007, of the successful use of adult skin cells to produce pluripotent stem cells. I am hoping that Obama will allow these facts to guide our continued research into this area.

Despite the misleading claims made by my brother in his column, there are many scientists who agree that embryonic cells are less effective as a means of disease control because the recipients would naturally have a rejection of this foreign genetic material. This natural rejection forces them to undergo lifelong anti-rejection medication.

Other facts to be considered are as follows: First of all, it should be understood that it is a fact that human embryos represent a new, unique individual. The point of conception results in the union of two separate strands of DNA into one new strand of a never-before and a never-again combination of genetic material. If a citizen decided that the fertilized egg of a Bald Eagle held some great promise for her sick mother and endeavored to climb up to and disturb the nest of a pair of Eagles, she would suffer prosecution for threatening a protected species. However, we seem to think that the fertilized ovum of a human is not worthy of the same protection. Ideology – instead of facts.

The common cry from those who advocate the destruction of these lives is “these embryos are going to be destroyed anyway”. The facts are that there are many potential parents waiting to become adoptive parents. Another sad fact is that as researchers compete for Federal dollars, demand will ultimately call for greater supply and, again despite my brother’s claim to the contrary, we will start sliding down a slippery slope of producing embryos solely for the purpose of research. Facts – instead of ideology.

The conclusion of this matter is this: Use of Federal Funds for embryonic stem cell research is 1. Illegal because Congress has stated that no funds should be used. (Dickey Amendment) 2. Immoral because human beings are killed in the process. One-celled human life is still human life. 3. Unnecessary because ethical “Do No Harm” alternatives are available such as human somatic cells which have shown more promise than embryonic stem cells.

For those who believe that I have played fast and loose with the facts, please take the time and email me and I will reply with the documented materials to back up each of the above claims. It is my hope that our president does indeed allow the facts to guide him and not the ideology of a sect of progressivism.