Thursday, October 09, 2008

Billionaire Price-Fixing Mall King Throws Down on Penniless Embryos

The Detroit News’s Laura Berman is all atwitter about the wealthiest backer of Proposal 2, Michigan billionaire, ex-con, and co-inventor of the shopping mall, Al Taubman. ("Visionary sets sights on stem cell research").

Taubman is dropping $22 million on his very own Taubman Institute for Medical Research to show his support for stem cell research. He’s invited Bill Clinton to come to a fundraiser at his very own Taubman Air Terminal at Oakland International Airport. (Maybe some day your fertilized eggs will be destroyed for science in his very own Taubman Giant Embryo-Powered Cure-a-Tron).

Berman positively gushes over Taubman:

“He is, always has been, a man with an eye for the way the world is going -- and that eye has made him a billionaire. ‘When I look at a chair,’ he says, nodding at the Josef Hoffman chair in his study, another museum-quality piece, ‘I see not only how to make it different, but better.’"

That’s what makes him an expert at both science and ethics. (Oh, and Taubman says this of his nine months in the big house for price-fixing at Sotheby’s: "a complete waste." At least corrections officials could have given him a plate of embryos so he could cure Crone’s Disease.)

Berman dishes up the usual cogent breakdown of the issues surrounding Proposal 2. On the one hand, scientists and other proven smart people like Taubman see this as a no-brainer. Not only will embryonic stem cell research cure all disease, period, it will be the re-making of Michigan’s struggling economy by creating jobs.

But then how does she explain the other hand? Not by mentioning anywhere that embryonic stem-cell research requires the destruction of living human embryos. She wouldn’t want to draw attention to the grave ethical issue involved in destroying one human being to satisfy some other human being’s “right” to a cure.

The closest she comes is to say the MiCause, the main opposition organization, “is being funded by the Michigan Catholic Conference and Michigan Right-to-Life, both groups who contend that life begins at conception and oppose allowing scientists to develop new stem cell lines.” Oh, my. In this day and age people are still carping on how “life begins at conception”? Where’d they ever come up with that silly notion?

I’m sure most of you parents all remember something like this scene in your own lives:

HUSBAND: Hi, honey, I’m home. How was your day?

WIFE: I went to see Dr. Jones today. He says I’m pregnant. Eight weeks along.

HUSBAND: Really? I have no idea what that means.

WIFE: He says there’s still no scientific consensus on what it means.


WIFE: He says there’s something in there, but science still can’t say what. He says some of the more primitive religions consider it a baby, but, you know….we've never put any stock in that.

HUSBAND: Dang. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. So what’s for dinner?

And as for what Berman calls the opposition to “allowing scientists to develop new stem cell lines,” I’m at least loosely affiliated with both Michigan Catholic Conference and Michigan Right-to-Life, (that is, I’m a Catholic and an RTL supporter), to assure one and all that that’s flatly untrue. We don’t object to new stem cell lines in the least, provided they aren’t created by destroying human embryos. You know, for people who pride themselves on nuance, this should be an easy distinction to make.

Those of us morally opposed to lethal embryonic research are probably more conscious than others about the developments in adult stem cell therapies, see for example

Adult Stem Cells: 72, Embryonic Stem Cells: 0”;
Diabetics cured in stem-cell treatment advance”;
Real-World Successes of Adult Stem Cell Treatment”,

all of which we support without reservation. But the media avoids reporting on these because they contradict their themes of the urgency of harvesting embryos, and the anti-scientific mentality of people who oppose cloning.

Berman also accuses our side of lying about where Prop 2 might lead:

“[P]ublicly, they're attacking the ballot issue by suggesting it will raise taxes (the proposal has no such provision) and open the door to cloning. (Cloning is banned by law in Michigan.)”

True, the proposal doesn’t raise taxes, and cloning is banned--for now. If the ballot proposal did contain a tax hike—here in Jenny Granholm’s and Andy Dillon’s "blown-away" Michigan--it would go down in flames like the Hindenburg--only with hotter flames. Better leave that tax increase for later! And as for there being a ban on cloning in Michigan, state legislators have already been at work for several years to pass bills legalizing cloning, so it’s not as if that ban can't disappear some day.

And because constitutional amendments naturally lead to an altered legal landscape, what’s wrong with pointing out where Prop 2 will lead, especially if it’s based on the experience of other states? For instance, the California amendment prohibits buying and selling human eggs, and now their scientists are demanding a lifting of the prohibition, crying that the shortage of eggs is keeping them from the promised breakthroughs:

"You need to have enough eggs to make this thing work, and when you have enough eggs it does work," said Dr. Sam Wood, chief executive of La Jolla-based Stemagen Corp.

"If these guidelines weren't in place, we'd already have many (stem cell) lines and be much closer to a treatment for devastating illnesses for which these are so well suited," Wood said. (“Scientists: Egg shortage hurts stem cell research”).

So both the taxing situation and the cloning situation could easily change, and Prop 2 makes that more likely, not less.

Not to mention that if Proposal 2 passes, it will be almost impossible to pass legislation thereafter to limit cloning or any other abuse; that’s because Prop 2 contains a provision making it unlawful to pass any laws that in any way hinder any possible benefit that might result from embryonic stem cell research. Maybe the amendment does have that defect, says the pro-Prop 2 Detroit News editorial board helpfully. But if the necessity for regulations ever did arise, “a process is in place to revise the state Constitution.” Wow, as easy as that?

Berman finds absolutely compelling Visionary Taubman's opinion on the necessity of lethal embryonic research:

“He's convinced that he's involved in a historic moment, equivalent to the discovery of antibiotics, one that will cure disease and forever change the way medicine is practiced.

"’Before antibiotics, the doctors could treat you with aspirin, and that was it. Antibiotics changed the world. Now, embryonic stem cell research is going to do the same thing.’ says Taubman.”

Right. Embryonic stem cells. Antibiotics. Same thing. Now that’s nuance.

Here’s a quick quiz. Everyone who’s ever been cured or known someone cured with antibiotics raise your hand. Now, everyone who’s ever been cured or known someone cured, or even seen an actual report or heard of anyone, anywhere, who’s ever been cured of anything as a result of embryonic stem cell therapy, raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone?

(Extra credit: on average, how many humans die in the manufacturing of antibiotics?)

As even the New York Times (no champion of embryos to say the least) said only last year, “For all the hopes invested in it over the last decade, embryonic stem cell research has moved slowly, with no cures or major therapeutic discoveries in sight.”

Invested over the last decade. Remember, a decade is so long Obama, Biden, & Pelosi swear that's too long to make drilling our own oil worthwhile. And not only have there been no cures, but none are in sight. That’s even farther off than the sinking of Manhattan from global warming. At least Al Gore can see that.

“But that’s an unfair criticism,” some will object, “because in time we will find those cures. It’s only a matter of more time and money and acquiring and grinding up enough embryos until at last we cure MS, diabetes, or whatever is wrong with our [insert family member’s name here.] And provided we can keep you religious nuts from stopping us! In fact, you call yourself a Christian? Yet how dare you condemn poor [insert family member’s name here] to a lifetime of [insert family member’s worst symptoms here]?!”

A year ago, the reports of scientists discovering a way to turn human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells was being praised as an advance that would moot the ethical controversy over destroying embryos.

Those of us who’ve been following the abortion issue were thrilled at this advance, but knew better than to think it would make the demand for lethal embryonic research drop off. Not a chance. And here’s why. The mad rush for embryonic stem cell research has nothing to do with finding a cure for Michael J. Fox. It's got nothing to do with getting your grandma back from the nursing home to her quaint Craftsman bungalow. The whole purpose is to clear the way for human cloning, and, like abortion, they’re determined to protect cloning from all legal restrictions once it’s here.

Does Taubman know any of this, or care? I doubt it. Does it matter? After all, he's a guy who can look at a chair and make it better. Why couldn't he make Michigan better? Here’s Berman on Taubman's heroic gamble:

“Restless, ambitious, intellectually curious still, Taubman is betting that he can help Michigan understand that this research will create jobs and cure disease. ‘It will cure diabetes, heart disease, ALS,’ he says. ‘I believe in it.’ . . . .

‘I'm betting on it,’ he says, and laughs. ‘It's a big bet.’"

Well, ha, ha, ha. Yes, it’s a big bet. Except the biggest bets are the ones where the odds are longer that you’ll bet wrong. And unlike his business gambles, if Taubman loses he doesn’t just file personal bankruptcy and start over. If he’s wrong, Michigan’s humanity loses. He’s betting for all of us, and the ante is a doorway to a Michigan industry where “scientists” dispatch human lives from 9 to 5.

The last time a civilized nation threw the dice on that, snake eyes came up. It made Dr. Mengele laugh, too.


Anonymous said...

How about a bumper sticker that says:


Wendy Woodley

Bob Wrightwood said...

Remember the Sotheby's / Christie's price fixing scandal a few years back?

John J. Greene, the U.S. Justice Department prosecutor who had been pursuing a variety of art frauds for 11 years, got a tip that Sotheby's and Christie's had agreed to price fixing.

Since that whole blowout, it has been a huge mystery just who that anonymous tipster really was.

The answer? Brooke Knapp. (Sotheby's Realtor in southern California.)

That's right, Brooke Knapp was having an affair with Christie's CEO. He broke it off, and the rest is the result of a woman scorned.

Hell hath no fury.