Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometimes I think I'm the only one...

...who believes the only thing black and white about this issue is this cartoon...

Ethical dilemma + cognitive dissonance = political hay. We all know what elephants and donkeys (expecially the ones with American flags and crosses on their lapels) pile up after feasting on hay. They don't seem to care who has to lie in it...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's Time to Pick Up a Hot Potato

It's not news to some of you that Baptist Press has had schizophrenia for the last 25 years. Some days it is a denominational news organization. Some days it is a political propaganda machine for the Republican National Committee. Until tonight, I've been able to accept this reality as I shake my head and chuckle at BP articles just like I shake my head and chuckle at the antics of Fox "News".

Tonight, this article posted by Tom Strode forces me to publicly take up the hot potato of stem cell research and multiple sclerosis.

I wanted to email Strode directly but I was unable to find direct email addresses for BP writers. So I composed the following email to the general contact email address provided and, since I picked up the article from its RSS feed, cc'd to Don Kirkland, editor of South Carolina's Baptist newspaper, The Baptist Courier.

Dear Friends,

I am a Southern Baptist minister of music who also happens to be a man who lives with multiple sclerosis. As you might imagine, in addition to following developments in the treatment of MS, I also pay close attention to references to MS in the press. It is quite rare to see multiple sclerosis referenced in Baptist Press. It is particularly disheartening to see it referenced in a paragraph that is factually wrong.

Tom Strode states in his June 27 article on stem cell legislation: Unlike research using embryos, extracting stem cells from non-embryonic sources such as umbilical cord blood, placentas, fat and bone marrow has nearly universal support. Such research has produced treatments for at least 72 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia.

Because it does not carry the ethical or political baggage of embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research enjoys broad support.

I am unable to speak to any progress made in treatment of any of the “at least 72 ailments” other than multiple sclerosis Mr. Strode references. However, I can assure you that NO BROADLY AVAILABLE TREATMENT has been produced for multiple sclerosis using stem cells, embryonic or non-embryonic. There are a some clinical trials underway, a couple are in Phase II of a minimum of three phases of required testing, that give a little hope that adult stems cells may eventually help some with MS. Instances described as “treatment” in literature produced by Do No Harm refer to isolated experiments or trial results. Some of the trials underway are being conducted with as few as five participants. I am aware of one trial open to as many as 110 participants. There are more that 400,000 Americans living with multiple sclerosis. (I wonder how many of that 400,000 are Southern Baptist.)

Mr. Strode’s statement will lead readers to the conclusion that people faced with multiple sclerosis are benefiting from non-embryonic stem cell research. This is demonstrably false.

“There is a real and achievable prospect that stem cells will enable us to repair damaged tissue in MS,” said Dr. Robin Franklin, of the Cambridge (England) Centre for Brain Repair, which is taking part in the (National Multiple Sclerosis) Society's multicenter Repair and Protection Initiative. “That said, we are still in the very early days,” he said, cautioning people to keep their hopes in perspective. “The prospects are too precious to damage them by rushing ahead too fast.”

Baptist Press is misinforming Southern Baptists about the progress of non-embryonic stem cell sources in addressing MS. It is a disservice to Southern Baptists and a disservice to people living with MS.

Charles Roberts
Minister of Music
First Baptist Church, Hartsville, SC

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Life Imitating Art

Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom has always been one of my favorite works of art. One of these days I might go into more depth about why but today I wanted to share evidence that sometimes life DOES imitate art and that "hope springs eternal".

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat and the pitbull will lie down with the baby chicks, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11: 6-9 (with an addition)

Friday, June 22, 2007

The White House Weighs in On Its President of Vice

Yes, Dana, there is an interesting constitutional issue raised here. "Why doesn't the constitution matter to this administration?"

Another Goverment Function Outsourced to Haliburton?

From the ABC News Blotter: Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies.

Here's more on this story from today's Washington Post.

Let's be clear here. We have learned to expect obstinance from Cheney when elevating his office above scrutiny from the media, public interest groups, congress and the courts. But this reveals and even more bizarre level of megalomania from VPOTUS. Since 2003, he has been insisting that he is above oversight even from other elements of the executive branch. His argument? The Vice President's office is not strictly a part of the executive branch.

When questioned about this issue, representatives of the Vice President's office declined to discuss internal office issues. Come to think of it, so did representatives of Al Capone's office.

I wonder if Dick Cheney hopes to assert similar privilege before a judge described in scripture?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

John 4:13-14

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Not a Panacea but a Propitiator

For about six weeks now I've been taking acupuncture therapy to address some of my MS symptoms. My initial report? Check the title of the post. I'm discovering that it's not a cure if I ever thought it might be one...but it does seem to offer some short term benefits.

I was looking for an alternative to very high dose steroids to address the chronic and often painful and distracting symptoms of MS. The steroids have the benefit of covering problems with a great deal of pouring jet fuel into a fire...if you have enough energy to fly wide're distracted from noticing all of the aggravations of pain. The downside of high dose steriods are almost too myriad to go into. Suffice it to say that since stopping them in December, 2006, I've lost about 30 lbs. and my blood pressure has dropped to the point that I have discontinued medication for high blood pressure.

The reason I decided to try acupunture is simply this...if you've ever seen a movie where a character is dying and someone who loves them slaps them hard and the face and shakes them while yelling, "Stay with me! Stay with me!"...that's kind of like what acupuncture seems to do to the nerves. The filiments stimulate them...jar them a bit...slap them around some...yell at them to keep going just a while longer.

So Thursday I'll be back in Doc Moore's office describing where the worst of the burns, pinpricks, spasms, aches, buzzes, burns, vibrations, cramps, are so she can decide which nerves to slap around a bit.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Meet Blogitch Fargis

Blogitch Fargis is the new Second Life avatar I developed to participate in the MSFly event mentioned below. This photo has him in the robes of a Benedictine monk in a monastery developed by a gentleman from the Netherlands.

I'd heard of Second Life before but had not paid it much attention until it provided and opportunity for me to help with a fundraising effort for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The SL world is actually a facinating sociological experiment that should provide great fodder for future blogging.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Join the MS Fly

For more information on this unusual way to help
fight MS, click HERE.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Can you say "Messiah complex?"

My bleary eyed, coffee sipping, morning mouse clicking brought up this story and this story this morning. Not a very comforting way to begin my day.

I know my friends on "the right" will say, "But look at who posted these stories! Liberals!"

However, put those two together with this one from Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, posted on today's Wall Street Journal. (If you think that's left wing, well...)

Summary: A lonely president who feels misunderstood drafts a new executive order that can hand him the "keys to the kingdom." Hmmmmmm.