I'm not entirely sure what to make of the new political reality in the US, which is essentially that the Congress and Senate will be at absolute odds with the White House on most issues until, at least, Bush's departure from office.
I went looking for Nancy Pelosi's record this morning, thinking that might give me some insight. As I expected, she's a fairly liberal Democrat: the Christian coalition hates her, unions love her. She's anti-war, pro-choice and probably thinks you can solve most of the world's problems with a group hug and a rousing chorus of kumbayah.
There's already talk the Democrats will begin denying White House funding requests for the war in Iraq. Of course, we already know they're pressuring Bush for a concrete timetable for pulling out the troops.
I think that's a ridiculous idea. It may be time to give the Iraqis some ultimatums and timetables for progress and if they don't meet them, then you look at pulling out. After all, if they can't get their own shit together, there's no reason the US should play nursemaid for an untold number of years. But, as long as the Iraqis are trying to stabilize their political, social and economic situation, then coalition forces should probably stay and help them.
I am happy that the Democrats will reverse some really moronic Bush decisions, such as his veto on stem cell research. Issues such as that, abortion rights, etc., are where I have a real problem with the current Republicans. As fuzzy as the Democrats are on defence and foreign affairs, the Republicans have been acting like evangelical pinheads on social issues.
I would challenge anyone who opposes stem cell and other genetic research to sit down with one of two of my friends.
One was stricken with Parkinson's disease in his early 30s. While Parkinsons, in itself, is not fatal, he has to take ever strengthening and increasing numbers of pills to control his shaking (trust me, Michael J. Fox was not faking his tremors as that asshole Rush Limbaugh claims). Now in his mid-40s, he has been unable to participate in many of the activities that he once enjoyed and has to take it pretty easy a lot of the time.
And, he's much luckier than my other friend who's not even 40 but who has late stage cancer which has now spread throughout much of his body. While my friend with Parkinson's can still look forward to watching his children grow up, my friend with cancer, barring a miracle, will not get to see his two young children reach adulthood.
Scientists, having unravelled much of the mysteries of human genetic structuring and having hugely advanced the knowledge and research into the cause of diseases and ways of combatting them, stand on the threshhold of bringing about great changes for people struck with any number of horrific diseases including Parkinsons and various cancers. Yet, in the US, where the financial ability, scientific equipment and societal will are all available to proceed with this incredibly valuable research, a small segment of ultra-right religious cro-magnon morons are holding it up because they've got the Republicans by the short and curlies.
Thankfully, the Democrats don't owe these religious loonies anything and they can now proceed to tell Bush to shove his veto (the only veto he's ever exercised to my knowledge) and get the scientists back to work.
As an example of the kind of idiotic thinking that went into banning stem cell research, I refer to a "discussion" I had on a messageboard with someone who said that using embryos or other bits of human material for research was "murdering" a "human being". Absolute bullshit. That's like saying a sparkplug is a car. Humans are - barring disabilities that stem cell research might help overcome - walking, talking, reasoning structures comprised of billions of cells and numerous organs all of which function together. A bit of tissue in a petri dish is not a human being.
I think we need to use science to our best advantage. That includes stem cell research, research with embryos and, if possible, even the cloning of body parts. Thousands of people die each year because of a lack of organ donors; we may be in a position where we can simply create and use those organs without the need for donors.
I have zero ethical or moral problems with that. And, my guess is that no one who's ever watched a child suffer with a debilitating and/or fatal disease, who's talked to a quadriplegic or who has spent time around people like the two friends I discussed above, does either. If they do, then they're no more human than those cells in a petri dish.
As for the religious argument: if God didn't want us to use our brains to advance the state of human existence, then God should have given us smaller brains and we could all go back to swinging from trees with our simian cousins (looking at Rush Limbaugh, one imagines he's about two steps from that anyway).
I can only assume, that having given us such a capacity, God intended us to use it to our fullest advantage. Here's hoping the Democrats do.