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      Obie Holmen
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      Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine has written a heartfelt and insightful appreciation of the life and music of Christine McVie.Following, with added images and links, are excerpts from Sheffield’s tribute that particularly caught my attention.Christine McVie always came on like the grown-up in the room, which admittedly might not be hard to do when the […]
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    • “Your Perception Is a Choice” December 5, 2022
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    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
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    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
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Christians and the Potential for Violence: Norwegian Events Spark Important Conversation

When I was in high school–I think this was in my senior year, so it would have happened in 1967 or 1968–I saw a cross on fire.  My friends John, Joe, and I happened to be out one evening, driving around town, and there it was: a burning cross, at a drive-in theater on the outskirts of our community. Continue reading

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The Meaning of Wealth

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

I based the title of my last post, The Miserly Society upon a term used by the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). In this post I want to further explain what the revolutionary thinker meant by “miserly”; how it ran contrary to what wealth meant to him as well as his contemporary, the Catholic economist Monsignor John A. Ryan (1869-1945); and how their often similar views matter now more than ever — especially in responding to the economic agenda of the modern American Religious Right.

Keynes’ and Ryan help us to answer such questions as “what is the meaning of wealth?” And “what is its purpose and how much is necessary?” These are fundamental questions that need to be answered afresh in every age. And for liberals in America, we also need to answer “what is the relationship between wealth creation and liberty? Our answers to these questions have everything to do with the political viability of the Left – religious or otherwise.

Both economists – one a British atheist and the other, an Irish-American Catholic priest – understood the elements of economic justice. And although Keynes arrived at his views from different experiences and beliefs, he defined it in a way Ryan would approve: the balancing of economic efficiency, individual rights, and yes, social justice. As I pointed out in my last post, the gathering of wealth has a purpose beyond simply becoming rich; it was a means to live an agreeable, reasonable life, free of the privations of poverty.

Author Robert Skidelksy summarized Keynes’ take on wealth in Keynes: The Return of the Master :

By ‘love of money’ Keynes means two things, between which he did not always distinguish. The first was the objectless pursuit of wealth. The second was a specific subset of the first, which was the disposition to ‘board’ or not spend money-the psychology of the miser. The first was the engine which drove our capitalism; the second was the brake on its progress, which related particularly to uncertainty.

As well as:

Briefly stated, his conclusion was that the pursuit of money – what he called ‘love of money’- was justified only to the extent that it led to a ‘good life.’ And a good life was not what made people better off: it was what made them good. To make the world ethically better was the only justifiable purpose of economic striving.

Keynes’s contemporary, the distributive justice advocate Monsignor Ryan arrived at a similar conclusion. Ryan biographer Harlan Beckley wrote in Passion for Justice: Retrieving the Legacies of Walter Rauschenbusch, John A. Ryan, and Reinhold Niebuhr:

All persons have a right to whatever they need to achieve the proximate end of their rational nature. Satisfying this aspect of the canon of needs demands near equality in the distribution of a minimal level of “external goods, because all people have equal needs for a decent livelihood, rational liberties, education, and so forth.”

Keynes and Ryan both rose to prominence in the first half of the twentieth century when economics was viewed as a moral science, and both men did so through an Aristotelian lens. We may define this approach as seeking to engage in endeavors in a just, virtuous manner, eschewing extreme behavior for moderation. It also incorporates the idea that there is an undeniable connection between contribution and receipt and the individual and society. Ryan came to such thinking through his Thomistic training; Keynes via his studies under the philosopher G.E. Moore.

Their view about the role of taxes and the economy run contrary to what we usually hear from the contemporary Religious Right: That progressive taxation is either confiscatory (Michael Novak) or must remain low for moral reasons (Robert P. George). It perfectly echoes the conservative claim that higher tax rates on the wealthy constitutes “a penalty for success.”

This idea has gained more traction than many of us would like to believe. But just this week alone I had two friends claim that taxes are a penalty for success when I suggested that the well-to-do could handle a modest increase on their federal tax rate – especially those corporate CEOs who either hoard their companies’ profits, and pay themselves exorbitant salaries, bonuses and dividends instead of investing in new equipment or better yet, workers’ salaries.

But such notions as “confiscation” and “penalizing success.” have little to do with the realities we face. “The goal of progressive taxes,” as Beckley observed about Ryan, “for example, was to equalize sacrifices, not to achieve equality. Taxes should never be so progressive as to discourage socially useful activity or deny rewards for productive efficiency.” To put into a contemporary context, imposing a 40% tax rate upon an unmarried CEO earning seven figures a years is a bit more just than a rate of 35% — especially when a married laborer earning $35,000 a year pays a federal tax rate of 25%.

As I discussed in my last post, taxation is an important tool for creating wealth for an entire society. Those who espouse the evisceration of such useful taxation are frankly arguing on behalf of an oligarchic few. The complaint about the cost of nannies and elite private schools for their children not withstanding, taxation can alleviate burdensome national debt, finance job-creating infrastructure construction, control inflation and prevent the concentration of economic power in the hands of the few. Indeed, the dogmatic opposition to progressive taxation is the economic mindset that creates the fertile ground for sub-prime mortgages and the buccaneer financial instruments upon which they are predicated.

And yet, Novak has claimed that progressive taxation is a denial of liberty, an unwarranted intrusion on the successful to their right to wealth. When Novak and his ilk raise the issue of liberty in this way, they do not mention how their unwillingness to part company with an extra 4% of their bountiful income so that the greater part of society can achieve a measure of financial independence may well violate a key component of liberty itself, the harm principle. According to philosopher John Stuart Mill, this is the concept that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

What the laissez-faire apostles of the Religious Right are advocating is not liberty, but a form of harm; i.e., reliance upon those who provide credit. When wages are kept low, credit becomes the only viable option to provide for food, clothing and shelter. Such behavior does not define ethical behavior or religiosity let alone liberty, but instead, the attributes of the miser.

Novak and George are attempting to equate taxation with sin in the eyes of religious Americans. This effort to cloak laissez-faire economics with holiness, and to elevate miserliness as inherently moral, is at odds with historic Christian principles.

Keynes and Ryan lived in a time when the well-being of the individual being inextricably linked to the betterment of the whole society was an ascendent idea. In that period, free-thinking people understood that miserliness and an open-ended definition of economic liberty both caused and prolonged the Great Depression. Certainly Keynes and Ryan understood that true economic freedom was tied to reasonableness, self-discipline and yes, social justice. And while they were imperfect in their applications of social justice, they were central players in pointing us in a better direction; a trend that lasted until the coming of a late twentieth century conservatism.

Now, a different set of thinkers seems to have America’s ear. That set includes neo-conservatives such as Robert P. George and Michael Novak who, their Catholicism notwithstanding, make the perverse case for the wealthy miser and call it liberty.

Opposition to the judicious use of taxation is not the Religious Right’s only economic poison pill. In the next post we shall examine how Robert P. George would have real prosperity crucified upon a cross of gold.

Related Posts:

The Miserly Society

Catholic Tea Party Economics

Catholic Right: Are the Neo-Cons Out and the Tea-Partiers In?

Catholic Neocons Distort Church Teachings on Economics

The Miserly Society

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Right here in North Carolina, the State where I stand, poverty has left its mark. Some people say that if these Americans are poor, it is their own fault. I have even heard others say that God ordains poverty for the poor. Well, I don’t believe them, and I don’t believe God believes them either.
-Lyndon B. Johnson, May 7, 1964

There have been times when for many, maybe most of us, personal wealth was not merely a personal end but a means to build a better country. This is not one of those times. Magnificent things such as eradicating poverty, expanding infrastructure or even exploring outer space are nowhere on the national agenda. We have become so averse to shared sacrifice, we can’t even work for full employment. Instead, we have devolved to a point where the accumulation of personal wealth has become an end in and of itself. In fact, too often it is the only sought-after end. We are becoming a nation of misers. And this ignoble retrenchment is being aided and abetted by the Religious Right.

I remember President Lyndon Johnson wanting to use government for the greater good. “Do something we can be proud of,” he said, “help the weak and the meek and lift them up and help them dream; give them an education where they can make their own way instead of having to live off the bounty of our generosity.” Johnson wanted government to transform victims of poverty into self-sufficient citizens.

Back then we were a more prosperous nation where wealth was more equitably – and more meritoriously – distributed. The Great Society continued the legacy of the New Deal through which we sought to achieve full employment by implementing economic policies that encouraged a continuous aggregate demand for its products. This was part of a greater era when both Democratic and Republican administrations knew that the judicious use of debt and taxation were powerful tools in keeping both unemployment and deflation at bay.

Johnson’s exhortation that we “to do something we can be proud of,” was rooted in a transcendent notion that God does not ordain poverty. And to that end, it is our collective responsibility to use our abundant wealth and resources to prevent and to minimize economic calamity. Not coincidentally, it was also the era when mainstream interpretations of Christianity emphasized public salvation rather than individual salvation. It was a time when government was more often than not seen to be a force for good. More importantly, wealth was not generally thought of as an end in and of itself but instead a means to reasonable life; a vehicle to create a better world for both society and the individual. And it was a time we measured achievement more goals we attained as a people than by the amount of personal wealth we were able to thrust in our individual pockets.

While the Great Society clearly had its genesis in FDR’s New Deal (which in and of itself was deeply rooted in Catholic and Protestant notions of distributive justice and Social Gospel), it also reflected Truman’s thwarted effort to achieve single-payer universal health care; Eisenhower’s commitment to infrastructure as well as JFK’s challenge to land on the Moon by the end of the 1960s.

Sadly, LBJ’s Great Society program was largely pushed aside by the Viet Nam War. But his generous vision for a caring society is still with us. Medicare has kept untold numbers of senior citizens from needless poverty. Project Head Start has given generations of children a much needed leg up at the outset of their elementary school education. And perhaps its most impressive accomplishment was that from the time LBJ took office until circa 1970 (when the Nixon administration began curtailing some of the Great Society programs) the share of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2% to 12.6%.

But with the ascension of a more hardcore conservatism since the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, the sense of nation has changed from being a story of us to a story of being about the individual gain.

Beyond that, this was also the beginning pf ascendancy of a more fundamentalist version of Christianity, one that focused on the salvation of the individual rather salvation through the reform of public institutions. It is no small coincidence that many of the movers and shakers of the contemporary Right would simultaneously hold that both wealth creation and eternal salvation were individualistic endeavors.

This is evidenced in the actions of New Jersey’s current governor, Chris Christie, who, despite the numerous jobs it would create, killed the building of a necessary rail tunnel between his state and New York City. He claimed that, “New Jersey could not afford its rising share of the projected costs.” As a socially conservative Catholic who embraces classical economics, replete with its anti-tax dogmas, Christie would rather bequeath a legacy of obsolete infrastructure simply because he chooses not to ask some of constituents to sacrifice a tiny fraction of their wealth.

Go to the Moon? Governor Christie won’t even help commuters cross the Hudson River!

Lest anyone think I am straying off topic for this site, let’s now note that Religious Right activists, led by Catholic neocon-turned Tea Party cheerleader Robert P. George are front and center in this race to the bottom.

The Religious Right Providing Cover

Writing recently on the web site of his American Principles Project, George called for the marriage of economic and religious conservatives, declaring:

Sound conservatism, as a matter of principle and not mere pragmatism, will honor limited government, restrain spending, and provide honest money and low taxes-while at the same time upholding the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions; the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; and protect the innocence of children.

This view is common on the Religious Right, particularly the Catholic Right. Back in 2003 neocon Michael Novak equated progressive taxation with “confiscation.”

Robert P. George may believe that he is espousing, “sound conservatism” but in reality it is nothing more than miserliness encapsulated in very unsound economics.

Debt and Taxes

But what of debt and taxes? The neocons and most other conservatives demagogue these things all the time. But liberals have been silent to the point of philosophical negligence; and in failing to answer, we leave the average citizen badly informed, and essentially thrown to these ideological wolves.

As we all know there is good debt and bad debt. And debt that is used to create full employment can hardly be deemed as wasteful.

We have had such debt before. “Some day” the economist William T. Foster noted at the outset of the Great Depression, “we shall realize that if money is available for a blood-and-bullets war, just as much money is available for a food-and-famine war”
Consider the observations of post-Keynesian economist (and author of the highly recommend The Keynes Solution: The Path to Global Economic Prosperity) Paul Davidson:

When the United States entered the war in 1941, the fear of deficits and the size of the national debt were forgotten. The important thing was to defeat the enemy. In the war years from 1941 to 1945, the GDP doubled while the national debt increased by more than 500 percent as Roosevelt financed much of the war expenditures by government borrowing. By the end of the war in 1945, the national debt had increased to $258 billion and was equal to approximately 120 percent of GDP.

As well as:

Rather than bankrupting the nation, this large growth in the national debt promoted a prosperous economy. By 1946, the average American household was living much better economically than in the prewar days. Moreover, the children of that Depression-World War II generation were not burdened by having to pay off what then was considered a huge national debt. Instead, for the next quarter century, the economy continued on a path of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity with the Eisenhower administration launching the biggest public works project-the interstate highway system-and the Kennedy-Johnson administration spending large sums on sending a man to the moon and the escalating Vietnam War. at the same time, the inequality in the distribution of income was significantly narrowed. It was the golden age of economic development for the United States as the rich grew richer while the poor gained even more in a rapidly rising level of income that created a large American middle class.

As a child of the Depression and a young teenager during the World War II, I have never felt burdened by the huge government deficits that accrued due to government spending during the Great Depression and the war that followed. The legacy that the Great Generation who were adults during the depression and the war left to their children was an economy of abundance and prosperity. I inherited an economy that made finding a good job easy for me and all of my cohorts and provided excellent opportunities to improve our living standards. If this is burdening children and grandchildren, I hope the current generation can create such a “burden” for their progeny.

Sometimes you can spend your way out of bad times. It’s been successfully done before.

But with that said, debt cannot go unchecked. When and if full employment is reached, public borrowing can crowd out private borrowing. But this is not a real concern today when unemployment and deflation are lurking. That is where taxation becomes an important tool.

It is disheartening when demagogues such as Robert P. George mindlessly denigrate the judicious use of taxation. His call for 24/7 low tax rates is nothing more than an esoteric equating of its use with sin.

Taxation is an extremely useful tool for regulating economies. We are experiencing a crisis of abundance not poverty. There is great wealth out there but it is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Businesses are hoarding profits to pay bloated dividends and executive salaries or simply sitting on it instead of investing of in their businesses or paying their workers a better wage. This is the scenario of savings exceeding investing that the economist John Maynard Keynes warned us about. When such hoarding takes place, hoarding that is detrimental to the overall economy, The threat of taxation is a handy device to get money circulating again. A truly progressive idea would present such hoarders a choice: either invest a portion of those profits in non-executive salaries and purchasing equipment or pay a premium tax.

And of course taxation can be used to pay down debt. Yes, we have to borrow in economic times like these. But when full employment returns, that debt should be paid back via taxation. Besides paying off debt, taxation in times of full employment provides the added benefit of reducing the specter of inflation by trimming purchasing power.

Writing in the early 1960s when the maximum federal tax rate exceeded 90%, the conservative writer Willmoore Kendall declared that if the top bracket were to be lowered to 40%, it would allow anyone to become “smacking rich.” Now, when the already wealthy hear that their federal tax rate may be adjusted a mere four percentage points up to 40%, they overreact by complaining about the costs of nannies and gardeners. Perhaps even more troubling is that Religious Right movers and shakers such as Robert P. George and Michael Novak offer such advocates of avarice religious cover.

Welcome to the Miserly Society.

Ross Douthat on the Ideal of Marriage: Male-Female Complementarity and “The Order of Creation”

Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times admits that most of the arguments on which American neocon-style opposition to same-sex marriage is based are flat wrong: our definition of “traditional” marriage is hardly universal, as the religious and political right wishes to claim; polygamy, not monogamy, is the default setting for marriage in many cultures; and far from being raised by one man and one woman, many children around the world have historically been reared by a village.

Even so, Douthat wants to continue the drumbeat against same-sex marriage.  And it’s interesting to see where he goes as he tries to retrieve a foundation for his opposition.  He goes to the same place that other Catholic neocon thinkers like Robert P. George go, the place to which evangelicals and other groups with little else in common with Catholic natural-law thinking are now also going as they seek to craft a compelling argument, any compelling argument, against gay marriage. Continue reading

Mel Gibson’s Troubles = A Weakened Religious Right? Oh, That’s Rich!

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

In his most recent New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich declared über-traditionalist Catholic movie star Mel Gibson’s fall from grace to be “good news” — suggesting that as goes one downwardly spiraling Hollywood star, so goes the Religious Right.Too bad the facts don’t support the pundit’s pronouncement.

Rich traces Mel Gibson’s journey from Toast of the Religious Right to toast: beginning with the 2004 release of his anti-Semitic overtoned film The Passion of the Christ, through his anti-Jewish, expletive punctuated tirade during his 2006 DUI arrest; the divorce from his wife; to the recent ugly break-up with his most recent girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.

Rich then goes on to describe Gibson as a metaphor for the Religious Right in decline:

The cultural wave that crested with “The Passion” was far bigger than Gibson. He was simply a symptom and beneficiary of a moment when the old religious right and its political and media shills were riding high. In 2010, the American ayatollahs’ ranks have been depleted by death (Falwell), retirement (James Dobson) and rent boys (too many to name). What remains of that old guard is stigmatized by its identification with poisonous crusades, from the potentially lethal antihomosexuality laws in Uganda to the rehabilitation campaign for the “born-again” serial killer David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) in America.

As well as:

Conservative America’s new signature movement, the Tea Party, has its own extremes, but it shuns culture-war battles. It even remained mum when a federal judge in Massachusetts struck down the anti-same-sex marriage Defense of Marriage Act this month. As the conservative commentator Kyle Smith recently wrote in The New York Post, the “demise of Reagan-era groups like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority is just as important” as the rise of the Tea Party. “The morality armies have failed to inspire their children to join the crusade,” he concluded, and not unhappily. The right, too, is subject to generational turnover.

“Shuns the culture war battles”? Perhaps Frank Rich should go back to film reviews.

As has been reported by Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action, the Tea Party movement is very much into continuing the culture wars. In fact, the two conservative movements have found candidates who appeal to both, such as Republican US Senate candidate, Sharon Angle of Nevada and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Rich could also turn on Fox News and discover many leaders of that Old Time Religious Right being hosted by their newest media advocate, Glenn Beck. (Or for that matter, by the once and future Religious Right presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.)

Beck – who recently joined Gibson in echoing the allegation of Jewish deicide – made the theme of his July 1, 2010 Fox News cable television show “The State of Religion in America.” Among his guests were such Religious Right stalwarts as Ralph Reed, Catholic neocon strategist Robert P. George, Christian Zionist powerhouse John Hagee and Wallbuilders president and Christian historical revisionist, David Barton. Beck’s guest spoke not as defeated warriors but as leaders preparing for the next phase of the culture wars.

Lest anyone think that this was an exception to an otherwise stellar record of sound judgment, unfortunately it is not. Here are a few examples: While he bemoaned the racism of others,, he was a regular call-in guest of Don Imus. Throughout the 2000 Presidential Election, he and fellow Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd engaged in a de facto ‘war on Gore’ that may have done more to put George W. Bush in the White House than either Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. The Daily Howler‘s Bob Somerby nailed Rich’s fatuousness in a 2006 reply to a reader’s e-mail:

Here’s my general view: Rich is a completely reliable “blue-state” social liberal. That is, he will always repeat the reliable case about how dumb any “red-state” manifestation is. For that reason, he’s generally easy for most liberals to like. But the underlying theme with Rich must always be: “I, Frank Rich, am brighter than all.” (“Along with my upper-class Manhattan cohort.”) So he had to be smarter and better than Clinton and Gore-although, quite plainly, he isn’t-and he reacted with horror any time they did anything that might suggest respect for the “red-state” electorate. When Gore occasionally mentioned his religious faith, for example, this struck Rich as fake and reprehensible, and he offered thunderous complaints about what a phony Gore was-just like Bush. [This also explains the absurd remarks in Rich’s recent column about the fact that Gore once owned a rifle. He’s kissing up to the NRA!]

For the record, Rich did more than fall for the scripts; in fact, he invented the script on Love Story. And after Gore gave his 9/02 speech on Iraq, Rich trashed him in a deeply dishonest way (see tomorrow). The record here is just horrible.

You’re right, in that Rich would score well on an IQ test. But I think there’s something unbelievably dumb in the Millionaire Pundit Values I have discussed-and Rich is clearly the reigning poobah of the Manhattan branch of this worthless brigade. His “reasoning” in Sunday’s piece is so dumb that it borders on mental dysfunction. (Gore was right about global warming. But he once owned a rifle!) This would be easy for liberals to see-if we weren’t inclined in his favor because he takes our side (often embellishing facts) about those worthless red-staters.

When it comes to Frank Rich, liberals and progressives need to take a caveat emptor approach. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of the Religious Right are going nowhere but to prepare for the next round of battles in their theocratic war on the rest of us.

The Rise of Religious Fascism and the Cool Pragmatism of Generation Jones: Three Perspectives on the Current Political Scene

Three recent articles catch my eye as as valuable contributions to dialogue about matters religious and political. I’m mentioning them in a single posting because, in key respects, their themes overlap.  The articles complement each other.    Since the first article in the list is Chris Hedges’ recent impassioned argument that we need to pay close attention to the inroads of the Christian right in American politics, this article is a follow-up to Jayden Cameron’s recent posting of the Hedges article at Open Tabernacle.

Hedges warns us that we dismiss and ridicule this movement at our peril.  Its goal is a theocratic takeover of American government.  And it could easily effect that takeover soon, Hedges thinks.  Because his thesis is deliberately provocative (and, for some readers, overstated), Hedges’ article will provoke much-needed discussion of the intersection of religion and politics in American culture, and of our obligation to keep monitoring the intrusion of theocratically-motivated religious groups into the public square. Continue reading

When the Truth Is Shown to Be Lies

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

It’s been a year since President Obama lifted the Bush administration’s restrictions on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Nevertheless, religious opponents of the research still claim that embryonic stem cells have yet to yield any treatments. They insist that adult stem cell research will render embryonic stem cell research unnecessary.

Well, guess what?

The Religious Right’s position on this recently took a big hit with this news:

Massachusetts based biotech company Advanced Cell Technology recently announced that the FDA has granted orphan drug status to MA09-hRPE – an embryonic stem cell derived treatment for a specific form of blindness (Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy). Orphan drug status is targeted to those therapies which are designed to treat fewer than 200,000 Americans and gives ACT access to tax credits, grants for clinical trials, and a seven year exclusivity to market MA09-hRPE. This is the first such FDA approval for an embryonic stem cell derived therapy and ACT plans on using the orphan drug status to accelerate clinical testing. While Advanced Cell Technology has something of a checkered past, this recent FDA status could signal not only an approaching success for the MA09-hRPE treatment, but also a promising advancement in the company’s goal to pioneer new forms of regenerative medicine.

But even as this good news demolishes the Religious Right’s argument, it is not the first research to lead to potential treatments. Early last year it was reported that “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the go-ahead for Geron Corporation to start a phase I safety trial of its therapy GRNOPC1 for spinal cord injuries.” And prior to that, in 2008 Dr. Robert Lanza was able to create human blood from embryonic stem cells.

The Religious Right’s claims that “adult stem cell research making embryonic stem cell research unnecessary” is both politically disingenuous and scientifically counter productive in so far as it has discouraged the search for treatments for disease and disability.

I’ve personally spoken with adult stem cell researchers who also firmly support embryonic stem cell research. They have pointed out to me that both avenues must be pursued.

In 2006 I wrote about a seminar hosted by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn which promoted the Church’s official position on stem cell research. I was there. Several of my co-religionists who oppose embryonic stem cell research repeatedly spoke about how embryonic stem cell will not yield cures, again singing the old refrain that there has yet to be a single cure from them. They also conveniently omitted how adult stem cell research has been going on since the 1930s – bone marrow transplanting is one form – while human embryonic stem cell research only began truly taking off in late 1998. Apparently this mendacity was even a bit much for guest speaker, neocon Eric Cohen. To his credit, Cohen chided his hosts that indeed the research will most likely result in treatments and perhaps cures. He pleaded with his fellow embryonic stem cell research opponents to voice their opposition on purely moral grounds.

And therein lies the rub. It is odd that religious opponents of embryonic stem cell research dissemble the facts on this important issue. Is it because they believe that their moral view on the subject is too weak or do they feel entitled to tell noble lies simply because, in their view, the ends justify the means.

I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that any further use of this cherished argument may now be fairly described as an outright lie.