Friday, April 01, 2016

Polarized Nation – Part III

In the first article of this series I attempted to explain the rationale for raising this subject as an election issue, one that should be debated. Here is what I wrote: “One of the critical factors that a leader [a candidate for President] must display is the ability to absorb, analyze, and evaluate data. An important indicator of an individual’s qualification in this respect would be that candidate’s philosophical approach to various scientific issues. Do you believe that an ideological stance that contravenes or repudiates a widely accepted scientific belief should be given consideration when choosing a candidate for the presidency?”

The importance of this subject is clearly illustrated by the dire consequences of an incident that has actually occurred when this characteristic was not considered. The circumstances were described in an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal on March 8 th of this year. Ironically, it referred to the subject of GMO’s discussed in last month’s article. Written by a technology student at the University of Zimbawe, the first sentence really said it all: “My government would rather see people starve than let them eat genetically modified food (GMO’s).”

It seems that “Zimbabweans are suffering from the worst drought in two decades, and up to three million people need emergency relief.” Government leaders have taken the position that “We do not accept GMO [food aid] as we are protecting the environment from the grain point of view.” The author of the op-ed maintains “The rejection of GMO food aid is a humanitarian outrage––a man-made disaster built on top of a natural disaster. Yet, something even worse lies behind it: a denial of science. GMO’s pose no threat to human health, as virtually every scientific and regulatory agency that has studied them knows.”

Here is a real life (and death) example of how the ideological beliefs of government leaders have trumped the scientifically accepted fact that: “GMO crops have been more tested by government agencies than any other previous agricultural advance, and declared as safe as non-GMO crops for consumption, and for the environment, by every major scientific body worldwide, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Medical Association.” Obviously, Science denial has consequences. If these same leaders were up for election now, would you vote for them?

Abortion Limits

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR36) was proposed in the House of Representatives in early 2015. Similar to the later Florida bill described in last month’s article, it would disallow abortions after 20 weeks. It was passed in the House but later defeated in the Senate. While both Democratic candidates voiced opposition to this bill, all of the Republican candidates remaining, as of mid-March, expressed strong support. Here are candidate statements related to this particular act prior to candidate dropouts:

JEB BUSH: “I’m pleased to share my support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which will prevent elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, protecting both unborn children and the health of pregnant women.”

BEN CARSON: “I urge our legislators in Congress to swiftly vote on the legislation known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It is legislation that values life which in the end is what we are here for.”

TED CRUZ: Voted to advance H.R. 36. “I remain a strong supporter of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act...and that is an important step in recognizing the sanctity of life.”

JOHN KASICH: While in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kasich voted in support of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. As governor, he has signed a law banning abortions after viability.

MARCO RUBIO: As an original cosponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the 114th Congress, he voted to advance H.R. 36. “Surely we should aspire to be a nation where we protect unborn babies who can feel pain, respond to touch...”

DONALD TRUMP: Supports the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders opposed the bill.

You will recall that in last month’s column, discussing a similar bill passed in Florida, I wrote, “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has stated unequivocally, “In the most extensive scientific literature review on fetal pain, JAMA concludes that fetal pain is not present until the third trimester [28th week]. Scientists concur that the fetus is suspended in a sleep-like coma until the third trimester. In the most well-regarded, peer-reviewed, double-blind periodicals in the United States, and in the United Kingdom, the consensus is that fetal pain is a political construction rather than a scientific fact.”

The question that relates to the support of this bill by these candidates is whether their backing is predicated on evidence-based policy (where evidence is sought to validate Ideological beliefs), or policy-based evidence (where policy decisions are based on empirical evidence). More importantly, is this denial of expert scientific evidence predictive of your candidate’s future rejections of science in favor of ideological or religious beliefs. What’s your opinion?

Fetal Research

This subject is probably best represented by the very contentious debate about Planned Parenthood. Revolving around a video produced by a three-man group called The Center for Medical Progress, it purportedly shows a Planned Parenthood official offering to pay a substantial sum for “body parts” from an aborted fetus. A literal uproar evolved amongst those who welcome further facts to discredit any entity that offers a program that includes a woman’s right to choose. However there seems to be serious questions about the accuracy of the video itself, and whether or not it was deliberately manipulated to satisfy an anti-abortion agenda.

Many of the details of the case have been well covered in the media. However, the point of this article is to determine whether candidates’ opinions and/or actions are dictated by a broad consensus of facts or influenced solely by their innate biases. One way to determine this is to evaluate the results of numerous fact-checking and investigational organizations. Here are the names of a number that have found considerable fault with the video’s lack of basic integrity: Fact-check, CNN, Media Matters, Salon, Politifact, Slate, LA Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.

But by the end of January, this year, there was a news item that provides the most ironic turnaround in the case: “HOUSTON — A grand jury here that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made spurious undercover videos of the organization.” In addition Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement, “grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.” The defendants could face up to twenty years imprisonment on felony charges, although I can’t find any new information about the case. So how do the candidates react to all of these new facts, particular to the Houston news piece?

DONALD TRUMP : “While Planned Parenthood is engaging in the despicable practice of abortion — in addition to then selling aborted baby body parts to the highest bidder — the organization should receive no taxpayer dollars.” On the other hand, the beginning of March he softened his opinion by stating, “Planned Parenthood has done very good work for millions of women,” he said. “But we’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood. We understand that, and I've said it loud and clear.”

TED CRUZ: “If the Justice Department had integrity, it would immediately open an investigation into whether those Planned Parenthood officials who confessed to felonies on camera indeed committed criminal conduct. And it would likewise open up an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood itself is a criminal enterprise. Of course federal taxpayer funds should not go to funding an ongoing criminal enterprise that is committing a pattern of felonies selling the body parts of unborn children.” Ted Cruz lives in Houston. Does he read newspapers?

JOHN KASICH: On February 2 nd this year, the following news item appeared on CNN: “Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Sunday prohibiting the state from contracting for health services with any organization that performs or promotes abortions, blocking government funds to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood isn't explicitly named in the legislation, but the law will prevent more than $1 million in funding from the state health department from going to the nonprofit to fund programs such as HIV testing, health screenings and prevention of violence against women.

BERNIE SANDERS: “We are not going to allow the extreme right-wing to defund Planned Parenthood, we are going to expand it. Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services for millions of women, who rely on its clinics every year for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services. The current attempt to malign Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.”

HILLARY CLINTON: What says it all is the fact that in January, Planned Parenthood, for the first time ever, endorsed a candidate for the presidency, and that advocacy was directed to Hillary Clinton.

Next month’s article will cover the remaining subjects, candidate comments, and opinions. It’s up to you to determine whether facts or ideology influence your candidate’s actions.


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