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San Francisco Values

Nov
7
2006

My local newspaper carried a banner headline Friday, informing me that “San Francisco values” were the new dirty word of politics. I guess it’s the new code, designed to scare all those people who will choke on the phrase “Madam Speaker” when they address the woman who might run the U.S. House of Representatives.
That’s not exactly surprising. For some folks it’s better to have a dumb man in the job than a smart, er, competent woman. That’s business as usual, regardless of where you live or what you do for a living. Of course, there’s an undertone of homophobia here that’s delicately unspoken, given the current headlines. Former Republican Congressman Mark Foley lives in Florida and Karl Rove confidant Ted Haggard was pastor of a Colorado church and, gosh darn, we can’t have them in Washington.
The headline popped up the same day I got mail from a non-resident of this city – one of those guys who probably buys into the “San Francisco” value stuff – and provided a nice contrast between my so-called lack of moral values and the writers’. Generally, I ignore this sort of stuff but the timing on this was too good to let pass.
First off, this guy calls me “Mr. Nolan.” When I pointed out that I’m not a man (and even though I live in San Francisco, have no plans to become one) he wrote to tell me that he “made an assumption based on the limited information available (your first name).” Well, there’s plenty of evidence on this site that I’m not a man. Score one on the side of the curious.
This dude, let’s call him “Mr. Jersey” ’cause that’s where he’s from and, honestly, I don’t want to embarrass the man – I just want, on this election day, to ridicule him and everything he stands for – was writing to chastise me for my views on stem cell research. He was writing – this week – about a piece I wrote in May, 2005, calling President George Bush’s stand on federal funding of such research, short-sighted.
Okay. So he’s also slow. But here’s the real kicker. He says he’s in favor of adult stem cell research because that’s being conducted by doctors, not biologist. “Who would you rather be working with human tissue, a person who studied the human body & problems specifically, or someone who studied them generally?” Mr. Jersey asks.
Hello? Is this the question: Would I rather have my nice, caring family doctor (Hi Marilyn!) using her spare time – she can run an hour late for a basic check-up – doing research on diseases because she sees live human bodies and treats them? Or would I rather have that work done by a Phd molecular biologist, trained in scientific protocols, steeped in research, funded by the taxpayers of largest economy in the world, working in a state-of-the art lab with all the resources he or she could need to do their work?
Hmmm. This is tough. You know, I like my GP – she’s smart. But, smart as she is, she doesn’t always know what’s wrong with me (yeah, I know…rim shot). That’s why she, on occasion, refers me to specialists. The specialist I saw this summer does research but, whattaya know, he’s at a hospital here in San Francisco awash in federal grant money. And its federal money that comes with, as this page demonstrates, federal oversight and regulation – the very reason I think embyronic stem cell research should be funded by the federal government.
It gets better so I’ll let Mr. Jersey speak for himself.

But, as I assume you are someone who would consider herself, liberal, I assume that you are in support of the government not funding additional nuclear power plants, even though they do not “pollute” the air w/smoke & smog (though my definition of what pollution causes & your definition are certainly quite different), and are a cheap source of energy. I assume that you are in support of the government in Florida pulling funding out of the charter school system, b/c some private schools, (and, even, OH NO!) religious schools might receive the funding.
So, according to you…the government should not do anything that upsets a large amount of people in this country. But, no, wait…that’s not right. Because you want the government to support embryonic stem cell research, which upsets a majority (yes, MAJORITY) of the people in this country. Hmmmm?

Well, I’m not aware of any government funding for nuclear power plants. Those proposals were made and the plants built and managed by private utilities, not the government and the issue was safety, not pollution. And as with stem cells, I have grave concerns about any for-profit business getting to play around with dangerous stuff like uranium. Guess Mr. Jersey strikes out again.
As for charter schools, there’s some evidence that they don’t work as well as promised and that, in fact, we’d all be better off if all of us sent our kids to tax-payer supported public schools and upped the tax money spent on those schools. Here Mr. Jersey is just putty in my hands. He’s contradicting himself. State funding for stem cell research, like the measure that passed here in California, is – in theory and philosophy – no different from state funding of charter schools. They’re both programs supported locally by voters only in the case of the schools there’s a long history of local (ie property tax) support which is why the federal government has such a hard time telling the local schools what to do. Stem cell research in California is the same thing: A locally mandated spending program that defies federal restrictions. Voila! States rights!
But it shouldn’t be that way. There’s a long history in this county – the patent office was created by the U.S. Constitutition – of funding supporting and aiding scientific research at the federal level.
Darn! Mr. Jersey loses another round, er, two, no?. This is starting to feel like cheating. Perhaps I will type with one finger from here on out. All we’ve really got left is the “majority” question.
Stem cell research legislation passed the U.S. Senate. It’s been approved by the majority of California’s voters. It’s going to be approved in Missouri (and will probably shift that state’s Senate election for the Democrats). It’s gotten support – at the ballot box or in the legislatures – in New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Illinois. Most of this legislation passes by majority vote, where more people were in favor than against something. So much for Mr. Jersey’s claim to the contrary.
Oh and while we’re here, Mr. Jersey, yes, the government should do things that upset a large amount of people in this country. That’s a little quality some of us – those who look ahead to the future – call leadership. And, sad to say, that should not be a San Francisco “value.” But, to my amazement, it is.

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