Monday, November 8, 2010

Derailing the Medium-Speed (58 mph) Train

The numbers just don’t work. At least, none of the numbers I’ve seen with my own eyes, or have heard bandied about on local media (i.e., Mitch Henck’s show on WIBA-AM). It’s no coincidence that shortly after the earthquake at the polls last Tuesday, the Doyle administration took a step back from the train and halted things temporarily while they “study” it a bit more.

I disagree with many things Scott Walker has said (and implied) that he’s going to do when he takes office (the vague “put Madison on a diet”; the luddite view he holds of stem cell research; his absurdly inadequate Lieutenant Governor, and on and on) but I agree with him that this medium-speed train thing between Madison and Milwaukee is one of the biggest public boondoggles ever.

The attitude “but if we don’t take the money from the Feds (and just where DOES that money come from, really?) it will go to Florida or Georgia” doesn’t hold water with me. The train thing reminds me just a bit (here comes the unfair comparison) of that dandy present Jerry Frautschi and his wife gave the city.

Sure, the medium-speed rail project will create jobs. Damned expensive jobs. And it will likely never be close to self-sustaining. It won’t need just a small municipal boost, like the wonderful Goodman Pool, it will need millions and millions in subsidies from us, every year in the foreseeable future.

My generation has already piled up enough debt on our children’s future.

Thou shalt not press down upon the brow of the Wisconsinites this crown of railroad spikes; thou shalt not crucify Wisconsin on a cross of railroad ties.


  1. Well, Wm. Jennings,....

    The even darker suspicion is that somebody told the choochoo-ites that the deal might be (gasp) illegal and that prosecutions might commence very soon.


    "Luddites" are opposed to scientific research. Walker is not opposed to scientific research. He's opposed to taxpayer-funding of research which kills humans.

    So were W. Churchill and F D Roosevelt, IIRC.

  2. Yea brother
    We are all weak and in need of guidance. Trust in the true cross, and seek guidance from the lord. When we are unsure of our next step, the lord will lift us and guide us to firm scriptural footing and our moral high ground. ‘Debunk yourself of the canon of science. Your views, and the small cadre who share them, shall become your sole reference points, unchallengeable and immutable.’
    God’s blessing

  3. But embryonic stem cell research (which uses surplus fertility-clinic embryos which would be destroyed anyway) does not kill humans.

    Why doesn't the pro-life movement oppose in-vitro fertilization (a practice which destroys far more embryos than stem cell research)?

  4. So what sex are stem cells?

  5. Jill, Med School 101 teaches that at conception you have a human being. That's the science. You can argue that it's a dog, or a kitteh, or a unicorn. Go ahead.

    By the way, the parentheses in your statement inadvertently tells all: "...use..."

    The Catholic Church has always opposed in vitro. Granted, it's not a weekly topic in church bulletins. IIRC, American Life League/Pro-Life Wisconsin has the same position.

    Other pro-life org's concede that some abortions are better than others (also GHWB's position) and they also maintain that jamming chemicals into women (and, secondarily, into lakes and streams) is just fine-and-dandy.


  6. Everyone get on the news media that continues to call this "High speed Rail". It isn't and they are misleading the public.

  7. The "Little Engine That Could" and the "Puff-a-Billys" (all in a row); what a concept. All of those "billions" spent on the Interstate System and we want to build a "cho cho" train (from Madison to Milwaukee)so we grandparents can allow our grand children to experience the railroad concept of the past. My oh My.

  8. America built the well-planned National Defense Highway System (aka the interstate highway system) ... then lost its groove. Since then we haven't been able to do any projects even remotely comparable.

    That said, trying to rebuild a national rail system piecemeal is not better than doing nothing. Regional infrastructure projects working from an NDHS-style master plan, were there one, would stand a chance of success. But under funded, ill-conceived (Mein gott! It had grade crossings!) provincial adventures, such as the Madison-to-Milwaukee train seems to have been, should be weeded out at the proposal stage.

    Now, a comment on dear old Dan29's extra-crufty thoughts on stem-cell research -- already well dusted by antpoppa and Ordinary Jill: The Dadster is always going fondly on about the joys of small government, yet he would (seismic shift to irony here) give the federal government and maybe even the clerics overbearing authority over the most personal decisions nearly every individual eventually makes. How does allowing -- nay, requiring -- such intrusion help slim down the government and get it off our backs and out of our lives?

    Ye Olde Dad29 is surely opposed to using shariah as the law of these United States, yet, shades of the Taliban, he would invoke his Old Testament religious beliefs to limit a science he clearly does not understand. The Vatican tried that with Galileo and others, but it really didn't work out all that well in the long run.

    BTW ... the W.J. Bryan reference was nice. Bryan was advocating bimetalism. I'm guessing our blogger supports bipedalism.

  9. You vastly over-read my comments, O Valley-Dweller.

    While I hold that EMBRYONIC stemcell research is flat-out immoral, I don't care if you do it in your basement, nor if J-Wax does it in theirs.

    But I DO very much care if such research is supported by MY tax dollars--much as you might care if YOUR tax dollars were piped to Tim McVeigh's Explosive-Research University.

    Get it?

  10. Dad29 ... You assert that "Med School 101 teaches that at conception you have a human being." It does not. No science could make such a claim.

    The question of whether an embryo is, ipso facto, human is not only insufficient, it deals with the issue in a simplistic and, frankly, dishonest way.

    You want science? In vitro fertilization is sometimes the only path to conception. It is, as you might say, God's gift.

    Alas, the technique is performed by imperfect humans, so many -- it's probably safe to say most -- in vitro embryos will never become humans, as we tend to think of them.

    Success of the in vitro process depends on the blastocyst stage-transfer rate. Only zygotes in a two-pronuclear (2PN) state are used. The poorer quality 1PN and 3PN embryos are discarded.

    That's the science.

    It is a curious sort of morality that insists the hundreds of thousands of in vitro embryos, destined to be discarded, must be. How do you justify that theologically inspired intransigence to the potential beneficiaries -- people with Parkinson's disease or Huntington's chorea or spinal injuries?

    (Actually, I know the typical Religious Right caviling in response to the question, so you can save yourself the trouble.)

    It would be nice if each of us could decide what we will allow our tax dollars to be spent on. It doesn't work that way, though, does it? I, too, am "opposed to taxpayer-funding of research which kills humans." The Pentagon doesn't seem to care.

  11. While it is possible to argue that what's in the womb at conception is not a 'complete' human being, it is impossible to argue that it is not SOME form of homo sapiens. (I think you can agree with that....or there can be no further discussion.)

    The question, then, is 'what is "complete"'?

    Aquinas ventured that 'complete' was the composite of "body and soul," --a definition in accord with Jewish and Greek thinking--and proposed that "ensoulment" occurred around 120 days' gestation.

    But of course, no one knows with moral certainty (if I might use that term) exactly when 'ensoulment' occurs; thus, prudence dictates to the reasonable man that, in the absence of certainty, one assumes 'ensoulment' at Day One.

    That principle is also demonstrated (different book) in capital-crime jury instructions: "....shadow of a doubt." For good reason! A life is at stake and an error is simply unacceptable.

    Now, you argue BOTH that 'in vitro' is a gift AND that it enables "throwing away" multitudes of embryos. Think about your position. What "gift", precisely? Either there is, or is NOT, a transcendent value to those embryos. Take your choice, but don't argue both sides to the middle.

    While we're on "prudence", which you undoubtedly advocate in capital-crime trials, let's talk about applying that virtue to stem-cell research.

    We KNOW that adult and cord-blood stem-cells produce good results. We have NOT produced ANY results from embryonic stem-cell research, period.

    What does prudence impel us to do?

    This is not "religion" naked. This is nature, simple.


  12. Dad29 ... You are attempting to engage in reasoned discussion of a subject that is clearly important to you. I appreciate that.

    My reference to in vitro methods as "God's gift" is my philosophical acknowledgement of what I perceive to be your personal belief -- that all good things issue from permissions granted by a benevolent deity.

    I mean no offense by the similes that follow, but ingredients can become a cake, but in and of themselves, they are not a cake. That egg you scrambled for breakfast was not a chicken, and the remaining ones in your refrigerator never will be.

    Just when an embryo becomes homo sapiens ("wise man") may be in debate indefinitely, only the willful would say those pronuclear zygotes in the Petri dishes qualify.

    It is not the same with "ensoulment," a religious contrivance which can be flexibly defined without being troubled by any standard science would recognize.

    Is an in vitro procedure good or evil when it produces a child? Are the successes good, but the failed attempts evil?

    In Prima Secundæ Partis -- the second part of his Summa Theologica -- Aquinas addresses, in general, the question of good and evil of human acts, in general.

    Discoursing on Bonum Morale - the moral good - Aquinas is unequivocal when he says "Those actions [by humans] are good which are conformable to reason."

    He seems to be saying we do not need religion to be good. Human goodness does not spring from holy books, but from our "reason," our consensus on morality. That consensus changes over time, and as you are doubtless well aware, so do interpretations of Scripture.

    As the moral Zeitgeist inevitably evolves, religious leaders change their reading (oftentimes tending toward the liberal) of what they like to call "God's word." But they are persistent in their efforts to subvert science. They have no choice because they see science, indeed any school of thought that insists on facts rather than faith, as a rival and a threat to their power.

    Humans are curiously susceptible to such manipulation. For those firmly captured in the orbit of the clerics, there is no escaping religion.

    So the tectonically slow-moving tension between religion and science, however contrived and unnecessary, must continue until the inexorable procession of the moral Zeitgeist forces a change in religious teachings, or leaves them behind.
    I pause to note, with some amazement, that this discussion springs from our blogger's metaphorical thoughts on the political derailment of a nonexistent train. Who among us can still wonder what the Internet is good for?

  13. Dad29,

    >> Well, Wm. Jennings,.... <<

    I love it! William Jennings Morrissey! The infamous 'Cross of Ties' speech.

    The Town Crank

  14. "Those actions [by humans] are good which are conformable to reason."

    He seems to be saying we do not need religion to be good. Human goodness does not spring from holy books, but from our "reason," our consensus on morality.

    Up to that, I agree with you. Your take on TA is accurate--as far as the above goes.

    Once you proceed to define "reason" without reference to "nature", however, you stray from TA.

    That's demonstrated here:

    That consensus changes over time

    We disagree, as would TA.

    In Ia IIae, QQ 6-21, we find this:

    "Good acts are specifically different from evil acts. Acts are specified by their objects, that is, by what they are in themselves, ....there is an essential difference between an act in accord with right reason and an act not in such accord."

    (I'm using a condensed version written by Mgr. Paul Glenn.)

    After discussion of circumstance (not germane here) TA makes this point:

    ...there are some external acts which are evil in themselves because, by their very nature, they are out of line with right reason; the will cannot make these acts good....murders, injuries inflicted, impure conduct.

    Thus, TA posits that there are acts which are mala in se, and among them is murder.

    Thus the Church's objection to embryonic stemcell research.

    It is curious that you insist that 'religion is opposed to science.' That is simply not true, albeit that some religious PEOPLE are 'opposed to science.' JPII wrote a very lengthy treatise on the synergy of faith and reason; B-16 delivered a similar (far shorter) discourse at Regensburg on exactly that topic in discussing Mohammedanism--which is, by the way, THE religion which opposes reason. This flows naturally from the fact that reason cannot contradict faith, nor can faith contradict right reason.

    You can refer to Stanley Jaki's writings on the Church and science; suffice it to say that the Church is the mother of science, going back to the founding of universities (and even before, as science was particularly valued by Benedictine monastaries in what's called the "dark ages." After all, they had to eat, and knowledge of plants and animals was essential to eating.

    Anyway, moral acts do not 'evolve.' Right action and wrong action will not change.