I guess I was prepared to dislike Cary Tennis’ essay on President Bush as a recovered alcoholic, but in the end he won me over. We’ve all learned that the inner lives of presidents make a difference to their outer performance – and no-one showed this better than our sociopathic ex-president. What Tennis does is a really superb job at showing how recovered alcoholism really does shine a light on who Bush is. Tennis keeps credentializing himself as a lefty who can’t stomach Bush’s views – but his underlying respect for the guy comes through. I think recovery helps explain Bush’s compassion for others as well as his belief that only the individual, with God’s help, can lift himself out of what might seem a dead end. Ditto Bush’s ability to delegate; to listen; to let go of things he cannot control; to take things a day at a time. I have to say that some of the people I most admire are in recovery. Two good friends of mine have dragged themselves out of a real pit of addictive despair into productive, strong, even beautiful lives. It’s odd to say that I feel comforted that someone who has had that experience is president. He rose above a crippling and human compulsion. What an irony that he succeeded a man who couldn’t lift himself out of his own.
EMBRYO STEM CELLS AND PARKINSON’S: A medical reader points out the following article in the March issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Alas, only the abstract is online. But the gist of the study is that implantation of embryonic stem cells to treat Parkinson’s Disease was shown to be completely ineffective in those over 60 and only very mildly effective in those under 60 – an effect which was only discernible for some reason in the morning. Moreover, the treatment caused “dystonia and dyskenesis,” i.e. uncontrollable spasms and tremors, in 15 percent of the patients. The Journal editorialized against the use of such stem cells in such a treatment because of this study. Adult stem cells are apparently more beneficial: “Although some symptoms did improve with the transplantation procedure in the younger patients, the development of dyskinesia is worrisome. The results do not support the use of this procedure as it was performed in this study.” Why has this study been all but ignored by the U.S. press? Doesn’t it seem directly relevant to the debate we are now having?