Madison County Opinion...

JANUARY 22, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
January 22, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Some budget advice for Perdue
Governor Sonny Perdue asks that anyone with better ideas on solving the state’s budget crisis let him know. Here are my ideas:
First, I am never happy to see more taxes. We pay far too much of our hard-earned money in taxes now. The proposed new state taxes would not have a dramatic effect on me. I never purchase tobacco products, and only rarely alcohol. But they will have a dramatic effect on many Madison County people.
Madison County has a large number of small community stores. These stores have to compete with the Wal Marts, Krogers, Ingles and so forth. The only thing that keeps many of them in business is convenience of having tobacco and alcohol nearby. The proposed taxes will likely reduce the consumption of these products and could force more of our small stores out of business.
I realize that many of you, as do I, feel that our people will be far better off without these products. So this is one of those two-edged swords you hear about.
The other tax will impact all our homeowners. It would reduce the state’s property tax relief program dramatically. It would cost the average homeowner an additional $120 per year. This will be especially harmful to the many elderly homeowners in Madison County.
So, what is the alternative? Rather than increases any taxes, Perdue should be pushing for dramatic cuts in the size of state government. Our state bureaucracy is just like the federal government. It has layers of bureaucracy, overlapping agencies and outdated offices that simply will not go away. There is so much excess in the bureaucracy that it is almost impossible to find the agency to solve any problem you may have.
Here is an example: Perdue has promised to return power over the schools to the local boards and the parents. That needs to be done immediately by throwing out most of the state education programs, eliminate the bureaucrats that run them and give the savings to our underpaid teachers.
A similar change in the relationship between state and local governments would save millions. Today, almost anything a city or county tries to do must be approved by some state agency. Our local governments must hire experts to help them deal with the bureaucracy. We will be better off without most of these state watchdogs. Our local governments are more likely to know what we need than an Atlanta based bureaucrat.
We don’t need to raise any taxes, even the so called “sin” taxes. What we need is a smaller, streamlined, more responsive and less expensive state government. I thought that was the Republican plan. Perdue is starting out like just another Democrat pretending to be a Republican.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
January 22, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
Raelians, cloning and Frankenstein
When asked if he was ever going to have children, one friend of mine made me laugh. He replied, “I’m not eager to repeat myself.”
Apparently, he’s not a Raelian.
The Raelian cult, which maintains that scientists from another planet created all life on earth using DNA, is all for cloning, which is suddenly not so sci-fi.
The group claims that two cloned girls have been born — one each in the United States and Europe — with their cloning techniques. But it has provided no scientific proof to back its claims.
The Raelians aren’t the only strange characters giving this cloning thing a go.
What about Italian cloning maverick Severino Antinori, who is on a hunger strike because he says Italian police questioned him about his human cloning projects? Antinori said the inquiries amounted to persecution.
“This is an attack on science and on the freedom of scientific research,” he said. “From now on I am not eating anything until Prime Minister (Silvio) Berlusconi meets me and gives me guarantees that Italy is still a free country for science and for me.”
This shows real scientific reasoning on his part. Because don’t we all have a soft spot for a mad scientist intent on altering humanity in ways we cannot comprehend?
Doesn’t this put you in mind of that classic novel by Mary Shelley about a scientist and his frightening creation?
Of course, cloning technology involves more than mad scientists, lightning bolts and Frankenstein’s monster rising, alive, from the table.
The argument for the technology is that it could lead to medical breakthroughs and save human lives. According to NewScientist.com, the technology is “being used to genetically modify pigs to make their organs more compatible with the human immune system.” In fact, somebody’s mother or father might eventually get another 20 years of life thanks to a cloned organ.
But the moral issues loom large.
According to NewScientist.com, “the first controlled study of the lifespan of clones suggests that some cloned animals really do die young.”
Is it humane to create a person with a sub-standard life-span? Would they be considered sub-human by society?
And most importantly, do humans have the moral authority to create a life by unnatural means?
Most people, I presume, would answer that with a resounding “no.”
I do as well.
Consider, for one, the cruelty involved in the learning curve. According to the science site mentioned previously, “cloning involves removing the nucleus from the egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a donor cell. Many of these...embryos never develop or miscarry. Even after birth some clones die. But many cloning scientists argue that the few survivors can be perfectly normal.”
I’m in favor of medical improvements to better lives, but I’m wary of scientific advancement of such a dubious nature.
It seems like only a year ago I was wowed by Atari. I can’t believe that I am now talking seriously about cloning.
Let’s just hope the Raelians and others eager to clone adopt my friend’s reasoning. We don’t want them to become too adept at repeating themselves.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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