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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Actor Michael J. Fox and stem-cell research

Michael J. Fox on YouTube

Jim Nichols in the US The Nation magazine, writes that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who admitted an addiction to pain killers in 2003, is not just making an issue of Michael J. Fox's campaign ads for Democratic candidates who support stem-cell research. "He is making it the issue of a fall campaign that gets stranger by the day."

For the better part of three hours each day this week, the radio ranter has been "Swift Boating the television and film star for daring to do what Limbaugh -- who freely admits that he is an entertainer -- does every day.

In Limbaugh's warped assessment of the political process, it's fine for him to try and influence the votes of Americans. But woe be it to anyone else who attempts to do so.

Since Fox began speaking up in favor of candidates who support science over superstition, the television and film star who suffers from Parkinson's disease has been accused by Limbaugh of "exaggerating the effects of the disease" in campaign commercials in which he points out that Democratic candidates for the Congress and governorships in the battleground states of Missouri, Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin and now Iowa favor a serious approach to stem-cell research while their Republican opponents do not.

Limbaugh was relentless in his assault on Fox. "He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act," the conservative commentator says. "This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting." After it was pointed out to Limbaugh be everyone, literally everyone, who knows anything about Parkinson's disease, Limbaugh declared, "Now people are telling me they have seen Michael J. Fox in interviews and he does appear the same way in the interviews as he does in this commercial. All right then, I stand corrected. . . . So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act."

Nichols writes that that should have been the end of it.

But Limbaugh wasn't backing off. His new theme became: "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democratic politician."

One problem with that line of attack is that Fox was the one who volunteered to make the ads, with the express purpose of helping voters see beyond the spin and recognize the stark choices that they will be making on November 7. Another problem is that, two years ago, Fox cut an ad supporting a top Republican, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who supports embryonic stem-cell research. But the biggest problem is with Limbaugh's emphasis on the Fox's physical appearance, as opposed to what the actor is saying in the ads? Why blather on and on about whether Fox, an actor, might be acting?

Because it is easier to criticize the way that Michael J. Fox looks than it is to criticize the content of his message.

Fox's ads are fact-based. They reference the voting records, public statements and policy initiatives of the Democratic and Republican candidates he is talking about.

That being the case, beating up on the "Back to the Future" actor would not seem like a smart political strategy. And it certainly is not going to help Limbaugh soften his image as a partisan hitman who knows a little too much about what it means to be on or off particular medications.

So why are Limbaugh and other readers of Republican talking points continuing to accuse Fox of "acting" sick, and of lying his own disease and about the role that stem-cell research may play in the search for treatments and a cure? Why devote so much time and energy to attacking one ailing actor and one set of commercials? It has a lot to do with the powerful lobby that is opposing serious stem-cell research.

Unspoken in much of the debate over this issue is the real reason why candidates such as U.S. Senator Jim Talent, the embattled Republican incumbent who is the target of Fox's criticism in Missouri, and U.S. Representative Mark Green (news, bio, voting record), the Republican gubernatorial candidate who is mentioned in Fox's ads in Wisconsin, so vehemently oppose embryonic stem-cell research.

It is not because they think the research is unnecessary -- no one who has heard from top scientists and groups advocating on behalf of the sick and suffering, as both Talent and Green have, would take such a stand. Rather, it is because Talent, Green and other politicians who are campaigning not just against their Democratic opponents but against scientific inquiry want to maintain the support of the groups that oppose serious stem-cell research: the powerful and influential anti-choice political action committees that in each election cycle spend millions of dollars in questionable cash to support candidates who are willing to echo their faith-based opposition to research that could identify treatments and perhaps even cures for for life-threatening illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, Type I or Juvenile Diabetes, Duchenne' Dystrophy, and spinal chord injuries.

Groups that oppose reproductive rights are central players in our politics because they have established networks that serve as some of the most effective hidden conduits for special-interest money that is used to pay for crude attack campaigns against mainstream candidates.

They also mobilize voters on behalf of contenders who cynically embrace the ugliest forms of anti-scientific dogma to make the rounds since the evolution deniers ginned up the 1926 Scopes trial on evolution. For this reason, the antiabortion machine gets what it wants when it wants it.

Nichols say that politicians who align themselves with antichoice groups are willing to attack anyone who challenges them -- and for good reason. In states across the country, so-called "Right-to-Life" and "Pro-Life" groups spend freely on behalf of the candidates they back. And much of that spending goes essentially undetected, as the groups often do not give money directly to candidates but instead run "issue ads" and mount independent-expenditure campaigns.

Republican politicians like Talent and Green fully understand that, without the behind-the-scenes work of antiabortion groups -- most of which flies under the radar of the media and campaign-finance regulators -- they could not possibly win. And Limbaugh, whose stated goal is to maintain Republican hegemony, is perhaps even more aware of the fact than the candidates he is working so feverishly to elect. That's why the radio personality is on a personal crusade against Fox. That's also why Limbaugh has been willing to stick to his outlandish claims about the actor, even while acknowledging that he's gotten the facts wrong.

Jim Nichols writes that like the Republican politicians who are scrambling to smear Fox, Limbaugh is doing the bidding of one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes political forces in America -- a force that is essential to Republican prospects. And he is not going to let a little thing like the truth make him back off.

Politics is a cynical game. But, sometimes, the cynicism becomes so extreme that the word "unconscionable" doesn't quite seem to capture the ugliness of it all.

Rush Limbaugh announced on his radio program in October 2003, that he is addicted to pain medication and that he was checking himself into a treatment center immediately.

"You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life," the conservative commentator said in a statement on his nationally syndicated radio show.

"I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication."

Law enforcement sources said that Limbaugh's name had come up during an investigation into a black market drug ring in Palm Beach County, Florida. The sources said that authorities were looking into the illegal sale of the prescription drugs OxyContin and hydrocodone.

Limbaugh, who has a residence in Palm Beach County, was named by sources as a possible buyer.

Roger Friedman of Fox News says that since 2001, according to federal records, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has raised an astonishing $80 million for research. Unlike most celebrity charities, the Fox Foundation has a Web site that even links to its most recent federal tax filing, and the filing is current.

This is an amazing achievement, considering how young the foundation is. Fox has turned his illness into something incredibly positive; the group even runs in the black, meaning its income is greater than its expenses. Last year the group finished with $7 million in the bank after giving away $17 million.

Response Ad to Michael J. Fox on YouTube

Patricia Heaton — who won an Emmy for her work on "Everyone Loves Raymond" — is taking sides in the stem-cell research debate.

She’s put herself on the opposite side of Michael J. Fox, the much-beloved actor who’s been battling Parkinson’s disease since 1991 and is a firm supporter of embryonic stem-cell research.

Heaton is now appearing in a commercial intended to persuade Missouri voters to vote against Amendment 2 on their ballot.

Fox, in his own commercial, urges voters to support the measure and Democrat Claire McCaskill, who is running for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, Jim Talent, a Republican who opposes embryonic stem-cell research.

Many scientists believe stem cell research could lead to cures for Parkinson’s and many other illnesses. Amendment 2 would constitutionally protect any embryonic stem cell research in Missouri that falls within federal law.

Michael J. Fox was born Michael Andrew Fox in 1961 to parents William and Phyllis in Edmonton, the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta. (He later adopted the "J" as an homage to legendary character actor Michael J. Pollard.) Fox, a self-described "Army brat," moved several times during his childhood along with his parents, brother, and three sisters. The Foxes finally planted roots in Burnaby, British Columbia (a suburb of Vancouver), when William

Fox retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1971.Like most Canadian kids, Fox loved hockey and dreamed of a career in the National Hockey League. In his teens, his interests expanded. He began experimenting with creative writing and art and played guitar in a succession of rock-and-roll garage bands before ultimately realizing his affinity for acting. Fox debuted as a professional actor at 15, co-starring in the sitcom Leo and Me on Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) with future Tony Award-winner Brent Carver.

Over the next three years, he juggled local theater and TV work, and landed a few roles in American TV movies shooting in Canada. When he was 18, Fox moved to Los Angeles. He had a series of bit parts, including one in CBS' short-lived (yet critically acclaimed) Alex Haley/Norman Lear series Palmerstown USA, before winning the role of lovable conservative Alex P. Keaton on NBC's enormously popular Family Ties (1982-89). During Fox's seven years on Ties, he earned three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, making him one of the country's most prominent young actors.

Though he would not share the news with the public for another seven years, Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease in 1991. Upon disclosing his condition in 1998, he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson's research.The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which he launched in year 2000, and its efforts to raise much-needed research funding for and awareness about Parkinson's disease.

Fox wholeheartedly believes that if there is a concentrated effort from the Parkinson's community, elected representatives in Washington, DC, and (most importantly) the general public, researchers can pinpoint the cause of Parkinson's and uncover a cure within our lifetime.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive disorder of the central nervous system that belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders. Parkinson's is the direct result of the loss of cells in a section of the brain called the substantia nigra. Those cells produce dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals within the brain. Loss of dopamine causes critical nerve cells in the brain, or neurons, to fire out of control, leaving patients unable to direct or control their movement in a normal manner.Parkinson's disease has been known since ancient times. An English doctor, James Parkinson, first described it extensively in 1817; the thoroughness of his analysis is such that researchers and clinicians are still urged to read his original notes on the condition.

1 Comments:

  • I was sent this by a friend. It touched my heart and I wanted to pass it on. Please have a read.

    My name is Steve Alten, I am the best-selling author of ten novels, including the MEG series, DOMAIN, The LOCH, and GOLIATH. Two years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease. I was 47 at the time, with no family history. Parkinsons is a degenerative disease that causes tremors and muscle rigidity. For me, the symptoms affect my dominant right side. My arm no longer swings freely when I walk, and doing certain activities can be challenging. I have never felt sorry for myself, I consider myself a lucky person and have too much in my life to be grateful for. So I will fight this setback as best as I can, and hopefully contribute something of value that can help find a cure, if not for myself then others.

    Parkinsons is a disease that can be cured. Michael J. Fox and his foundation have done an incredible job organizing researchers to focus on the medical science that makes a difference.

    Since my own diagnosis, I have asked myself what I can do to help. Writing books is a time-consuming labor, plus I spend time visiting schools, plus I have a family?plus I need to work out or my muscles stiffen up. Oh yeah, every day I answer 100 e-mails from fans. It?s a labor of love, as an author, my most valued asset is YOU, my readers. Over the last 13 years, I have worked hard to earn your trust. All of you who have ever e-mailed me know I ALWAYS RESPOND PERSONALLY. Students know I am always honored to answer their Q & A assignments for school. Thousands of teachers in the Adopt-An-Author program know I am always there to speak with their students via phone, e-mails, or personal visits.

    Times are tight for many of us, and so many organizations need money ? I know because many of you contact me asking for donations on their behalf. I never say no. Over the years, I have also sent boxes of signed books to our soldiers overseas in appreciation for their sacrifice. But I need to do something to support the Michael J. Fox foundation, not because I have Parkinsons, but because I am convinced they are doing valuable work that can help all of us.

    ONE REQUEST ? SIMPLE, PAINLESS & A BLESSING:

    I am asking each person reading this to please go to http://www.teamfox.org/siteapps/personalpage/ShowPage.aspx?c=nrLXJ0PFKuG&b=4815191&sid=ikIUKaOQKfK1KjNSLpE

    and donate $10 dollars to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Please, only ten dollars. Because ten dollars from ten thousand Steve Alten readers CAN make a serious difference in the fight against a disease that affects millions of Americans?including this humble author.

    My deepest heartfelt thanks, Steve Alten

    Steve Alten
    MEG82159@aol.com
    www.SteveAlten.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 11, 2009 7:17 PM  

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