Great letter on Guv Perry’s California visit video from the artist

On Monday, I made a big stink about Texas GOP Governor Rick Perry visiting a lab (that of Jeanne Loring) at Scripps Research Institute here in California because the lab in question is a leading group doing human embryonic stem cell (HESC) and Perry is a strong opponent of such research.

I thought the visit perplexing.

Stoking my interest further at that time was the video record on YouTube of the visit, which was a very striking production that I felt was of substantial concern because in my opinion it seemed to focus mostly on Perry rather than on the stem cell research.

The video was artistic and so powerful I felt like it was political propaganda after watching it a couple times. I’m not sure I was entirely right, but it is a very unusual video. I’d really value other opinions on it.

On Tuesday, I posted an open letter to Governor Perry, respectfully outlining 5 key steps I thought he could take to make him and Texas the leaders in stem cell research in America. The cornerstone would be the establishment of a Texas state stem cell agency.

Yesterday, I revised my original post of Monday at least in part after important discussions with Loring and the artist behind the video, Michael Thorsnes (see photo at below right), who also happens to be the Chair of the Executive Board of the Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Association of my former home town, San Diego. Thorsnes also has PD himself as he discuss in his letter (below) and is a patient advocate. After a career in law, he is now an artist and you can see more of his work here.



Why did I take the unusual step of revising a post to tone it down? The reason was that I think my original post was over the top to the point of being harmful.

I feel the new version of the post about Perry’s visit and the video is more constructive and more accurately reflects the situation.

With Thorsnes’ permission, I now post below a letter he wrote me about Perry’s visit, which provides important perspectives and facts on the event that I think you will find as interesting and useful as I did.

One of the wonderful things about writing this blog is that I get to meet remarkable people such as Thorsnes with whom more often than not I end up working together with to advance the greater good.

Here is Mike’s letter.


Thank you for affording me an opportunity to respond to your blog critical of Gov. Perry’s recent visit to the Loring at Scripps Research and the video made by me in connection with that visit. There are some factual assumptions made and I join you in the thought that they should be corrected, if wrong. 

I have Parkinson’s and am in my 12th year of battling the disease. I regard the work that you and through you, others are doing with stem cells, to be absolutely critical. For the first time in the disease, I believe that there may actually be a cure, or other substantial beneficial treatments derived from the enormous research now occurring in San Diego, and throughout the world. 

I was asked several months ago by the Parkinson’s Association of San Diego to head an Executive Advisory Committee coordinating research on one hand, and clinical services to both those afflicted, and those affected by the disease. The purpose of this organization is: coordination, avoidance of duplication, sharing critical information, and financial support, all of which have been initiated. One of those important steps was the meeting with Gov. Perry and his subsequent tour of the Loring Lab. That meeting came about at my request to the Governor through a mutual friend, Richard J. Taubman, who knew of the Governor’s interest in the subject, as well as mine. At my request, a meeting was set of the two of us to meet and, when he agreed, I invited Jerry Henberger, of the San Diego Parkinson’s Association and Dr. Loring to also attend the meeting on Sunday evening, as Dr. Loring was leaving for a conference the next day.

The meeting was cordial and the Governor demonstrated a fundamental knowledge of the subject and expressed his interest in pursuing the same goals that brought us to the table. We then offered a tour the following morning, if possible in view of family commitments. He informed us that night that he would be able to attend the meeting and tour the facilities. 

When we arrived, he saw an overview of the lab and its  work, and met with the staff and colleagues of Dr. Loring. As a profession photographer with significant political experience, all of which dealt with the Democratic Party, I photographed the visit and edited and assembled it. You mentioned that it was “artistic”, which it was intended to be. Photography is my profession. Dr. Loring has requested that I add a brief paragraph to the material

From the foregoing, you can see that the visit, its contents of the visit all occurred without the participation of any of the Governor’s staff. You could not have known that without inquiry, and, unfortunately, the content of your blog entry appears to be politically oriented, the very thing you accuse the Governor of. Your work and the work of the many with whom you correspond is far too important to be politicized. Instead, we must do everything possible to break down political walls, not strengthen them.


Michael Thorsnes, Chair, Executive Advisory Board

Parkinson’s Disease Association of San Diego

6 thoughts on “Great letter on Guv Perry’s California visit video from the artist”

  1. Dallas Stem Cell Junkie

    Paul, Great job! It takes a good man to admit an error in judgement. We Texan’s applaud you, Michael, Gov. Perry, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who was in Dallas this week at BioLife Cell Bank

      1. Michael Thorsnes

        I’m not sure I know how to respond to your kind words. One thing from them that is obvious to me, is that you understand the nuance that shades my work. Time and again, here and in far corners of the Earth, I seem to be able to see things and qualities in the people I photograph that others miss. I have written a poem about it that on its face seems self agrandizing and egotistical. So what? I’m trying to understand what I do and how I do it. On more occasions than I can count, I’ve been, told through the camera, I seem to see and find things that others cannot. In looking at the pictures of Gov. Perry and the men and women of the Loring lab, I see determination, camaraderie, and love for, and in the work they are each privileged to do–for others. I would like to know more about you. Mike

  2. Michael,
    Thank you, Yours is a beautifully mastered video and what I treasure is that you captured both the inner strengths and inner frailties of those videoed in such a beautiful way that the synergy flowed through with power. This brings the hope that if each of us as imperfect but inspired persons finds a team with integrity good things will follow. All the best on your personal journey and thank you for being a strong and gracious patient advocate.

    I am presently in a horrific stem cell battleground where it seems there is no way of escape or resolution. Your video reminded me again that all are not created equal and this empowered me to step back, observe and reframe my future…

    I truly hope the cure will be in your life time but even if it is not you have contributed more than many who no baggage or handicap and I want to say I respect your vision and the progress you have made! I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future and I celebrate your life

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