Saturday, February 05, 2005

As Denny notes, the New York Times spotlights "perks" for "Top Bosses on Wall St." and buries cuts in health service spending

Denny e-mails about this morning's New York Times noting the article (by Robert Pear) "Bush Budget Calls for Cuts in Health Services."

Denny: Why isn't this on the front page in place of the useless "Working for Top Bosses on Wall St. Has Its Perks?" Is it because the insulated Times doesn't know anyone receiving aid but they rub elbows with plenty on Wall Street? Doesn't a paper have a responsibility to serve the public interest? Isn't that why we had a First Amendment to begin with? I'm beginning to questing the paper's definition of 'fit' in their upper left hand corner slogan: 'All the News That's Fit to Print.' Erika steered me to this site and I find it very useful . . . * Back to the Times, I see that monies for AIDS will increase (as will military spending) and I'm not sure that's a good thing with this administration."

I don't blame you for questioning. In the Days of Gauzy Haze following 9-11 when the Bully Boy couldn't be questioned, there was a rush to proclaim his committment to AIDS spending something worthy of beatification. Not quite and I was lucky enough not to ever sample that Kool Aid. Scrapping existing teachings to stress his abstinence only mantra would have the effect (and I believe we'll see the fall out from this) of confusing the message in cultures we've never (under this administration for sure) bothered to understand or study.

There is a lot of skepticism and hostility, for instance, on the African continent towards our policies and, among some, a belief that we created AIDS to wipe people out. (I'm not weighing in on that, if someone else wants to, feel free. E-mail address is So when we've made some headway in education along comes the Bully Boy to distort and confuse the medical message with his faith-based reality.

We also have seen NGO's with strong histories of effective results be stripped of funds as a result of their science-based, medical-based approaches. To be faith-based (and medically stunted), new organizations would have to be created (and were) and the monies (which were a shell game con, not a true increase in funding) would be wasted.

Saying that in the Days of Guazy Haze meant being met with hostility because we didn't question the Bully Boy and you were usually met with "What have you got against AIDS funding!" So I'll take a moment here to praise Nicholas Kristof (whom we have criticized and ridiculed) for realizing the reality early on and writing at length about it.

But this is just more money wasted by the administration as it attempts to curry favor with the extreme right and ignore scientific, medical realities. If I'm broke-busted, tapped out when I have a flat tire and the Bully Boy gives me money for new rims, that doesn't change the fact that I still have a flat tire. Tossing money around doesn't effectively address the situation.
We've seen that with the administration's war on reality as they've demonized and stripped of funding numerous groups that have been at the forefront of addressing the AIDS crisis globably.
Another point to remember is that the administration can request any amount of money -- that doesn't mean they get it. Congress controls the purse.

Lastly, I'll note that Clamor has an article (not available online) entitled "Infected by Inequality" that's well worth reading. The magazine interviews Alison Katz (social scientist working "on issues of AIDS, poverty, and development") via e-mail and there are some strong points being made.


[Clamor:] What accounts for such high HIV prevalence rates in Africa?

[Alison Katz:] The international health community, which includes UNAIDS and WHO and unfortunately many NGOs who take their cues from them, would have us believe that individual behavior accounts for the high prevalence rates in Africa. Given the enormous differences between regions in prevalence, one might expect that this would be met with disbelief or at least puzzlement. Mostly, however, people don't question the racist notion that black people are "promiscuous." It is so deeply ingrained, and at the same time sex and death are such taboo subjects, that it is rarely scrutinized. Few people stop to think, "Now is that reasonable as an explanation?"
Let us remember that African women face a risk of HIV infection which is 500 to 1000 times greater than European women. That is rather a large difference to explain in terms of African and European male sexual behavior respectively.

If individual sexual behaivor is not responsible what is the explanation?

No one is denying that HIV is transmitted sexually, among other modes of transmission. At an individual level, the only protection is safe sex, condom use, or abstinence. But public health has to address larger questions of vulnerability at the level of populations. Individual behaivour cannot account for the enormous variation between countries. What has to be explained is the very high population transmission rates, the extreme susceptibility to infection, and then extreme infectiousness to others once infected. We need to look at biological vulnerability in terms of weakened immune systems as a result of miserable living conditions -- as we would for any infectious disease. The neglect of this factor is extraordinary and may not be all that innocent either.

That's something we could be addressing. But somehow the Bully Boy's extreme brigade will solve it all by scattering around simplistic slogans. Translation, more money wasted (tax payer money) on what the American Taliban wants at the expense of what medical science tells us is needed.

If I've lost anyone (I know I'm rushing), let's put it another way. You're getting engaged and you've got X amount to spend on a dinner. You put the Bully Boy in charge of planning and spending in his pre-conversion days. Though some guests may be thrilled at the vast amounts of booze offered, many will wonder why, other than a few bags of chips, there's no food at the dinner. Pre-conversion, it was a mistake to trust the Bully Boy with money (as so many who invested in his companies discovered), post-conversion the money is still being wasted.

[Note: Denny said to feel free to quote from his e-mail. I've edited out -- "*" -- his kind words about The Common Ills. Happy to include the shout out to Erika -- a community member whose insight we enjoy. But I didn't want to risk the focus going into self-referential territory.]