atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#153: "Too Many Words" on MetaFilter, Den Beste, Liberals, and AIDS in Africa

The man can't avoid stirring the pot.

When I discovered "USS Clueless" (no longer updated) I loved what I read. Even if I didn't agree with some of Steven Den Beste's thoughts, they were so well-thought and well-written that it was worth reading.

Nitpickers ruined it all. He'd write a post about something, and he'd get 50,000 e-mails (number exaggerated...somewhat) picking at this or that detail; finally he got sick of it, and hung up his "blogger" hat.

Before the end, he'd gotten interested in anime and had started a subsidiary page, Chizumatic on which he posted reviews and general commentary. When updates to "USS Clueless" ended, there was a hiatus, and then "Chizumatic" became his blog.

But every once in a while he posts political articles in various places--almost never on "Chizumatic"--and supplies links for his readers. Today he linked to a post in a MetaFilter thread; and arguably it's the most cogent argument in the thread.

The thread itself is about the appointment of a new Special Envoy to Darfur, and the fact that he argued against giving antiviral drugs to Africans for a variety of reasons. The thread in general is about the plight of the Sudanese and why the US won't do anything to help those people.

It led me to read the rest of the thread, and I saw A Goofyy Post that prompted me to write this article.

"Goofyy" attributes so many disasters to our sitting President that I wonder why he left out "...dogs and cats, living together!" "Why is it not yet plain, to everyone...?" he asks. Considering that the topic is about Andrew Natsios, the US Special Envoy to Darfur, why does "Goofyy" choose to complain so much about Bush here? (Oh. Bush appointed Natsios. Okay.)

According to "Goofyy", Bush has somehow singlehandedly destroyed our economy, our Constitution, our liberty, the international reputation of the US, and the environment; and he posits that a "responsible" legislature would have impeached him long ago because he's "been such a total disaster for our country".

Let's look at them one-by-one.

The Economy

Unemployment is at a record low. If our economy had been "destroyed" I would expect things to look a little different. A "destroyed" economy does not have employment straining at the limits of the available pool of workers. A "destroyed" economy does not require that the Fed raise interest rates to fend off inflation.

The economy of now is not far different than the economy of the Clinton years, in fact. Up until the Dot-com Bust, around mid-2000, the economy was clicking along quite well. All that is really different is how the economic news is being reported.

There are issues with American automakers, yes. American automakers who put all their bets on SUVs and did not hedge at all, leaving them with lineups of gas-guzzling road tanks while their competitors had plenty of fuel-efficient models waiting in the wings. The situation is virtually identical to the 1970s in many respects; US automakers did not worry about what might happen if the price of fuel jumped and built their business plans on gas remaining cheap approximately forever.

Besides that, the issues faced by the auto industry are exacerbated by high labor costs, courtesy of the UAW. Toyota, for example, is not hampered by unions, which is one reason it's poised to pass GM.

Liberty and the Constitution

I am still waiting to hear an explanation for this one. I don't know what laws have been passed since January of 2001 which have harmed my libery or done anything to the Constitution. I have heard vague complaints from the left side of the political spectrum insisting that the Patriot Act has trampled on civil liberty in the United States, but whenever I ask for an explanation, I get nothing but mumbles about air travel.

I don't see any examples of any political speech being limited--certainly not the speech of the anti-Bush crowd. Which President gets shot in "Death of a President", again...?

The International Reputation of the United States

Liberals didn't seem to care about this too much when Clinton had the Air Force lob a few cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan. The plant was a fair target when Clinton needed a distraction from his impeachment! They were making WMD there, so it had to be blown up, and the timing was just a coincidence. (Never mind that the plant made ibuprofen, not Zyklon-B. Had to go. Had to. Plenty of "WMD precursors" there. [DELETED rant about literal tons of actual WMD precursors found in Iraq being dismissed by media]

Liberals didn't care much about the international reputation of the US when Jimmy Carter was sitting on his hands and trying to appease the "Iranian students" into releasing our embassy personnel.

The only time they really care about the international reputation of the US is when a Republican occupies the White House.

The main thrust of this argument stems from the anti-Americanism of Europe, primarily that of Germany and France. France and Germany are unhappy with our invasion of Iraq, because Saddam Hussein was selling them oil at bargain-basement prices--contravening the UN sanctions which France and Germany had signed on to--in exchange for hard currency. Funny how no one in the media,or on the Left, lingers much on the "Oil for Food" scandal, or how rich it made many people who abused their positions.

The anti-Americanism wouldn't go away if a Democrat held the White House, not even if Bush had been impeached and removed from office. The problem is not the little letter behind the President's name (R or D) but the thirteen stripes and fifty stars. The anti-Americans just like Democrats better because Democrats don't take American security seriously.

Bush "destroyed" the international reputation of the US by responding to an attack on American soil, and by acting to ensure that no more such attacks took place here. Since then, there have been no more attacks on US soil.

Our international reputation has been "destroyed" by this? I don't care. I'll take a safe country over a well-liked one any day of the week. The international community can pull the UN out of the US if they're so damned upset.

The Environment

I'm not sure what Bush has done to "destroy" the environment. As far as I can tell, there are no new sources of pollution. One could argue that the increase in fuel prices did more to help the environment than anything; but that was not due to any policy of the Administration.

There was a flap about the revision of limits for arsenic in drinking water. The EPA was going to set a tighter limit for arsenic in drinking water, and the Bush Administration changed that. It was not a case of eliminating an existing standard; the standard was due to be tightened, and the Administration acted to retain the limit at its former level.

This is "destroying the environment".

Or, perhaps "Goofyy" was thinking of the Kyoto Protocols. The treaty which was signed by the previous Administration, which duly sent it to the Senate for ratification...where it failed by some 97 or so votes. Upon taking office in 2001, George Bush did not do anything to force the US to abide by Kyoto, which--at the time--only Belgium (seat of the European Union) had ratified. Countries which have ratified Kyoto are still unable to abide by it, and are either planning not to bother, or suffering economic distress over it.

This is also "destroying the environment". Need I say more?

* * *

As for Andrew Natsios' opinions regarding giving anti-viral drugs to Africans, there are a few points which should be considered. People who think themselves "enlightened" about the facts of HIV in Africa would do well to reaquaint themselves with the cultural and economic issues facing anyone who wishes to "solve" the problem of AIDS in Africa.

In the first place, individual Africans themselves do little to stop the spread of AIDS. Explanations regarding the disease and its transmission fall on deaf ears; giving out free condoms does nothing. The problem is one of promiscuity and ignorance coupled with an utter disregard for Western science.

Second, there are problems with diagnosis. A patient who presents with tuberculosis is automatically considered to have AIDS. There are no blood tests to determine the vailidity of that diagnosis; it is an assumption. (The same goes for several other diseases.) But you need not have AIDS nor even be HIV positive to have tuberculosis, as tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can spread via casual contact. (Unlike HIV.) The figure of "twenty-five million infected Africans" is probably vastly inflated; but there is no way to tell.

Third, even assuming that the drugs were cheap to manufacture (which they are not) and universally effective (which they are not) the people who would be taking them would have to take them to a set schedule and not miss a dose, for the rest of their lives. And, to further complicate matters, they would have to abstain from sexual relations. (See "first", above.) Too many would only take the pills when they felt like it; many would ignore the instructions of the doctor and continue having sex, thinking themselves cured of HIV, thus continuing the spread of HIV.

One of the problems with HIV is that there are many strains of the disease, and some of them are resistant to the anti-viral drugs. It's a problem similar to that of antibiotics; fail to take all of the pills and your infection may come back stronger than before. The circumstances in Africa could result in the emergence of a strain of "super-HIV" which would not respond to any treatment.

Fourth, many who are "on the ground" in Africa say that the money that some wish to spend on anti-viral drugs would be better spent on things like plumbing and other infrastructure--sewers and clean water supplies, sewage threatment plants, and the like. This would do a lot to eliminate "AIDS" in Africa, particularly since many of the diseases which carry a diagnosis of "AIDS" would be utterly eliminated with clean water and proper sewage disposal.

Finally, distributing the drugs free of charge to every African diagnosed as HIV-positive would not make HIV magically disappear from the continent of Africa. Even in industrialized nations with socialized medicine, where the drugs are essentially "free" to the end user, HIV and AIDS cases continue to rise, not decline. The only way to prevent HIV infection is not to engage in activities which expose people to the bodily fluids of infected individuals.

And, in the end, it would not save so much as one life. HIV/AIDS is a fatal disease; the antiviral drugs used to treat it only prolong life. Under perfect conditions the disease can be forced into a kind of remission, but any serious upset to those conditions can result in the resumption of the disease's progress...and the disease will be less susceptible to the drugs that the patient was using.

The problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa ultimately is not the fault or the responsibility of the United States. The United States has a history of giving humanitarian aid to any who need it, and if there is any solution to the problem of HIV/AIDS--in Africa and in the world--I don't think it will come from anywhere else...but giving away free drugs is probably not it. Certainly nothing will change until and unless the people of Africa take some responsibility for their own predicament.

I realize that it's not politically correct to tell people that their own mistakes have led them to dire situations. We must never tell someone that he made a bad decision; we must have sympathy for his plight and fix his woes!

Horseshit. If someone does something stupid, you must tell him so. Otherwise he'll do the same thing over and over again.

This assumes, of course, that he has the capacity for learning. Not everyone does.

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