The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘AIDS’

THE FISCAL CLIFF AND APPLE PIE

The negotiations on the fiscal cliff, if I may use that term to describe the posturing in government that is underway, drag on at their same slow pace as before the election.  We’ve all heard about it – and some of us have taken the time to understand its implications.  Probably just a few of us.  Perhaps the reason so few of us concern ourselves with the matter is that, as I review today’s “Trending News” on Yahoo, the subject didn’t make it into the top ten.  We have higher priorities.

Of the top five items on that list of what Yahoo viewers found important, four were concerned with “celebrities” and their activities which included one law suit; one romantic breakup; one engagement and one speeding ticket.  Rounding out the list just in time for the next $500 Million Powerball drawing was a seven time lottery winner’s advice on how to increase your chances of winning in the random game – a subject which he covers in a book which has sold thousands of copies.

Of course, none of these has anything to do with our subject – but in reviewing the list of today’s news items, there were two entries which I found that did pertain.  These were stories about whether doctors should prescribe the “morning after” pill to teen girls without parental consent and a report about the CDC’s engaging in a three year program to educate minority gay and bisexual men about AIDS prevention.  Whoever said, “Money is the root of all evil” must have lived before the time of our sexual liberation.

According to the CDC report they estimate that 1,000 “young people” whom they define as being between the ages of 13 and 24 are infected monthly with HIV.  The cost of drug therapy to control the virus is approximately $400,000 per person over their lifetime.  This report focuses strictly on people in that age group and does not address older people who are similarly infected.

Since most people in that age group don’t have the benefit of a trust fund from Grandma to pay for the drugs they will need, the taxpayers, monthly are incurring an ultimate liability of an additional $400 Million to add to the amounts we are already spending on Medicaid – which will no doubt be the provider of the drugs that they will require.

Now I don’t want to sound like one of those stodgy old conservatives who is merely concerned about his or her own welfare and that of their family.  Actually, I think of myself as a warm and caring person who generally makes decisions based on logic, tempered with compassion.  But I do become mildly rankled when I read stories like this.

At the heart of the fiscal cliff discussion is the issue of “entitlement” programs which include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  While those three are lumped together under the same heading, I believe that the only one of them which actually qualifies as an “entitlement” is Medicaid – the healthcare program for those who cannot afford treatment because of their limited financial circumstances.  The other two, Social Security and Medicaid are funded by the working taxpayer and by their employers who pay into both funds in similar amounts.  In the latter two cases if people receive benefits it is because they are entitled to do so because they paid for them.

As we know, Social Security and Medicare are nearly bankrupt.  That is because the Federal government has regularly engaged in financial chicanery and pillaged the funds which taxpayers paid into them to use them for other purposes.  One of those purposes has been to fund Medicaid – to which no one has every directly contributed a dime.

If you read through Obamacare, it is clear that health services will soon be rationed.  A panel of fifteen as yet unnamed bureaucrats (who may or may not have any medical background) will determine what services you and I are “entitled” to receive.  In the absence of any realistic, soundly based principled attempt to cut waste and fraud and the overhead costs engendered by a bureaucracy to administer these programs (and now we will be adding to that, digging ourselves yet deeper in debt) it had to come to that.

So with my empathetic view toward life I theorize that I am one of those fifteen people who will have the responsibility for determining who shall receive and who shall be deprived of health benefits and two cases come before me.  There are only enough funds to treat one of these patients.

The first is one of these young, newly-infected HIV patients.  He is in his present situation because he was uneducated or careless or unconcerned about the consequences of his liaisons.  The second is your grandmother who has worked all her life, paid her taxes and raised a family.  She got into her condition through the natural process of getting old.

I don’t mean to sound heartless but I’m sorry HIV “victim,” you’re out of here.  I made my decision based on the “greater good.”

Grandma makes a terrific apple pie.

THE DARK SIDE

When “Star Trek” was in its original incarnation, one episode told the story of a planet that was seeking admission to The United Federation of Planets.  As part of this process, the Prime Minister of the planet and his daughter were beamed aboard the USS Enterprise.

The planet seemed as though it would be a good candidate for admission.  They were a civilized people who had ended wars among themselves centuries earlier.  Murder was unheard of among the inhabitants of this distant world.  Disease had been eradicated.

But then as now, politics had evolved very little.  The Prime Minister’s real objective was not admission into the Federation, but rather that his daughter might be exposed to a virus from these star wanderers which she could then take back to her planet and infect the population which had grown far beyond its world’s ability to support.

She indeed contracted a disease and despite Dr. McCoy’s best efforts to convince her that he could cure her of it, she chose instead, on behalf of the people of her world to return and martyr herself, infecting the population so that they might through the deaths of billions regain the balance between man and nature.

This was an eerie and disturbing episode.

So what do pollution, cutting down the rain forests, children dying of starvation and all the other myriad human and ecological problems we face have in common?

The answer, whether you believe in global warming or not, is humanity.  There is no question that we have had the biggest impact on the ecology of our world of any species that has ever walked the earth.  And at the heart of the problem is the fact that we have “been fruitful and multiplied” far more than the planet can handle.   We might have fulfilled that part of the Biblical injunction, but we have certainly failed in another – “that we be good stewards of the earth.”

For a moment I’m going to delve into the murky world of conspiracy theory.  I am going to assert for purposes of discussion that a group, we’ll call them “the Illuminati” exist and that they are truly the master manipulators in our “Deus ex machina” world.  They are the puppeteers and it is our strings they are pulling.

Enter the AIDS virus.  Was this a freak of nature – or was it engineered by man with the express intent of lowering the earth’s population?  “Test it out on the gays – no one really likes them anyway,” went the conversation at one of this group’s meetings.  “After we find out if it’s effective we can introduce it to those who are really our targets – the colored races.”

If that meeting ever took place, as “illuminated” as these people are they would seem to have failed in their mission.  “Only” thirty million people have died since the infection began – which, while a staggering number, still represents a small fraction when considering a total population in excess of seven billion.

Yet the statistics from Avert – an organization dedicated to raising awareness about how to avoid and combat the disease worldwide give some credence to the theory that the targets are indeed races of color.

According to them there are, as of 2010 approximately 34 million worldwide who are living with HIV/AIDS.  Of those a staggering 22.9 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa and another 5.3 million in the rest of Africa and in Asia.  In other words, over eighty-five percent of those with HIV/AIDS are people of colored races.

Is this merely a coincidence?  Perhaps.  We could also argue that many of these people are less educated about the cause of the disease and therefore are not taking the steps necessary to prevent infection.  Or that they are poorer and do not have access to things that are available to sexually-active individuals in the more affluent parts of the world.  Both of those statements are probably true.

But if we assume this is the way AIDS came into existence, how can we support the idea of a conspiracy on the parts of the world’s most “intelligent” people when the outcome certainly did not meet their goals?

Enter short term motivation.  Even the most brilliant of us can be distracted from our ultimate goal by monetary enrichment.  And the amount of money that has been spent combatting this plague has been of Biblical proportions.  Could something as simple as plain old-fashioned “greed” explain the cause for this apparent failure?  I’ll leave that to you to decide for yourself.

Getting away from conspiracy theories and returning to mankind’s relationship with the earth,  Mother Nature may be filling in the blanks in helping us return to a relationship of harmony with her.  It’s called the Chagas Virus – a disease affecting nearly 8 million people in Central and South America.

The number of people who are infected is growing in the same exponential way as HIV/AIDS did in its early years.  It is caused by a blood-sucking parasite – and while far less lethal than AIDS is spreading in epidemic proportions.  It has been referred to as The New AIDS of the Americas.

If humanity is going to survive the journey on the road of our very short history as master of our planet, we are going to have to set aside our sense of domination and replace it with an appreciation for the world which sustains us.  Only then will we be able to emerge from the dark side and with a new vision and respect enter the light.

TWO DEAD PRIESTS

This morning after Gracie and I had completed our early morning walk I brought up my home page to see whether the world outside our neighborhood had held together for yet another night. I was pleased that it had. As my coffee was brewing downstairs I briefly glanced over the stories that Yahoo News thought was worthy of inclusion.

As I looked over the items that were listed I saw one about two priests in Colombia who had been shot to death a little more than a year ago. Apparently, they had hired the hit men who killed them because one of the two priests discovered that he had AIDS.

The article was very brief and I could hear my coffee maker beeping that it had done its job and “x’d” out of the article to enjoy the java and give Gracie her morning chicken jerky treats.

As I sat in the backyard sipping my brew I started thinking about how I might craft this story into a post for this blog. I had a few ideas but in order to develop them I wanted to re-read the story and see if there were any others out there which had fleshed out more details about it.

My thinking was that I might write about the theological basis that the Roman Catholic church has on homosexuality – and how the psychology of having to teach their flock a doctrine that undermined themselves might have played into the decisions of these two priests to hire the hit men who killed them.

I pondered talking about how these two men had decided that suicide (even assisted-suicide) which is viewed as a mortal sin, was preferable to dealing with their homosexuality.

I considered discussing how homosexuality is so counter-cultural to the Latin and Hispanic community and the difficulties that the two Hispanic gay men I know experienced in being shunned and cut off from their families.

I wasn’t quite certain where I was going to take this but I wanted to pursue it.

I was surprised that in a half hour, the story had disappeared from the Yahoo News page. Despite my best efforts to retrieve it I couldn’t find a way to do that within Yahoo. So I went to Google and typed in “Gay Colombian Priests’ Deaths.” Google did the effective job that it normally does and brought up a page of listings which directed me to the material I was seeking.

What I found in looking at the three stories really shocked me more than the subject matter and changed my direction and thinking about what I would post. If you’ve ever played that picture puzzle game where two similar, but not identical images are placed side by side – and your job is to find the differences – you will understand my reason for surprise if you visit each of the three links below which covered this story

 

http://news.yahoo.com/colombian-priests-hire-hitmen-alleged-suicide-152936007.html

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2101457/Colombian-priests-hired-hitmen-kill-themselves.html

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/colombia-priests-hitmen-suicide_n_1276289.html

Did you notice as I did that under the guise of presenting “news” three separate sources reported the exact same story – including identical verbiage! Is this reporting? What would the people who wrote these stories have done if the Copy and Paste functions didn’t exist within our world of word processing?

Yes there are some cosmetic differences between the three articles – but these pale in comparison to the similarities – like our little puzzle game. And what should concern all of us is that if we rely on un-thinking writers and un-thinking sources for our news – what is it that we are really getting?

There is no doubt that today more than ever our thoughts and ideas are molded by the media. And when all of those media are saying the same thing it is only natural that if we don’t examine our sources critically we can easily be manipulated into believing that what we read or see is the truth.

One of the early magnates in the media business, William Randolph Hearst understood the power that his newspaper empire had when he said,

“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

 

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