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Eros Rising

From out of the desert it came: a virtual world named Sin. For two millennia, the world was enthralled by the priesthoods of this demonizing world. But a new day has dawned with the reemergence of Eros, the Pagan God of Love. An eyeblink ago, when the Baby Boomers were young, the Age of Aquarius announced the dawn of this new day. But it had a little setback, as the church and its patriarchs struck back. Eros Rising is here to help freedom lovers everywhere reclaim their human rights.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Letter to Dr Sanjay Gupta on Ending AIDS

Dear Dr. Gupta:

This is a very belated letter, responding to the TV special on "Ending AIDS in our Lifetime" that you hosted a year ago. Eros Rising was on hold all of last year, while I worked on a book, so excuse me for the delay.

I remember tuning in to that special with bated breath. Because the show promised an end to AIDS in our lifetime, I assumed there had been some breakthrough on the development of an AIDS vaccine. How disappointed I was, therefore, to see that what you were hosting was a piece of fluff designed to make people feel good about their commitments to fighting AIDS. Listening carefully, I heard only one fleeting mention of the word "vaccine." There were CEOs from some major pharmaceutical corporations there, and they spoke glowingly of new treatments and initiatives to make current treatments available to poor nations at reduced prices. Then there were lots of personal testimonials from citizens who had obviously been flown in to add to this festival of hope that you were sponsoring. So what is my gripe? You offered not a scintilla of hope for ending AIDS in our lifetimes. You offered not even a hint of information as to why, two decades after this plague began, the world still does not have an AIDS vaccine. As a doctor, you must know that the only way to "end" AIDS is with a vaccine.

I invite the readers of this blog to first read your Big Pharma promotional piece (with the link above) and then a paper put together by Michael Kremer and Christopher M. Snyder, two researchers at Harvard, entitled "Why is There No AIDS Vaccine?" Young people may be forgiven for assuming that AIDS is a permanent curse on the human race. As a young journalist back in 1986, I remember reporting on the work being done at NIH to develop a vaccine, and learning that many researchers--including Dr Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the HIV virus--were optimistic that a vaccine would be developed within a reasonable time frame--perhaps within five years. Today the American media, which is largely financed by Big Pharma adverstising, doesn't even talk about the development of a vaccine. Instead they simply buy into statements such as: “the enormous genetic diversity and other unique features of the HIV envelope protein have thus far thwarted attempts to identify an effective candidate.”

The above statement comes from a recent abstract in the New England Journal of Medicine. Journalists are lax in challenging such statements, and demanding specifics. There are many intelligent people out here who could understand those specifics, if the media did their job and reported on them. All viruses mutate. What is so special about the AIDS virus that it should defy 21 years of efforts to develop a vaccine for it? Please, big Media, don't give it to us in a soundbytes: spell it out, challenge by challenge, and stumbling block by stumbling block.

I would humbly suggest that what is thwarting the development of a vaccine is exactly what Kremer and Snyder conclude in their important (but ignored) paper: It is not in the financial interest of Big Pharma to end AIDS. AIDS has turned out to be one of the industry's fatted calves. They decided long ago that it was far more profitable to treat AIDS than to end it. Six years ago, AIDS drugs were a $300 billion business. Today it would be reasonable to guess that that has mushroomed into a $1 trillion dollar business. That, Dr. Gupta, is what you should be reporting on. Shame on you for buying in so completely to Big Pharma's propogranda. Shame on you for exploiting the hope and despair of hundreds of thousands, now millions, of AIDS victims to advance the cause of the corporate virus that keeps AIDS alive. The virus has a name: it is called Greed.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Drug War and the New Prison Class

Every now and then an idea illuminates the cranium like a switched on light bulb--a metaphor discovered long ago by cartoonists. I had one a few days ago. How do we explain the huge number of people behind bars in America? Why does this society imprison and disenfranchise so many of its citizens? The easy answer is the drug war, which artificially criminalizes human behavior that through the ages has been considered normal--the desire to alter one's conciousness a bit in order to cope with the stresses of life. Up until my light bulb moment, I was attributing the drug war to two things: 1) American Puritanism, and 2) a judicial system that needs to create work for itself. Now I have a better idea: Our patriarchs have decided that there needs to be a class lower than the working class. No class of people likes being the lowest of the low. By creating a huge criminal class, the patriarchs have given the working class--which essentially "builds" everything of real value in America--a large scary group to look down upon. What a great strategy, no? It's a good morale booster and it reminds the workers that they still have a way to fall, if they step out of line. The other two reasons for the drug war--puritanism and judicial turf protection--are no doubt still factors in America's war against its own. But something so insidious must surely have a number of converging and reinforcing causes. I'd appreciate your comments on my little epiphany.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Pope Gets One Thing Right

As readers of this blog can easily deduce, I am no fan of the Catholic Church, nor any of what I call the patriarchal religions. But during his trip through Latin America this past week, Pope Benedict did get one thing right by denouncing both Capitalism and Marxism in the same breath. At this stage of history, to denounce Marxism is tantamount to whipping a dead horse. As for Capitalism, he gets his criticism partly right when he says that it has failed to bridge the “distance between rich and poor.” He gets it wrong, however, when he blames Capitalism for “giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.” While Capitalism most certainly fosters deceptive illusions all across the board, drugs and alcohol are hardly its most noteworthy manifestations. For a survey of its most insidious faults, read Benjamin R. Barber's new book, Consumed, in which he describes the capitalist process of infantilization that has been steadily degrading the nation's adulthood by keeping us forever trapped in a state of arrested development.

A more astute observer of the ideology known as Capitalism might note that not only does it fail to redress social inequality, but it doesn’t even try. In fact, Capitalism as it has emerged since the death of Communism has absolutely thrived on inequality. As the capitalist media has itself been forced to admit, all of the recent gains in American productivity have gone directly into the pockets of the rich. The harder American workers work, the less they earn as a share of their own sweat. Work hours are lengthening, as benefits evaporate like dew in the capitalist dawn of a glorious new age of Feudalism. So thanks Pope for getting things half right. Unfortunately in your earlier capacity as a Vatican policy maker, you squelched the Latin American movement known as Liberation Theology. You tried to explain that stunning bow to Latin American Feudalism by stating that “This political task is not the immediate competence of the church.” Yeah, Pope, of course it's not. Except, of course, when your American bishops tell their parishioners how to vote, as they did during the last election.

When it comes to keeping neocon patriarchs in office, the church eagerly undertakes just the opposite of Liberation Theology. Call it Subjugation Theology, in which all the sheep are scolded into minding their neofeudal bosses. What can one say about a form of spirituality that doesn’t even want to address social justice? I’ll answer that for you: it ain’t true spirituality. It’s iron-fisted Patriarchy, through and through. If you want true spirituality, dear reader, go straight to God and bypass the gatekeepers, who in the darkness of their own souls worship their own Higher Power: Mammon.