Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.


Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.

Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Sesquipedalianist Exits

February 28th, 2008

Witty and word wielding, Buckley dies

But did his talents serve society, or merely selfishness?

An inspiration to insurgents – or not

An editor at the New York Times had a bit of fun today, decorating the bottom right hand corner of the front page with the following accurate headline introducing the obituary of Bill Buckley:

William F. Buckley Jr. 82, Dies; Sesquipedalian Spark of Right

p1020907ewpcbse.jpg(Click to enlarge pic) Stumped by the word ourselves, though we vaguely recalled having once looked it up, we took the paper in hand at the local French cafe, and then at the nearby Starbucks, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and asked the first fifteen presentable people who agreed that their native language was English, including one extremely presentable young woman in a red coat, named Amy, if they knew what the word meant.

Only one in fifteen people in our unscientific survey knew the answer, a lawyer who appeared to be in his fifties or early sixties. Another gentleman guessed more or less correctly in recalling some of his high school Latin, but actually he got the Latin wrong. Natasha, a lively internal medicine specialist from a nearby hospital, used her cell to look it up on Google.

buckley.jpg(Click to enlarge) Given that we confined our enquiries to people who looked as if they were Times, rather than Post or News readers, this implied that the clever fellow who concocted the apt headline can enjoy the ironic achievement that as many as 1.4 million Times readers were forced to go to the dictionary and look it up (the readership of the Times is 1.5 million, as we recall).

Those too lazy to do so immediately who read further in the piece came upon the answer at the bottom of the first inside column:

Norman Mailer may indeed have dismissed Mr. Buckley as a “second-rate intellect incapable of entertaining two serious thoughts in a row,” but he could not help admiring his stage presence.

“No other act can project simultaneous hints that he is in the act of playing Commodore of the Yacht Club, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Mitchum, Maverick, Savonarola, the nice prep school kid next door and the snows of yesteryear,” Mr. Mailer said in an interview with Harper’s Magazine in 1967.

Mr. Buckley’s vocabulary, sparkling with phrases from distant eras and described in newspaper and magazine profiles as sesquipedalian (characterized by the use of long words), became the stuff of legend. Less kind commentators preferred the adjective “pleonastic” (using more words than necessary).

And, inescapably, there was that aurora of pure mischief. In 1985, David Remnick, writing in The Washington Post, said, “He has the eyes of a child who has just displayed a horrid use for the microwave oven and the family cat.”

Actually, the word means “using words a foot and a half long”.

Anyhow when he got his copy of the Times delivered in his new abode, wherever that is, Bill Buckley must have been delighted with his final victory in his life long expansion of the vocabulary of public debate in this increasingly word-challenged society, where the spelling “loose” in place of “lose” is now almost as ubiquitous as”hopefully” in place of “it is hoped that”.

Thinker, debater, rascal

We confess we didn’t get to that definition in the article till later because the obituary, though intended to be flattering, had a strange air of staleness about it, despite the Times’ salute to Buckley’s achievements in founding National Review, hosting the highly successful Firing Line and sparking, organizing and promoting the resurgence of a core conservatism which resulted in Nixon and Reagan’s victories, and then gave America the two Bushs, not to mention four Republican mayors in a row in New York City so far.

Perhaps we are churlish because we can never apprehend exactly what it is that conservatives from Buckley to Reagan and Bush are enthusiastic about, that the rest of us can agree are universal values, rather than selfish ones. Conservative values currently seem to boil down to self preservation and personal success, with belief in God and family values seemingly in the service of self rather than others. In the last analysis, current conservative politics often seem to this observer to reduce to Me Me Me and My Money, Please Don’t Touch, however understandable this may be in libertarian terms when so much of it is misspent by the Bush administration.

So we can’t help counting this kind obituary as a record of a life of genuine promise and talent essentially unfulfilled, except on the level of entertainment and literate provocation. On the serious level Buckley’s words were used to justify a politics which hasn’t really proved out, because it is genuinely unprogressive ie lacks heart and a real understanding of what goes on the lives of most Americans who are not yet millionaires.

Since we write for a living and admire skill in words and oratory, we found Buckley as palatable as anybody else, and admired his public persona enormously as a stage presence and of course huge influence in making conservatism respectable again after a time when it was associated with bigots and extremists, of whom Buckley cleaned house. But nowadays it seems to us that once you look past the amusing style and vocabulary that endeared Buckley to liberals as well as conservatives to assess what if anything he achieved in terms of enlightened social leadership, it doesn’t seem so much, except in the realm of intellectual empire.

His support for legalizing marijuana and other drugs went nowhere, and even if you count Buckley distantly responsible for the more recent cutback of the supposedly bloated welfare system that conservatives crow about it is hardly a credit, given that those on the lower rungs of the ladder often have problems finding employment which are not their fault because they are a function of education or reeducation, which in a world where production has moved to China and the US is completing a vast shift to services and a sophisticated information economy, should be the prime focus of policy and subsidy, not removing the safety net and often wrecking the family life that conservatives profess to value so much.

So when all is said and done Buckley, however heroic a figure in intellectual debate and media theatrics, appears to us now more of dilettante mandarin and gadfly than a prime mover who made any lasting contribution to American welfare, except to the welfare of the elite who take more than their fair share of economic output in terms of productivity.

Perhaps this is because the conservatism he founded appears more and more morally bankrupt in collective terms and historically unprogressive as the decades pass and clumsy attempts to take it too far result in significant harm, as in the increasingly decadent split between rich and poor in America and now the Iraq adventure, which even Buckley quickly acknowledged was a grand error in the way it turned out.

How realistic was Bill?

In other words it seems Buckley was a witty warrior of ideas whose notions were as dangerously one sided as those of any ivory tower academic once they were put into effect in the real world and empowered on the national and world stages. Why was this? He was a sharp wit and hard worker but seemingly his Achilles Heel was the awkwardly unrealistic imagination that bedevilled his novels.

Thus rather famously his first in a series of spy novels has a scene where his hero Blackford Oakes nails the Queen.

At age 50, Mr. Buckley crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his sailboat and became a novelist. Eleven of his novels are spy tales starring Blackford Oakes, who fights for the American way and beds the Queen of England in the first book.

Others of his books included a historical novel with Elvis Presley as a significant character, another about the Nuremberg trials, a reasoned critique of anti-Semitism and journals that more than succeeded in dramatizing a life of taste and wealth — his own.

Each to his own, of course, but as far as we have looked into them Buckley’s novels are potboilers with unlikely plots written in wooden English which have little of the flair of his political debating style.

To our mind, Buckley’s societal values were similarly unrealistic, bred of a privileged background of wealthy father, prep school, and Skull and Bones, with his first book successful partly because he gave Regnery $10,000 to promote it, and National Review started with $100,000 from his father, a successful wildcatter, as well as $290,000 from other donors. The magazine has always needed subsidy from Buckley’s lecture fees, though it has now a circulation of 166,000.

His 1965 run for mayor of New York seemed to demonstrate a lack of serious purpose in his joke that if he won he would “demand a recount”, but in the generous spirit of the obituary writer Douglas Martin counts it as showing Buckley’s “spirit of fun” and says that afterwards it was seen as the beginning of the Republican Party’s inroads into working class whites.

Perhaps so. But it also seems clear that after it initially whetted his appetite for the fray Buckley was later scorched by the politics of the Nixon downfall and in the end had little personal appetite for the work of adapting his ideas to practice, so they weren’t as much tempered by experience as they might have been, though he had held minor posts in the Nixon administration, and according to R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., briefly dreamed of the Senate and the Presidency around 1970. His great liberal debating partner and friend John Kenneth Galbraith was equally impractical in a government role supporting price controls in an earlier era, which proved unworkable.

A friend remembers encountering Buckley in his early thirties at Yale and says that his style was more fluent and powerful then, and we imagine that with his winning presentation and resourceful mind he could have done a lot more to benefit America if he had been more of a true reformer in politics, rather than a preservationist and defender against excess. But perhaps all youthful visionaries slow down as they age, like even the fiery Fidel Castro, whose basic reforms of universal literacy and health care were complete three years after entering Havana in January 1959. But then Castro might have achieved much more if he hadn’t been forced to stay extreme left by the thoughtless US embargo still in place.

Whose yer Daddy? Buckley – or Ayn Rand?

The balance between government control and individual freedom is always debatable, of course, and a hard problem to solve in politics on any level, even in the home. But Reagan’s tribute to Buckley in 1985 that the Times quotes – “you didn’t just part the Red Sea – you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all to see, the naked desert that is statism (and) gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom” – is speechwriting off the leash entirely which gives us an uncomfortable sense that the laughter is partly at the expense of the underdog.

True, there is a Aristotlean mean between the waste and mismanagement of bloated government bureaucracy and regulation and the resource grabbing self-preservation of corporate and private power that calls into question how far we should take either liberalism or conservatism, and perhaps Buckley deserves credit for swinging the pendulum back towards the sensible mean.

In the 21st century, it seems to have overshot the mark once again, however, and if Barack Obama gains office and swings it back somewhat, it can only be a good thing. For the conservative movement of today as led by Bush, Washington and Wall Street looks more like power and greed versus poverty and underprivilege, than the fight against the excesses of liberal indulgence, socialism and loss of disciplined, Godly values that Buckley seems to have been fighting when he began his career. If anything their inspiration seems more like Ayn Rand than Buckley. “Atlas Shrugged”, by the way, is now counted the best selling novel of all time, according to our TV, though we suspect that this is because it is distributed free like the bible, since it is even less readable.

What’s also missing in public political life is the high level of intellectualism that marked the era in which Buckley began, on both left and right. Maybe Obama will bring some of that intelligence back into politics which otherwise might seem gone forever with Buckley’s death.

Writing in the New York Sun Tyrrell we note views Ann Coulter as now the prime thinker on the conservative side, taking the baton from Buckley. If so, the Republicans will now be at a serious disadvantage, since as far as we are concerned she is as charming as a snake.

Word power

There may be one great lesson for others in Buckley’s brilliant career, however, which is relevant here. The special talent Obama has in common with the great conservative debater is the power to wield the right words to sway people, though of course Buckley’s vocabulary was unmatchable.

For paradigm insurgents in every field they both show how powerful a weapon skillful and passionate oratory can be in changing minds, even in science.

On the other hand, if you believe that Buckley didn’t achieve that much in the end, perhaps the message to those who would use words and passion to bring down great false paradigms which have the world in their Meme-like grip is a little discouraging. Maybe you need something more.

One way or another, it brings home to us that the ultimate solution is leadership.

Obama brings a little hope

February 25th, 2008

The next President the HIV gang probably won’t vote for

Will Obama see past Samantha Power and rescue sanity in HIV/AIDS?

barackpresident.jpegWell, we admit it, for the last two months the presidential race has been far too fascinating for this blog to compete with for attention. However, watching the latest turns of one of the greatest insurgent campaigns in history, we now conclude that the outcome is inevitable, and that the next President of the United States will be Barack Obama.

Certainly Barack will be the Democratic nominee, judging from the front page obituary on Hillary’s campaign run by the New York Times today. Then there is the judgment of the betting site InTrade Prediction Markets, a source which is now recognized by John Tierney of the New York Times Science section, among others, as the best predictor of the future. InTrade odds for the Democratic nominee are currently (Feb 23) Obama 82, Clinton 15.

Oddly, InTrade doesn’t currently offer any bet on Obama winning the general election, but Clinton you can buy for 11 compared with 46 for only a month ago. No, wait – the bet is available, according to a crawl across the ad at the top: currently, Obama is at 55, and McCain 35, for the White House. For what it’s worth, we too imagine Obama thrashing McCain for reasons including Iraq, youth, change, broad appeal in bringing the country and the world together, superior fundraising and unstoppable momentum, with McCain bested even on the basis of sheer authenticity, the club with which Obama has crippled the Clinton campaign and reduced the unfortunate Hillary to the status of a deer in headlights.

Currently (Feb 23) the national polls are 48-40 for Obama against McCain. However, we admit we have no idea how much racial prejudice there is out there in the heartland, having been asked by two lads from Queens recently if our “New Yorkers for Obama” button meant that we were a “nigger lover”.

How accurate are betting site forecasts? One gauge was the Oscars tonight, where this morning No Country for Old Men was at 69 for Best Picture, and Daniel Day-Lewis was at 91 for Best Actor. Both have won.

Obama and AIDS

obama-aids-test.jpgOK, now that we know that Barack Obama will be the next US President (you heard it here first) , we wonder what difference this will make, if any, to the politics of HIV/AIDS.

For the benefit of new readers, we refer to the politics of the science of HIV/AIDS which are keeping a wingless paradigm flying high which has less justification in the scientific literature now than it had twenty years ago, which was none, when it was first launched without proof or justification by a known scientific rascal with enthusiastic White House backing for a quick solution to the gay community’s clamor for rescue from the impact of a new plague.

This is the paradigm which has gone on to become the best funded unfounded disease paradigm in history, its claims always faithfully recorded by an army of science reporters with the professional judgment of stenographers, and propagandized by the NIAID at the NIH and all other scientific and lay institutions with a censoring hostility to review that has kept it for 23 years victorious over all its critics, including the best scientist in the field.

This never proven, never justified, increasingly disproven paradigm, which provoked private guffaws from those in the know in the field when it was officially announced in 1984, has proved immune to a slew of peer reviewed scientific articles over the years rejecting it as impossible and thirty or more books explaining with crystal clarity to all and sundry how it is not only utterly inconceivable that HIV causes any illness at all in the long run, but that the notorious Virus to all intents and purposes doesn’t transmit from one heterosexual to another, so any global pandemic is utterly impossible.

So what chance is there that President Obama will hear of the critics and order some kind of independent briefing?

Will President Obama roll over the stone?

What possibility is there in the latest turn of events in the race for the White House that the new occupant, if it is indeed the strong minded, idealistic but still relatively naive Obama, will have any more intellectual or political curiosity in this arena than the illiterate George W. Bush, who is now following Rhodes scholar William Jefferson Clinton in using HIV/AIDS funding as a $30 billion paint brush to whitewash the stains from his political legacy?

Well, given the odds are that it will be Obama who will be sworn in next year, we suggest that a certain optimism is now warranted, and that it is not impossible – though still improbable – that.Anthony Fauci, Robert Gallo and John P. Moore will have to pack their bags and head for the nearest airport at some point in the next Administration.

Some reasons for optimism

Let’s list the reasons why Obama just might be open to new information on the validity of the infectious HIV/AIDS Meme of “global pandemic”.

1. Barack is a highly intelligent, literate man who can not only read books but actually write three of them, and has editorial experience to boot – at the Harvard Law Review, of which he was the first black president, as well as the training and experience in law (Harvard J.D. 1991, law firm in Chicago from 1993-2004)) that confers a sophisticated view of concealed human motives.

2. He is fully aware through experience how easily swayed the crowd can be by rhetoric and other fluent pronouncements from on high, having himself put this skill to good use on the positive side of the ledger.

3. Future President Obama, born in Honolulu, is both black and white, with roots in America (white mother) and Africa (black father from a poor village in Kenya who reached Harvard), an Indonesian childhood (age 2 to 10) in Jakarta, an elite prep school, Columbia University and Harvard education, and a name which coincidentally or not contains echoes of Iraq, Hussein (his middle name) and Osama. He seems more likely than most to perceive the possibility of misguided and racist politics distorting the claims of scientists benefiting handsomely from the promulgation of a widespread but questionable belief, especially a paradigm of disease which has so much criticism leveled against it from so many determined and respectable critics.

4. A man with early, hands on experience of street level community politics on Chicago’s South Side is more likely than a cosseted child of the privileged classes such as Bush or Hillary Clinton to be smart about the fact that scientists like anyone else are capable of playing the politics of self interest, whatever lack of bias they may profess in their field.

5. Obama’s ambition to remake established politics and its assumptions rather than accepting them and working to govern on that basis suggests he is likely to review HIV/AIDS politics if alerted by a credible source of the validity of criticism and the credibility of critics.

6. Thabo Mbeki will no doubt receive a respectful hearing from President Obama, though whether he takes him more seriously than Bill Clinton did remains a question.

7. Gays work in Obama’s campaign but the Senator is not entirely comfortable with gays, according to some gay commentary, and apparently gay rights are not included in his extensive written plan for change. According to
one report
during a Howard University debate he mentioned that the HIV test he’d had was with his wife in a manner interpreted by gays as a “frat boy moment”. If true this seems to make him less likely to go along with the widespread gay enthusiasm for their self-immolating belief system in HIV/AIDS.

Reasons for pessimism

However, there are reasons to doubt that Obama will find his way behind the curtain of HIV/AIDS unless he is successfully reached by an insurgent he can credit as knowledgeable:

1. To qualify the optimism we can sadly note that at the moment Obama is evidently as much a prisoner of standard belief in HIV/AIDS as virtually all other politicians and celebrities (the prominent exception being South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, due to leave office in a year), judging from his passing references to AIDS in his speeches. We presume he has never heard the assumption questioned, or even that it is doubted by anyone knowledgeable.

2. Obama has already exploited the standard line in HIV/AIDS politically, standing on the current paradigm to strike a leadership pose in Kenya where he took a very public HIV test, together with his wife Michelle. He then came up with support for the catastrophic notion of mandatory testing for all, sorry to say, though we calculate that this involves too great a risk of exposing their grand fallacy for the leaders of HIV/AIDS ideology to allow (it would call attention to the elephant in the room of US AIDS, which is that the prevalence of HIV in this country has remained constant at roughly one million positives in the total population for the entire duration of the epidemic).

3.Obama’s performance so far in addressing HIV/AIDS publicly seems as mentally disengaged as any other AIDS Meme-ridden leader. At the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and the Church, on World AIDS Day 2006, he gave a speech which detailed a story of one African after another dying almost immediately after diagnosis. This disconnect between anecdote and a paradigm where the “latent period” is supposedly an average ten years is so glaring that while recounting it Obama’s brain was clearly switched into neutral by the Meme:

Then one day, Leo received a phone call that her eldest brother had fallen ill. At first he told everyone it was diabetes, but later, in the hospital, admitted to the family it was AIDS. He died a few days later. His wife succumbed to the disease as well. And Leo took in their three children.

Six months later, Leo got another phone call. Her younger brother had also become sick with AIDS. She cared for him and nursed him as she did her first brother, but he soon died as well.

Leo’s pregnant sister was next. And then another brother. And then another brother.

She paid for their caskets and their funerals. She took in their children and paid for their schooling. She ran out of money, and she borrowed what she could. She ran out again, and she borrowed even more.

And still, the phone calls continued. All across her tiny village, Leo watched more siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews test positive for HIV. She saw neighbors lose their families. She saw a grandmother house sixteen orphaned grandchildren under her roof. And she saw some children go hungry because there was no one to care for them at all.

You know, AIDS is a story often told by numbers. 40 million infected with HIV. Nearly 4.5 million this year alone. 12 million orphans in Africa. 8,000 deaths and 6,000 new infections every single day. In some places, 90% of those with HIV do not know they have it. And we just learned that AIDS is set to become the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide in the coming years.

They are staggering, these numbers, and they help us understand the magnitude of this pandemic.

4. One misleading influence on Obama currently is Oprah who has shown a singular gullibility for years when it comes to all matters HIV/AIDS. Evidently she was overtaken by the Meme in the very earliest phase of its global spread. However, it seems unlikely that he will take her opinion seriously if he discovers the depth and breadth of the scientific critique.

5. A more important misleading influence is Samantha Power, who has become Obama’s foreign affairs guru and is one of the seven high level advisers on policy in his inner circle. As we have pointed out previously, Harvard professor and author Power has excellent liberal credentials based on her Pulitzer prize-winning book “A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide”, deploring the inaction of the US in past genocides and she currently is a sharp critic of UN and world inaction in dealing with Darfur. A typical entrenched Harvard/p2210364.JPGmedia guru whose fluency flows from uncritical absorption of conventional wisdom fueled by passionate liberal emotions, Power has proved as gullible as Oprah in the matter of HIV/AIDS, however, demonstrating her naivete in writing about South African politics for the New Yorker (see earlier post here). She has been part of Obama’s Brains Trust since 2005 as his tutor on foreign affairs, and recently published another book, “Chasing The Flame”, a biography of the UN official Sergio Vieira de Mello, which argues that the UN needs to be backed by the major powers to use more force in its peace keeping to separate combatants.

The banana republic of AIDS science

On these grounds it seems to us there is some reason for hope that once President Obama is installed he may support a review of the science and science politics of HIV/AIDS, with the ultimate result that it may finally be revealed publicly how the field is ruled by a lethal paradigm which is protected by political and social censorship and is unsupported by the scientific literature, indeed on the contrary, it is year by year further condemned by it.

On the other hand, there is no sign yet that Obama to date is anything but a conduit for the conventional wisdom in his policy planning on global disease, and his policy statement in October 2007, Plan to Fight HIV/AIDS, was entirely conventional in its assumptions:

Obama supports increasing U.S. contributions to the Global Fund for AIDS, malaria, and TB so that our assistance is coordinated with aid provided by other governments and private donors and so that the burden on poor countries is reduced.

Provide Access Through Trade: Barack Obama believes that people in developing countries living with HIV/AIDS should have access to safe, affordable generic drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. He will break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving drugs. Obama supports the rights of sovereign nations to access quality-assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public health needs under the WTO’s Declaration on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). He also supports the adoption of humanitarian licensing policies that ensure medications developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars are available off-patent in developing countries.

Achieve the Millennium Development Goals: As president, Barack Obama will double U.S. foreign assistance from $25 billion per year to $50 billion per year to ensure the U.S. does its share to meet the Millennium Development Goals, including halving the number of people who die of tuberculosis and/or are affected by malaria. In 2005, Obama cosponsored the International Cooperation to Meet the Millennium Development Goals Act. Barack Obama will target this new spending toward strategic goals, including helping the world’s weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth. He will also help weak states to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS as well as detect and contain outbreaks of avian influenza. Obama will dedicate as much funding to HIV/AIDS as possible – without cutting into other critical foreign assistance programs – to ensure a comprehensive fight against this global pandemic.

Any optimism that this will change assumes that Obama will reach the White House, of course, and may well be one reason why his candidacy may not get the gay support it deserves.

Whether he does or not, however, it seems possible that his success to date may inspire insurgents in other political arenas to redouble their efforts, including those trying to reform the dictatorial status quo in HIV/AIDS, which resembles nothing more than a scientific banana republic, ruled by a junta at NIAID exploiting the ignorance of the inexpert.

On the other hand, Barack Obama is a pragmatist, who might very well conclude, as some influential scientists and others have done, that some wars, however just, are not worth fighting. To quote his public statement on President Bush’s push to use force in Iraq in 2002:

“I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars,” he said. “What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

We like to imagine that Obama is one leader with the courage and motivation to grasp this nettle, however, if he is led to it.

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