Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Last month Edmund Tramont, head of the AIDS research division of the National Institutes of Health, made a media splash when he put forth an opinion about the conspiratorial state of AIDS-vaccine research. The Pharma companies aren’t making much progress, he said, because they figure that the government will do it...This bit of “news” emerged on Christmas day...the story dutifully included a denial from Ken Johnson...Then Tramont went further. Speaking of a hypothetical government-created vaccine, he predicted that the drug companies would seize upon the state’s handiwork...Here Tramont is on slippery ground. If the US government did the work on an AIDS vaccine...Uncle Sam would insist on making the intellectual property widely available...profit margins would be narrow to non-existent.

James Pinkerton, Politics Makes for Bad Movies; Bad Movies Makes for Worse Politics, TechCentralStation.com

For those who missed Sixty Minutes on January 1st of the New Year, viewers were treated to a Dan and Bill show in one segment, a story of Bill Clinton's latest mission, to find funding for Chinese children infected with AIDS. It was a regular dog and pony show. We felt sympathy for the kids. We were touched that Monica's love object had become even more sensitive in retirement. No questions were asked about the the Chinese government's segregation of these children into camps. Dan, the good and earnest supplicant, asked the leading questions. Bill, the aging savant with the impossibly high bouffant, supplied the answers. "And isn't it true that the high costs of these drugs profit American companies?" Bill nodded gravely and sensitively. And pretty soon Bill was talking about intellectual property rights and the clash between profitability and doing good. The setups were so transparent that the Board of Review would have given the show an 'X' rating if ratings still meant anything. All the nasty bits were exposed, but the show went on.

It was pure, socialist cant, that if the state (or the UN) simply took the patents which drug companies had spent billions in research to acquire, then Chinese children with AIDS would be happily freed from worry and pain. At the end, Earnest Dan and Sensitive Bill nodded in agreement at the sad state of affairs that allowed something so obscene as profitability to enter into a picture of suffering. And they had a fellow traveler in Edmund Tramont, the head of the AIDS research division at the National Institutes of Health. Pinkerton notes further:
Nuances were probably lost on most of Tramont’s audience....The evil Pharma companies have joined the diabolic pantheon already inhabited by the oil companies, who are “known” to be sitting on the formula for cheap oil...But in fact, it’s difficult, bordering maybe on impossible, to whomp up formulas...to instantly solve the world’s problems.
Pinkerton is certainly right, but leftist politics for generations have precisely avoided rational discussion of real things, using the same rhetorical tricks employed by other tyrannical organizations, including the Nazis, to trick the susceptible. When Dan and Bill neatly skirted a rational view of how drugs are developed, which has something to do with why they are so expensive, cutting to the socialist profit chase instead, their ruse depended for its success on having already manipulated the viewers of their segment, setting emotional traps with pictures of desperate children and with sounds of the sensitive intonations of both the earnest reporter and the bouffantish savant. A lot of people fall for this; maybe you did too. It may, in fact, be part of human nature to fall for this, especially among children, who are defenseless against such emotional traps until more experienced peers, or teachers, teach them some strategery.

That's why those old geezers in secondary schools used to pound our heads with discussion of logic, rhetoric, and argumentation, so that their charges might acquire a limited ability to distinguish between an emotionally satisfying fiction and an intellectually chilling fact, such as "the treatment of AIDS, after tens of billions of dollars of research, is still barely possible and then only at great expense." In the name of relevancy American schools gave up such notions as teaching students how to distinguish fact from fancy, choosing instead to pursue the numbers of degrees granted to the quality of education given (democratic education?). Instead of railing against emotionally satisfying fictions, which are neither new nor likely to go away, we might instead look at the roots of why so many contemporary "educated" Americans believe in them.


1 comment:

Wonker said...

Prescient comments by Luther, for sure.

As an additional comment, the Wonk wonders how many of those "billions" headed for the pharmas are actually already channelling $s to the trial lawyers and thence to the pockets of leftist redistributionist politicians. Like the tobacco companies the Dems and the punditocracy both profess to hate, the pharmaceutical companies have also been forced to open a vein to feed the vampires on the left.

When Reagan indexed the income tax, we thought the Dem game of spending the annual, automatic increase in taxes was over. Wrong answer. The Dems simply figured out a way to ride, like lampreys, on the hulls of profitable vessels, happily denouncing them for political effect while extracting a continuous-feed blood meal.

But that's enough mixed metaphors for the day.