Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Those Are Some Nice New Spots You’re Wearing, Dr. Frist

That’s funny, I don’t remember Bill Frist caring about poverty and AIDs patients back when he was Senate Majority Leader:
In what is the largest issue ad campaign of the cycle so far, ONE Vote 08, an arm of Bono’s ONE Campaign, will go up with a $1.8 million political ad buy starting Thursday in Iowa, New Hampshire and on cable nationally.

The ads name each of the candidates, but doesn't target anyone specifically. The bipartisan ONE Vote 08, co-chaired by former Sens. Tom Daschle (D) and Bill Frist (R) seeks to influence the agenda of the next president.

Gee, as I remember it, Bill "you-can-catch-AIDs-from-tears-and-sweat” Frist had an opportunity to influence the agenda of the current president. And while President Bush made lots of bold promises for African AIDs relief in his 2003 SOTU, as with so many things President Bush does, the reality fell far short of the hype:

First he handed the top job of his Global AIDS Initiative to a Big Pharma boss, then he broke his $3 billion promise of AIDS relief and now there are concerns that he may sabotage a plan to send cheap drugs to countries ravaged by AIDS.

This past August, the World Trade Organization announced a new deal on drug patents that was supposed to give poor countries facing health problems the right to import generic drugs. But the deal seemed unworkable: The United States, at the behest of the pharmaceutical lobby, had successfully pushed for so many conditions that the agreement exploded from a straightforward forty-nine words to a sprawling 3,200-word maze.

Countries wanting to import cheap generics must jump through multiple hoops to prove they are truly in need, unable to afford patented drugs and incapable of producing the medicines domestically. Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that there will be a sufficient supply of drugs for them to buy, since the deal also puts up hurdles for countries wanting to export. "A 'gift' tightly bound in red tape," declared a coalition of NGOs, including Médecins Sans Frontières and Third World Network.

And don’t get me started on the Bush Administration’s ridiculous “anti-condom policy” :

(London, March 30, 2005)—U.S.-funded “abstinence-only” programs are jeopardizing Uganda’s successful fight against HIV/AIDS, Human Rights Watch said in a new report today. Abstinence-only programs deny young people information about any method of HIV prevention other than sexual abstinence until marriage.

The 80-page report, “The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda,”documents the recent removal of critical HIV/AIDS information from primary school curricula, including information about condoms, safer sex and the risks of HIV in marriage. Draft secondary-school materials state falsely that latex condoms have microscopic pores that can be permeated by HIV, and that pre-marital sex is a form of “deviance.” HIV/AIDS rallies sponsored by the U.S. government spread similar falsehoods.

The arrogance of trying to impose a fundamentalist, right-wing ideology on people who are dying! You’d think the Senate majority leader at that time would have stepped in, since he cares so much about people with AIDs. Oh, wait, I forgot, back then Frist was Bush’s water carrier; when Bush said “jump,” Frist asked “how high?” Frist and Big Pharma also go way back, so doing the pharmaceutical lobby’s bidding where global AIDs is concerned was a given.

And as for poverty, well, I’m sure we all remember how Sen. Frist sat on the sidelines while hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income Tennesseans lost their healthcare coverage (and I'd hazard a guess that a lot of those folks had AIDs!) Or what about how in the days after Hurricane Katrina, he scheduled a vote to repeal the Estate Tax, which would have been “a major blow to the nation’s charities” which rely on contributions and bequests from wealthy donors.

Yeah, those sure are some nice new spots you’re wearing, Dr. Frist. I wonder if this sudden lip service to compassion has anything to do with your desire to resurrect your political career? Maybe run for POTUS in 2012?