Puzzlin’ Evidence.

When politicians lie, it comes as something of a shock. Of course, we know that there are lying “politicians” out there, but we don’t really count them as politicians because they are our political enemies. The politicians on Our Beloved Side do not lie. Except that they do, and when they do, it raises questions about whether we should all be marching in step before the saluting-base of the Führer.
So the sensible thing for those who support our divine helmsmen is, not to mention such lies, thus protecting us from shock. (This is what is being done in the United States as Obama, the candidate of Change and Hope, trudges into the Slough of Despond to join Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.) Let’s consider two recent cases of such helpful protection.
One was the decision by the Minister of Health (following on President Zuma’s example a few days earlier) to announce, in the PR run-up to AIDS Day, that there had been a massive increase in the crude death-rate between 2007 and 2008 in South Africa. He claimed that the increase had been from 576 000 in 2007 to 763 000 in 2008, a rise of 32,5%. Immediately after this, there was a flurry of criticism of the Minister of Health. Some AIDS medical personnel circulated a petition calling on the Minister not to release such statistics because they might cause people to disbelieve other statistics. (In other words, “Amateur, your lies are unconvincing — leave it to us professionals to tell convincing lies!”.) A Sunday Times journalist charitably speculated that some numbers had got transposed.
In the real world, what does a Minister of Health do when such figures come up? Either a) lie and cover up, or b) investigate the validity of the figures and, if they are valid, try to find out what the problem is and how it can be solved. This is the Zuma administration, so b), of course, was out of the question. The unfortunate Minister of Health was particularly in a cleft stick because President Zuma had already blurted the figures out, and it is not in Zulu culture to ever admit that you have ever done anything wrong. So a) was the only way forward, at least in the short term.
That committed the Minister to bad policy; having seen his Leader smearing shit on the walls, he proceeded to wallow in the cesspool himself. To be precise, he announced that the increase in the death-rate was obviously due to the rising death toll from AIDS, which was due to Thabo Mbeki. Problem solved. Except, of course, it wasn’t.
In the real world, between 2004 and 2008 the government allegedly put 600 000 people with AIDS on antiretrovirals. Maybe that isn’t true, but it was certainly the policy and what the Minister said had to do with policy since he wasn’t checking the facts. That number was allegedly about half of the people with AIDS in the country (though the number of people with AIDS is constantly increasing in the real world, and AIDS campaigners constantly change their statistics — two sets of figures with little in common). If you put half of the AIDS patients in the country on antiretrovirals, and if antiretrovirals are effective in the fight against AIDS, then that ought to bring the death rate from AIDS down. Since it has been the policy of the AIDS industry since 2001 to claim that the AIDS death rate can be derived from the crude death rate, the AIDS death rate ought to have powerful influence on the crude death rate, and a decline in one ought to lead to a decline in the other.
Oddly enough, the crude death rate had supposedly remained almost static between 2004 and 2007, fluctuating between 500 000 and 600 000. The sudden hike in 2008 was an anomaly. But all this is the exact opposite of what anyone who takes the AIDS industry’s public relations seriously should believe. The crude death rate ought to have been declining, not remaining static and then whirling inexplicably upward.
The only way to link this directly with AIDS policy failures is to assume that the antiretroviral programme is not working (whether because the campaigners against antiretrovirals are right, or because — perhaps more plausibly — the antiretroviral programme is being shamefully mismanaged by incompetent staff, lazy managers and NGO monitors who don’t care about effective treatment). Indirectly, it could be linked with AIDS if you believe that so much money and effort is being directed towards the provision of antiretrovirals that basic health care is being undermined and many more people without AIDS are dying in consequence. Or you could believe that the whole state system is disintegrating so that children, the sick and infirm are being killed off in vast numbers through malnutrition and crime. (Not really plausible, but at least possible.)
All this could have been said, but of course was not. Instead, the journalists went along with the line that there was something mildly amiss with the stats — not anything wrong with their calculation or with the people pretending to calculate them, but with the numbers themselves.
And then the Minister of Health proceeded to say that statistics did not matter, what mattered was that people were getting treated. After which, of course, he was fired from the Cabinet the following day, and when he next appeared in his favourite haunt, the King Leopold II Cigar Lounge in Sandton, everybody threw food at him and he was forced to flee in ignominy. No, that last sentence isn’t true, alas. There was no comment at all in response to his statement, which was equivalent to “Who cares how many people dies so long as we go through the motions?”, which in turn is equivalent to Heinrich Himmler’s “If a thousand Jewish females die digging a ditch, who cares so long as the ditch gets dug?”
OK, we can agree that this is an irretrievably broken situation and move on now away from the crucial question of pretending that there is such a thing as AIDS denialism, to pretending that you are challenging global warming denialism.
To be precise, the press splashed the glorious story that South Africa was going to Copenhagen with the pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions — by 35%. Hurrah! We lead the world, just as we scored a tremendous triumph at the World Cup by holding a drunken street party in Long Street, Cape Town.
But, um, how are we supposedly going to do that? We do not have the capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while we are building a massive new sequence of coal-fired power-plants. Nor are we building an immense new public transport system, based on long-range rail to replace road haulage or light rail to replace urban transport, which could reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, monoxide and ozone by our cars, trucks and inefficient buses. In short, we are not going to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, we are going to increase our greenhouse gas emissions, quite substantially. How will that play at Copenhagen? (Copenhagen is a swindle, of course, as any sane person observing the situation would have expected, but this is not a reason to repudiate the ideals upon which the swindle is based.)
Well, the answer turns out to be simple. The press got it wrong, or lied. We are not going to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. What we are going to do, is to cut their rate of increase by 35% in ten years’ time or so — that is, the time when our current programme of coal-fired power station building comes to an end. (Assuming that we don’t come up with another programme of increasing the production of greenhouse gases in some other way.)
To be succinct, all this means that we are lied to in various fronts and fields. (Interestingly, AIDS denialism is often lumped with global warming denialism, whereas the people who oppose AIDS denialism are often global warming denialists because they love corporations so much.) What is, of course, blindingly obvious is that we are lied to. So what is also obvious is that we do not mind being lied to. Or that we don’t care.


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