The low point of the Vice-Pres debate

Factcheck.org has a good article fact-checking both sides of last night’s debate.

For me, the low point of the debate was the question about the relatively high rate of new HIV infections among American black women.

I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts.

What should the government’s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?

Both candidates were clueless, and neither one even attempted to answer the question. Of course, it’s no surprise that Cheney cannot talk credibly about AIDS among black women. But is it too much to expect that the Kerry/Edwards ticket – which will wind up with at least 90% of the black, female vote – be able to at least address the issue, especially since Edwards answered second (and thus had the whole two minutes Cheney was speaking to think about it)?

I debated quite a bit while I was in college, and like all debaters I occasionally got asked a question I knew nothing about. It’s clear from his non-answer that Edwards doesn’t have any grounding in the issue of AIDS among black women – but he should have had the grounding in the basic liberal approach to issues to be able to say something. Here’s what I was expecting Edwards to say:

In America, we’ve successfully slowed down the spread of HIV and AIDS among many populations. We know how to do that. So it’s not that we don’t know how to check the spread of AIDS in America. The problem is that cultural and institutional barriers have kept too many black women from getting the information and resources they need to protect themselves from AIDS. I don’t have a complete answer, but I know where we should start: By meeting with experts and advocates for HIV-positive black women, and letting them propose to us what needs to be done. That’s how you begin to solve problems – by squarely facing the reality, and listening to the people on the front lines of the battle against AIDS – and that’s exactly what hasn’t happened in four years of Bush and Cheney.

That’s not an especially great answer, and it doesn’t require any specialized knowledge about black women and AIDS. But it’s what I thought of when I was listening to Cheney’s non-answer. That Edwards couldn’t be bothered to say anything on the subject really stunned me.

This Guardian article may shed some light on why new infections are so high among black women:

One of the most plausible explanations is segregation. African-Americans make up 12% of the US population, 42% of all people living with Aids and more than half of all new infections. They are also least likely to have partners of different races.

“A high prevalence of infection in the pool of potential partners can spread sexually transmitted infections rapidly within the ethnic group and keep it there,” said Adaora Adimora, an infectious disease physician at the University of North Carolina.

The principal theory as to why this affects women so acutely is because of the high rates of HIV infection among gay and bisexual men, which is six times that of whites and four times that of Hispanics, according to a 2001 CDC report. However, homophobia in the black community causes many men to live on “the down-low” – meaning they have public relationships with women and secret sex with men.

A survey in Los Angeles county in 2001 found that 20% of HIV-positive African-American men said they had had sex with women in the past six months, compared with 9% of HIV-positive white men and 4% of infected Latino men.

So homophobia, bizarrely, may be an important cause of HIV infection in straight women.

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67 Responses to The low point of the Vice-Pres debate

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  2. 1
    Sheelzebub says:

    Sally covered the syphillis stats nicely, so I’ll just add that according to the CDC, the percentage of the population with the disease dropped from 4.3% in 1996 to 2.4% in 2002.

    AOK, you use anecdtotal evidence to back up your claims–I can do the same thing. My parents and my grandparents, conservatives all, were quite blunt about the fact that boys were given license to screw around, but that girls weren’t. Slut, whore, skank, tramp, etc. are not epithets thrown at sexually promiscuous men, but they are still thrown at women even perceived to be sexual. Sexually promiscuous men were not labeled with a mental illness (nymphomania) and, as you yourself admit, it was just fine for men and boys to brag about their sexual exploits. Even if these exploits were fictional, I can assure you, women and girls would not get away with such bragging–that would make them slutty.

    Your rant about feminism betrays ignorance more than anything else. I’m with Sally and Alsis here–I hardly see the point in debating the merits of feminism with you any more than I am interested in trying to get you to abadnon your faith. Again, I’m all for teaching abstience as long as it’s coupled with responsibility. Not everyone will stay abstient, and I hardly see how making sex shameful will solve the problem. If anything, it will make it worse–people will not get treatment if they get an STI (and possibly spread it) and they will not take responsibility for what they’re doing (because that would make them dirty and shameful, better to be carried away in the moment).

    Current studies show that abstinence education does not work–and it’s not all due to peer pressure. Many of the abstinence pledge adherents were supposed to experience positive peer pressure to stay celibate. However, they did not stay celibate, and experienced the same rate of STI’s as their counterparts who did not take such a pledge.

    The idea that sex education and safer-sex education encourages promiscuity has been proven false. Either the rates of sexual activity don’t change, or they drop. World Health Organization studies have shown this, AGI studies have shown this.

    In fact other studies show that the rates of sexual activity and teen pregnancy drop when teens are taught about abstience and sexual responsibility. Teens who learn about ways to protect themselves are less likely to have sex, and more likely to be careful.

    Contrary to your assertions, no one has pushed condoms or safer sex as a foolproof way to avoid STI’s. In fact, it’s quite the opposite–hence the term “safer sex” as opposed to “safe sex”. Any safer-sex educator will tell you that no sexual contact is the best protection against STD/STI’s. They will also tell you that if you’re going to have sex anyway (and they will class oral and anal sex, and mutual masturbation as sex acts) to use protection.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that saying you’re “in it for the chicks” on your website is rather hypocritical when you’re spouting off about morality and Christian values, and professing concern for your daughters. Doctor, heal thyself, and all that.

  3. 2
    Sally says:

    The evidence you ask for is partially present in this one simple statement, albeit circumstantial.

    That’s only true if you selectively read the quote. You’re assuming that the high rate of syphilis only existed during WWII, but that’s just the statistic that the authors gave to back up a more general trend. They clearly say “during the first half of this century,” not “during the Second World War.” And the authors attribute the decline of syphilis among the non-marginal population to a particular cause: “the effectiveness of penicillin and other antimicrobials” in combatting it. (Penicillin, the first effective treatment for syphilis, became available to the general public right after World War II. After that, people who had access to medical care could be treated before they spread the disease.) Maybe you’re right and the scientists who study the epidemiology of syphilis are wrong about what caused the decline. But honestly, the penicillin argument makes a lot more sense to me.

    Anyway, I’m done. I have better things to do with my time.

  4. 3
    Aok4way says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen (generous of me, no?),

    Enjoy the debate :-)

  5. 4
    jam says:

    Aok4way said: Slavery and Jim Crow, indentured servitude, child labor, witch hunts, and juvenile military conscription were abolished.

    they may have been abolished (i.e., made technically illegal) but that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. in fact, many of the items on this list are still very much with us all.

    Blacks were given suffrage.
    “given” … heh, that’s great.

    All this, I might point out, before the advent of the feminist movement in its present incarnation and therefore, without its help.

    “in its present incarnation” huh? nice little clause ya stuck in there. but, sure, i’ll concede this point. people who were born & lived in the past few decades didn’t have anything to do with events prior to their existence on this planet. good one. incisive point.

    In the post-advent era, we do see an increase in the incidence of “…divorce, promiscuity, and many other forms of social degradation.” Interestingly enough, no one has disputed that!
    maybe that’s because some of us don’t see things like divorce & “promiscuity” as signs of “degradation”.

    At the same time (with the exception of gaining suffrage for women), the feminist movement has made absolutely no… well, no movement toward ameliorating the remaining social ills on the list – no progress at all. The vast majority continue to grow in prevalence.
    & the remaining social ills on your list are what…? do you mean Sheelzebub’s earlier list (the one that enumerated the delights of living in patriarchal Christian civilizations) or your list? if it’s your list, you’ll have to be a wee more explicit as “many other forms” is more than a little vague. i’m glad, however, to see that you think that women’s suffrage was a worthwhile thing. it’s unfortunate that you remain ignorant of the many other accomplishments of the feminist movement (tho perhaps these would fall under your “many other forms of social degradation,” eh?).

    btw, in response to alsis38 you popped out with this witticism: It doesn’t surprise me to learn that the Taliban has your phone number, sis! Like them, you not only refuse to tolerate dissenting opinions, you insult and label as “misogynist” anyone who holds such opinions.

    but then you tell Jimmy Ho: The taliban hates anything and anyone that is not in strict comlpiance with their philosophy and dictates. They simply name such people infidels, rather than misogynists.

    so, which is it?

    & lastly: “in it for the chicks” … is this the profound love of women you were mentioning to Sally earlier?

  6. 5
    Aok4way says:

    Jimmy Ho:

    The taliban hates anything and anyone that is not in strict comlpiance with their philosophy and dictates. They simply name such people infidels, rather than misogynists.

  7. 6
    Aok4way says:

    jam:

    Please note that early on in this discussion, I stated that society was moving in the right direction. Slavery and Jim Crow, indentured servitude, child labor, witch hunts, and juvenile military conscription were abolished. Blacks were given suffrage. All this, I might point out, before the advent of the feminist movement in its present incarnation and therefore, without its help.

    In the post-advent era, we do see an increase in the incidence of “…divorce, promiscuity, and many other forms of social degradation.” Interestingly enough, no one has disputed that! At the same time (with the exception of gaining suffrage for women), the feminist movement has made absolutely no… well, no movement toward ameliorating the remaining social ills on the list – no progress at all. The vast majority continue to grow in prevalence.

    Well touch me in the morning, then just walk away! Moving in the right direction before, in the wrong direction now. Think I’ll go with the right direction.

  8. 7
    Aok4way says:

    Sally:

    Thank you for your response. I would simply point out that the very publication you cited asserts that while syphillis endemically affected as many as 5% of World War II military recruits, it became “a relatively rare sexually transmitted disease (STD) persisting mostly at the margins of U.S. society.”

    The evidence you ask for is partially present in this one simple statement, albeit circumstantial.

    1) The cite refers to syphillis as a “massively endemic” STD that afflicted WWII recruits. This is indicative of the fact that removal from society and insertion into a novel situation devoid of the social norms which had provided a restraining influence on the behavior of these men within their subculture resulted in aberrational behavior. Notice that the descriptor is endemic (within a group), not epidemic (across all groups). Even in the presence of this endemic aberration, STDs (syphillis in this case) never reached epidemic status in our society. This supports my assertion that novel phenomena and situations can contribute to aberrational behavior. In all honesty, I thought I had stated the obvious in this regard.

    2) Having seen an end to the war, the cite asserts that syphillis was transformed from the former, endemic scourge into a “relatively rare sexually transmitted disease (STD) persisting mostly at the margins of U.S. society.” Let’s restate that… People who engaged in such behavior were socially marginalized. Those who rejected the social norms of the day were socially marginalized. Those in the mainstream successfully avoided affliction by STDs, while transmission persisted among those who rejected the norms of the day.

    Assuming you have a social conscience, it is absolutely imperative that you do your best to convert me and all those who think like me if you believe your cause is in the right. We may annoy many who think like you, but we do so in the belief that life has better to offer than the philosophy you espouse. Men (and many women) who are like-minded to myself do not hate women. We love women, we love you, and so we do our best to share our beliefs with you. And believe it or not, many of us are open minded. My initial entry in this forum, and every entry since, has been nothing short of an invitation to convince me, to show me the error of my ways. To this point, that hasn’t happened; but if after years of debating this issue I haven’t given up all hope of that happening, I’m not likely to do so today.

  9. 8
    Jimmy Ho says:

    You’re right, Amy (I mean, “sis”), what with the First Amendment and all that!

  10. 9
    alsis38 says:

    Oh, Jimmy !! Tsk. Must you be so INTOLERANT ?! :p

  11. 10
    Jimmy Ho says:

    Aok4way, the Taliban hate secular humanism and feminism, too.
    And they wouldn’t particularly mind to be labelled as “misogynists”.

    You say on your site that you’re “in it for the chicks”. Nice try.

  12. 11
    alsis38 says:

    Yawn.

    Aok, the Taliban called. They want their script back.

  13. 12
    Aok4way says:

    It doesn’t surprise me to learn that the Taliban has your phone number, sis! Like them, you not only refuse to tolerate dissenting opinions, you insult and label as “misogynist” anyone who holds such opinions. You’re very much in their league!

  14. 13
    jam says:

    let’s see… earlier in good Christian history we had, as noted by Sheelzebub: slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, legalized marital rape, child labor, indentured servitude, witch-hunts and the murder of innocent women falsely accused of witchcraft, Crusades/holy wars that left the bodies of child conscripts in their wake, the refusal to grant women or Blacks sufferage, domestic violence, gender and racial discrimination, censorship (yes, censorship), and shame that led to silence about child abuse, molestation, rape, and domestic violence.

    damn! not a nice place to be, no?

    & then we have the feminist apocalypse of “increase in the incidence of divorce, promiscuity, and many other forms of social degradation” (“many other forms”?) noted by Aok4way…

    hmmm… y’know, i think i’ll take the feminist apocalypse!
    over easy, please…. light on the mustard.

  15. 14
    Aok4way says:

    alsis38:

    You? A feminist? Gasp!

    “Furthermore, the yoking of sex to marriage would leave those of us who have no interest in marrying pretty much SOL in your world. Which is why I’d prefer not to live in your world, Thank You.”

    – Thank you alsis, and congratulations! You have, quite masterfully I might add, found the one and only point that we’re likely to agree on: I would rather that you not be in my world as well!

    I couldn’t have made my point more eloquently than you did in the above excerpt. Your gratification takes precedence over the best interests of society as a whole. On an individual basis, that’s secular humanism in all it’s repulsiveness. On a group level, feminism does the same thing.

    Naturally, the causes for social degradation are many, but that doesn’t change the fact that feminism has been a contributor. It certainly hasn’t been part of the solution, as is evidenced by the unhappy, miserable, fault-finding character of most feminist forums I’ve stumbled on to. If it were, one would expect to find a much happier lot.

    With the advent of feminism came an increase in the incidence of divorce, promiscuity, and many other forms of social degradation. *Note that I didn’t try to establish a causal relationship; I’m simply pointing out the all of the above coincided in their ascensions, which is a strong indication, in my opinion, that some causal relationship exists.

    Your assessment of my character and whether or not you feel compelled to respect me is of absolutely no importance to me. I can live without it, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person to have made that discovery in short order.

    Hasta la rasta, sis.

  16. 15
    alsis38 says:

    Aok, my job is not to educate you about what feminism is. You clearly have little use for it and less understanding of it, as evidenced by your –dare I say it– vacuous interpretation of what it has or has not done. You attempt to blame feminism for an alleged deterioration of male/female relations and by extentions –given the topic– the growth of AIDS. I don’t feel compelled to give you any respect, as you make clear in such a statement that you have no respect for feminists. I happen to be one.

    IOW, you have all the hallmarks of being a misogynist and a troll. I have at least as much proof of this as you do for your anti-feminist statement. I have little use for misogynists and/or trolls, and find attempts at winning arguments with them to be worse than pointless.

    However, I have no objections to parents educating their children about sexual mores, nor do I have any objection to parents home-schooling their children if they object to how sexual mores are or are not taught in schools. I don’t believe that sex ed should be either the exclusive province of schools, religious institutions, OR parents. I don’t think that exclusive reliance on a single source is helpful. Yeah, society as embodied by these institutions feeds us all a great deal of conflicting and contradictory information. But the solution for this is not bashing feminists nor is it trying to turn back the clock to some idyllic time that never existed except in the minds of the hypocritical Right-Wing pundits that obviously form the source of much of your thinking[sic]. Furthermore, the yoking of sex to marriage would leave those of us who have no interest in marrying pretty much SOL in your world. Which is why I’d prefer not to live in your world, Thank You.

    There you are, Aok. Now that you’ve “won,” go in peace. Or not.

  17. 16
    Aok4way says:

    alsis38: The quality of your response indicates the quality of thought you put into it. Are all your arguments so vacuous, or are you simply avoiding a debate which you’re incapable of winning?

  18. 17
    Sally says:

    Well, the history of syphilis isn’t my area of expertise, but I do work on the early 20th century, and it comes up a fair amount. Here’s what an article in the journal Science has to say about the history of syphilis epidemiology:

    “In the first half of this century, late-stage syphilis was a significant cause of cardiovascular disease and the major cause of insanity and blindness in the United States (2). The effectiveness of penicillin and other antimicrobials blunted the impact of late-stage syphilis and helped transform syphilis from a massively endemic disease afflicting as many as 5% of World War II military recruits to a relatively rare sexually transmitted disease (STD) persisting mostly at the margins of U.S. society.”

    The cite is: Science, Vol 281, Issue 5375, 353-354 , 17 July 1998

    You said:

    “In many instances, such aberrations can be explained by circumstances or phenomena novel to a particular time and place.”

    and I’d like to see your evidence for that. It sounds to me that you’ve decided that a certain state of affairs (promiscuity being shameful and the rate of STDs being low) has been the norm in the United States until recently and that everything else can be dismissed as an “aberration.” I think that’s at best extremely simplistic. There are very few sweeping generalizations about the history of American sexual mores that I’d be willing to make, except that before the era of effective birth control, promiscuity in women was generally not condoned. Attitudes towards male promiscuity have varied vastly, and I think it would be difficult to determine what is aberrant and what is the norm.


    BTW, when you DO rule the world, what will YOU do about the spread of AIDS among black women?

    I have some ideas, but I’m kind of siding with Alsis on this one. I’m not going to convince you that feminism has vastly changed the world for the better; you’re not going to convert me to Christain conservatism; and I’m not sure it’s worth the time or effort.

  19. 18
    Aok4way says:

    Sally:

    I haven’t advocated for the adoption of a state religion, as I don’t think that would inspire anything but further rebellion. What I’m proposing is the reintroduction of spiritually inspired principles as guides to positive, healthy behavior.

    While I don’t doubt the veracity of your historical statements, I would encourage you to cite specific examples of the STD epidemics you mentioned. In many instances, such aberrations can be explained by circumstances or phenomena novel to a particular time and place.

    BTW, when you DO rule the world, what will YOU do about the spread of AIDS among black women?

  20. 19
    alsis38 says:

    False feminist doctrine that’s done catastrophic damage to the ability of men and women to relate to and cooperate with each other.

    [snicker] Thanks, Aok. I am now convinced that nothing else you could possibly say is worth taking seriously.

  21. 20
    Aok4way says:

    Sheelzebub, you’ve missed the point again.

    “Actually, syphillis used to be the disease that everyone was afraid of. Before penicillan, it could and did kill its victims. We only had a small window of non-lethal sex available to us. And STD’s have been around and have been a problem for a millenia–even during the times of Christian morality. It was hardly new to see STD’s after the so-called sexual reveloution.”

    – Of course STDs have been around forever. What hasn’t been seen until recent decades is STDs being so widely and rapidly transmitted the they have taken on epidemic proportions, the result of the removal of the restraining influence spiritually based morals provided. In days past, the problem was confined to a miniscule minority of people who rejected the social norms, which protected the vast majority of society from such diseases. The reintroduction of these principles would not eradicate STDs, but it would reduce the number of new cases so dramatically that the issue would be a non-starter for society as a whole.

    “Girls were, and are. Boys really aren’t, and weren’t–social norms in action. The sexual double-standard has been alive and well for millenia, and that includes the times of so-called Christian morality, which embraces the sexual double-standard with an aclarity that’s chilling.”

    – I disagree. Girls were, and are not. I know… believe me, I know. I’m the father of a 7th grader and an 8th grader, both girls, attending school in East Chicago. Boys were, and are not. As an elementary school student, I distinctly remember the general consensus among my male peers at the time – sexual promiscuity was cause for castigation. Of course, we joked about such things, even engaged in false braggadocio about fictitious encounters with girls. At the heart of it though, a boy who had sex with a girl was thought to have taken advantage of the girl, destroyed her virtue as well as his, and made himself undesirable socially. He did something dirty, and we didn’t want to be associated with him or his actions. This difference of perspective may be the result of an age difference. If so, I think it eloquently illustrates the insidious, gradual propagation of the new norm. Kids attending school today can’t conceive of a time when things were any different, and even many adults fail to perceive the paradigm shift due to the slow but inexorable nature of its advance.

    “…yesterday’s norms encouraged male promiscuity and entitlement while pillorying females for being sexual.”

    – False feminist doctrine that’s done catastrophic damage to the ability of men and women to relate to and cooperate with each other. It views men and women as entities naturally opposing each other, when in truth, men and women are designed to compliment each other.The “sexual double standard” you describe is a myth, probably perpetrated by a man trying to instill feelings of inferiority in a woman, an effort to incite sufficient rebellion in to make her accessible to him for sexual predation. At the very least, you are in error when you say that yesterday’s norms encouraged male promiscuity. Maybe a bit more time has passed since “yesterday” for me.

    “Look, I’m all for teaching abstinence, although I take a dim view of promoting it as the one and only solution. Kids think that having oral and anal sex, but not penis-vagina sex, is being abstinent.

    – You may take a dim view of such a position, but can you suggest a more viable alternative? I take a dim view of kids being so undereducated that they could even believe oral or anal intercourse isn’t a sexual act!

    “And kids who take abstinence pledges (which are tied up with moralistic codes) are just as likely to have sex as other kids, but less likely to use any form of protection. Taking responsibility would mean that they wanted to have sex, which is immoral. So they’ll just not plan for it, and let it just “happen”.”

    – Kids are motivated in great measure by peer pressure, and simply taking a pledge of abstinence may indicate nothing more than peer pressure to do so coming from another (ie church) group. Even in cases in which a child takes such an oath, his or her ability to honor that vow is severely impeded by peer pressure. This would not be the case if social norms dictated, as they once did, that sexual activity be restricted to the framework of marriage. The peer pressure would have its impetus and momentum oriented in the opposite direction.

    Any approach beyond abstinence requires the teaching of techniques which, when applied to sexual intercourse, REDUCE the risk of contracting an STD rather than eliminating it. Equally important, doing so implies to kids that sex between children, although not overtly encouraged, is a tolerable practice as long as its done “safely”. I think it’s time that we stopped abdicating our responsibility as parents, waiting instead for kids to “take responsibility”. We’re the adults. We’re responsible for our childrens’ behavior and safety, and if we know of a fail-proof way to ensure that safety, it’s OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS PARENTS (for emphasis only, not shouting) to employ that method. Christian morality is such a method – the only such method I know of. The real question is whether it’s more prudent to reintroduce such a morality, or to continue to search for a “better way” while millions die and millions more are infected anew.

  22. 21
    Sally says:

    When I rule the world, which hopefully will come to pass any day now, there will be a moritorium on anyone generalizing about 200 years of American history based on his or her personal experience. Since I’ve spent years immersing myself in the complexity of the American past, it makes my head hurt. This kind of generalization will be a criminal offense, punishable by being required to read my friend’s entire exam list on the history of gender, sexuality and the family in the U.S. After that, the offender will be released and we can talk.

  23. 22
    Sheelzebub says:

    I remember the near epidemic level outbreaks of syphillis and gonorrhea that followed in many communities in our country. I remember when genital herpes took center stage – the gift that keeps on giving. And I remember reading several articles on a mysterious new syndrome that was called “gay cancer” at the time.

    Actually, syphillis used to be the disease that everyone was afraid of. Before penicillan, it could and did kill its victims. We only had a small window of non-lethal sex available to us. And STD’s have been around and have been a problem for a millenia–even during the times of Christian morality. It was hardly new to see STD’s after the so-called sexual reveloution.

    When I was a young boy, children who engaged in sexual activity were looked down on and castigated – social norms in action.

    Girls were, and are. Boys really aren’t, and weren’t–social norms in action. The sexual double-standard has been alive and well for millenia, and that includes the times of so-called Christian morality, which embraces the sexual double-standard with an aclarity that’s chilling.

    Today’s social norms encourage promiscuity and many other dangerous behaviors.

    And yesterday’s norms encouraged male promiscuity and entitlement while pillorying females for being sexual.

    Look, I’m all for teaching abstinence, although I take a dim view of promoting it as the one and only solution. Kids think that having oral and anal sex, but not penis-vagina sex, is being abstinent. And kids who take abstinence pledges (which are tied up with moralistic codes) are just as likely to have sex as other kids, but less likely to use any form of protection. Taking responsibility would mean that they wanted to have sex, which is immoral. So they’ll just not plan for it, and let it just “happen”.

    We don’t have a solution because as a society, we have rejected fundamental moral and spititual principles that were successful in preventing such disasters, and no other approach will do. Nothing was broke, but we fixed it anyway. As secular humanism and moral relativism insinuated themselves into our collective mindset and culture, the rights and feelings of individuals and groups became sacrosanct while precepts which had successfully steered society in the right direction for almost (at the time) 200 years were discarded. We changed the framework of society to accomodate and avoid giving offense to those whose life choices were contradictory to current social norms – the very norms that had, to that point, maintained a healthy, forward moving society quite successfully.

    Those norms included slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, legalized marital rape, child labor, indentured servitude, witch-hunts and the murder of innocent women falsely accused of witchcraft, Crusades/holy wars that left the bodies of child conscripts in their wake, the refusal to grant women or Blacks sufferage, domestic violence, gender and racial discrimination, censorship (yes, censorship), and shame that led to silence about child abuse, molestation, rape, and domestic violence.

    Sorry, but I’m just not convinced that Christian morality is the way to go–as far as I can tell, it’s been the cause of a lot of problems.

  24. 23
    Don P says:

    ampersand:

    The problem, Don, is that what you’re repeating over and over again isn’t an argument (putting part of it in bold doesn’t make it an argument). You repeat, many times, that it’s not a big enough issue to be included in a national debate. But merely because you say so, doesn’t make it so.

    I repeat it because you keep repeating the false claim that it’s an important issue. As I have explained ad nauseum, it may be important in some absolute sense, just like many other narrow issues, but it is not, not, not important in comparison to many other problems that Ifill chose to ignore. By any reasonable measure of importance to Americans and to the national interest, AIDS in black women simply ranks far, far below many other issues, including many other health issues.

    You never explain what the threshold between a big enough issue and a too-small issue is. You never explain your standards are, or why those standards are justified. You never give any warrents to support your argument. You never explain why our suggested standards are wrong.

    The standards for measuring the importance of a problem are things like the number of people the problem affects, the magnitude of the harm it causes, the likely future effects of the problem, and the ability of government or other actors to resolve it. Again, by any reasonable measure of these quantities, AIDS in black women is far less important than many other problems. It’s not even the most important aspect of the problem of AIDS. It’s not even the most important aspect of the problem of AIDS in America. It’s not even the most important health problem affecting black Americans. It’s just not on the radar screen of important issues.

    You’ve also ignored the idea – suggested by many people here – that when selecting among candidates, seeing how they react to an unexpected but legitimate question is potentially useful.

    There are many “unexpected” questions on issues far more important than AIDS in black women that Ifill could have asked and that would have better served the interests of the debate audience. An “unexpected” question on AIDS in Africa, for example. Or Iraq, or unemployment, or taxes, or terrorism, or abortion, or whatever. The list is endless. You just don’t seem to understand that if Americans or public policy experts were asked to rank problems and issues in order of importance and relevance to the national interest, AIDS in black women would be way down on the list. It most likely wouldn’t even make the top 100, let alone be important enough to warrant being singled out in a VP debate.

    however, I somehow doubt that if some wealthy old white dude asked a question about the estate tax, you would be objecting to that as passionately as you’re objecting to asking about black women with AIDS.

    If you had defended the inclusion of that question as passionately as you are defending the inclusion of the equally unwarranted question we are discussing here, I certainly would have. I didn’t bring up Ifill’s choice to ask her question; you did. I am simply responding to your claim that it was an appropriate question for her to ask, and to what I consider your unjustified criticism of the candidates for failing to address it. As you have observed yourself, you seem to be pretty much the only blogger who is making that criticism.

    More importantly, if that did happen and Edwards and Cheney both ducked the question entirely, I think there’d be a lot more criticism of it.

    And I think you’re completely wrong about that, too. If the candidates had been asked a narrow question about some specific tax code provision that affects only a small number of wealthy people, I think they would have done exactly the same thing they did here: ignored the specific question and used it as an opportunity to talk about the larger issue. Edwards would most likely have used the question as an opportunity to criticize the Bush administration’s shifting of the overall tax burden to middle-class Americans, and to promote his and Kerry’s own tax reform proposals. It is unlikely that either he or Cheney would have wasted time on an obscure tax question that was of little interest or relevance to the vast majority of Americans.

  25. 24
    Aok4way says:

    Hi ampersand.

    With all due respect, I’m right in more than one way, and you’re wrong in at least one way. You’ve misrepresented my argument and implied that I propose turning “…every person on earth… into a chaste monk/nun overnight.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that, and I know I don’t believe that would result from reinserting the Ten Commandments in some form into school curriculum or daily classroom routine. It didn’t happen during the almost 200 years prior to their removal from a place of influence in society, and it won’t happen now. It doesnt need to, and the implication that the teaching of morality can succeed only if it results in the conversion of every human on earth into “chaste monk[s]/nun[s] is terribly defeatist in nature! The Ten Commandments influenced social norms sufficiently without perfect compliance. When I was a young boy, children who engaged in sexual activity were looked down on and castigated – social norms in action. The new norm has reversed that. Children who have NOT had sex are now the ones who are castigated and made fun of. How many kids do you think have had sex simply to escape harrassment by their peers? Today’s social norms encourage promiscuity and many other dangerous behaviors.

    In this case, the norms governing sexual behavior are in play, but the precepts contained in the Ten Commandments could be applied to any social ill successfully.

    You see, as I get older, it becomes more and more clear to me that when examining the social ills of the day and searching for their remedies, history can teach us much more than today’s social theorists. Society is, in fact, an experiment initiated by an earlier generation of theorists that has, as it was destined to do, gone awry.

    I remember when school kids were incapable of conceiving plots to murder their classmates. I remember when kids would have been ashamed should it have been discovered that they had engaged in promiscuous sexual activity. I was one of those kids. I also remember that the Ten Commandments were taught as a basis for morality as well as good citizenship.

    I remember the sexual revolution, free love, do as thou wilt (the key precept in Satanism, incidentally – “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”). I remember the near epidemic level outbreaks of syphillis and gonorrhea that followed in many communities in our country. I remember when genital herpes took center stage – the gift that keeps on giving. And I remember reading several articles on a mysterious new syndrome that was called “gay cancer” at the time.

    Of course, “gay cancer” is now known as HIV/AIDS, and we still don’t have a solution to the problem. We don’t have a solution because as a society, we have rejected fundamental moral and spititual principles that were successful in preventing such disasters, and no other approach will do. Nothing was broke, but we fixed it anyway. As secular humanism and moral relativism insinuated themselves into our collective mindset and culture, the rights and feelings of individuals and groups became sacrosanct while precepts which had successfully steered society in the right direction for almost (at the time) 200 years were discarded. We changed the framework of society to accomodate and avoid giving offense to those whose life choices were contradictory to current social norms – the very norms that had, to that point, maintained a healthy, forward moving society quite successfully.

    Regarding the “global test” question, the question itself proves the ambiguity of Kerry’s statement – it is open to interpretation, isn’t it? My interpretation is that Kerry would present our case for pre-emptive action to the world body via the United Nations, and the world body would judge whether the situation warranted such action. My question is this: What’s so different between that and what Bush did prior to deploying troops to Iraq? The difference is that Bush would not allow the world body to decide what course of action our country would take in the face of a perceived threat, while Kerry implies that he would. Remember, many U.N. member states are enemies of the United States, and will cast votes accordingly every time. The United Nations is, in fact, an entity which is hostile to the U.S. overall. It aspires to become the supreme authority on the world stage, and perceives the United States to be an obstacle to the realization of that ambition. A would-be president who would kowtow to such an entity is either unforgivably naive or motivated by something other than a desire to ensure our safety, either of which provide good enough reasons to rethink a pro-Kerry stance.

  26. 25
    Sally says:

    I honestly believe that if children were once again taught the importance of the Ten Commandments as a guide to living in our schools, we would see an end to the epidemic nature of the disease in a generation.

    The problem with that argument is that in the past, STDs have been epidemic in places where Christianity was the state religion and religious instruction was manditory in state schools. I read that in 1918, 1 in 22 Americans had been exposed to syphilis, and that was a time when there was Christian prayer in almost all American public schools. Two of my grandmother’s great-uncles died of syphilis (and it was an ugly way to die), and they lived their entire lives in a country where Catholicism was the state religion. AIDS is new; lethal STDs are not. And it’s a myth that people were universally chaste in societies with established religions.

  27. 26
    Sheelzebub says:

    Well, in one sense you’re right – if every person on earth turned into a chaste monk/nun overnight, the AIDS crisis would come to an end fairly quickly.

    Heh. “Chaste” being the operative word. One of my old coworkers was the cook at a monastary near here (yes, there is one here, believe it or not). After talking to him about his old workplace, I was disabused of the notion that the monks spent their evenings in quiet prayer and reflection.

  28. 27
    Aok4way says:

    I’ve seen well presented arguments with valid points being made on all sides. I think what we need to do as a society is to examine the root cause of the spread of AIDS/HIV. If we’re honest, it won’t take us long to see that what perpetuates the AIDS epidemic among any group of people is behavior. The restraining influence that a morality based on spiritual principles exerted on the behavior of individuals and society as a whole has been replaced by the “Do as thou wilt” paradigm of moral relativism.

    I honestly believe that if children were once again taught the importance of the Ten Commandments as a guide to living in our schools, we would see an end to the epidemic nature of the disease in a generation.

    BTW, the “global test” talking point referred to wasn’t taken out of context at all. To paraphrase as accurately as I can, Kerry stated that in matters of the pre-emptive use of force, we must go about it the “right way”, part of which is to pass the “global test”.

  29. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Aok4way:

    Well, in one sense you’re right – if every person on earth turned into a chaste monk/nun overnight, the AIDS crisis would come to an end fairly quickly. However, since that won’t happen, I think it’s important to look beyond the individual to cultural or structural factors that may be making some folks more likely to contract HIV.

    To determine if you’re taking “global test” out of context, we need more information than you’ve so far given us. Specifically, what do you think “global test,” in the context Kerry used the phrase, means?

  30. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Don: AIDS amoung black women is not an important issue compared the Iraq, terrorism, the economy, etc. I don’t know how many times I have to keep saying it.

    The problem, Don, is that what you’re repeating over and over again isn’t an argument (putting part of it in bold doesn’t make it an argument). You repeat, many times, that it’s not a big enough issue to be included in a national debate. But merely because you say so, doesn’t make it so.

    I understand you don’t think “black women with AIDS” is an important enough issue to merit inclusion in a VP debate. I understand that it falls below some mysterious, undescribed, unsupported threshold that you percieve but cannot explain.

    What I don’t understand is if there’s a shred of logic other than “because I say so again and again” supporting these conclusions of yours.

    You never explain what the threshold between a big enough issue and a too-small issue is. You never explain your standards are, or why those standards are justified. You never give any warrents to support your argument. You never explain why our suggested standards are wrong.

    You just repeat your conclusion over and over again, and then you express surprise that no one finds you convincing.

    Where you do provide any logic, it’s dubious. For instance, you state – correctly, I think – that “AIDS amoung black women is not an important issue compared the Iraq, terrorism, the economy, etc.” I think you could make a good case for that, since Iraq, terrorism, and the economy are the three major issues of this election. However, asking about AIDS among black women doesn’t mean not asking about those three things, so there’s no reason not to have it both ways.

    You’ve also ignored the idea – suggested by many people here – that when selecting among candidates, seeing how they react to an unexpected but legitimate question is potentially useful. People have given many reasons why this might be so (for instance, some voters might legitimately prefer a candidate who demonstrates that he can think well on his feet, rather than just demonstrating how well he recites). You haven’t given a single logical reason why this argument is incorrect.

    If the old white dudes were to focus on some narrow aspect of tax policy or Social Security that affected on a small fraction of the population but that was of particular concern to them personally, then I’d criticize them for the same reason I’m criticizing Ifill.

    There’s no way to test this statement; however, I somehow doubt that if some wealthy old white dude asked a question about the estate tax, you would be objecting to that as passionately as you’re objecting to asking about black women with AIDS.

    More importantly, if that did happen and Edwards and Cheney both ducked the question entirely, I think there’d be a lot more criticism of it.

    Because among our entire culture – I’m not talking about you, Don, I’m talking about the whole culture – the default assumption is that things of interest to rich white dudes are of interest to everybody, whereas things of immediate interest to other folks – such as black women – are just special interests, of lesser concern.

    (Of course, you could argue that the estate tax is indirectly of interest to many more people than the tiny percent of Americans it directly effects; but you could argue the same thing about black women with AIDS).

  31. 30
    Don P says:

    Charles:

    I’ve made clear (as have others) that I think that you should take a careful look at the manner that you are talking about Ifill in relation to issues of both race and sex, and that you should do some introspection on what this might reveal about your own issues on race and sex.

    And I think you should do some introspection on your tendency to attribute to others statements they did not make.

    On the question of platitudes, if Money for AIDS in Africa and doing something or other about genocide in the Sudan aren’t crowd-pleasing platitudes, then why do the B/C and K/E positions differ so little. Cheney says we should spend billions, Edwards says we should spend more.

    What are you talking about? Kerry and Edwards are proposing to double U.S. funding to fight AIDS in Africa from $15 billion to $30 billion. $15 billion. That’s your idea of “differing so little,” is it? And Edwards also criticized the Bush administration for failing to push Congress to appropriate even the much smaller amount of money that it claims to want. Since executive branch pressure is often crucial to the success of such appropriations, this is another major difference. Edwards is telling us that, unlike Bush and Cheney, he and Kerry would follow through on their pledge. Again, it’s hard to see how you can seriously characterize this as a crowd-pleasing platitude. Half of America doesn’t want to send a single dime to Africa, let alone billions of dollars. When Americans are asked what part of the federal budget they would like to cut, foreign aid routinely scores near the top. So the idea that Edwards’ response was designed to woo the voters is just laughable. I may certainly have wooed the democratic base, but that’s not the segment of the electorate that’s going to decide the election.

    For Edwards to have given Amp’s answer would have been to offer the real hope that a K/E administration would return to supporting effective programs such as needle exchange, effective programs such as meaningful sex ed, effective programs such as condom distribution, effective programs that include frank discussion of sexuality and sexual practices, effective literature that includes clear diagrams of safe sexual practice vs. unsafe sexual practice.

    This is silly. Amp’s proposed response said nothing about concrete policy. It was just, “let’s get people together, listen to what they have to say, and work on solutions.” Who would disagree with that? It’s the kind of non-answer answer that politicians love to give, because it doesn’t commit them to any specific position or policy that might cause trouble for them.

  32. 31
    Don P says:

    Geek:

    But you’re missing the point, Don, which is this: do you have any evidence whatsoever that Ifill’s question was just an attempt to “push her personal agenda” other than the fact that she is herself a Black woman?

    Of course I do. If you were compiling a list of important issues, big issues, issues that are of the greatest concern to the greatest number of people, issues that experts believe to be the most important, AIDS in black women would be way, way, WAY down on the list. It’s simply not a big issue compared to so many other problems facing this country, no matter how important it may be to Ifill personally or to black women with AIDS themselves. The only plausible explanation for her singling it out as she did is her personal concern about it. But her job was not to promote her personal concern, it was to represent the interests of the audience. She didn’t do that.

    When old white dudes spend some time talking about upper-bracket income tax policy or Social Security, do you also dismiss their concern as purely a matter of pushing their personal agenda?

    No, of course not. Tax policy and Social Secuirty are huge issues that have a huge impact on all Americans. If the old white dudes were to focus on some narrow aspect of tax policy or Social Security that affected on a small fraction of the population but that was of particular concern to them personally, then I’d criticize them for the same reason I’m criticizing Ifill.

  33. 32
    Don P says:

    ampersand:

    If the above doesn’t logically qualify something as sufficiently important to be worth talking about on national TV, then what does qualify something, in your view?

    I tire of having to repeat things I have already said. AIDS is a big national and international problem. The narrow issue of AIDS in black American women is not. A question on AIDS and AIDS policy in general would certainly have been warranted. But a question specifically limited to the problem of AIDS in black American women was not. It’s just not that big of an issue. It’s not even that big of a health care issue. There are many, many much more important isseues that Ifill could have asked about but chose not to, because she was more interested in pushing this pet cause than in serving the interests of the debate audience. I don’t know how to say this any more clearly than I already have.

    Don, could you please explain your threshold for what is “sufficiently important” and what is not?

    I don’t know how to quantify it. But AIDS in black American women is simply not even on the radar screen of big issues. Black women are not even the primary victims of AIDS. Iraq, terrorism, education, health care, jobs, taxes, etc., etc. are all much bigger issues.

    You then follow with a list of other issues. As I said before, it is obviously impossible for a moderator to ask about every important issue, so criticizing them for bringing up issue X instead of issue Y, when both issues are important, is unreasonable.

    But I’m not saying that she should necessarily have asked about any of those issues. I listed them as issues of comparable importance to AIDS in black women. The point is that spending time on any narrow and relatively unimportant issue takes time away from big and important issues like Iraq, terrorism, jobs, etc.

    I don’t understand what’s wrong with her pushing her personal agenda, if her personal agenda means asking about an important issue like AIDS among black women.

    AIDS amoung black women is not an important issue compared the Iraq, terrorism, the economy, etc. I don’t know how many times I have to keep saying it. It is a narrow issue that affects only a small fraction of the population. It’s not even close to being the most important health care issue. Ifill had a responsibility as moderator to ask questions that would best serve the interests of the debate audience. Her question about AIDS in black women did not do that.

  34. 33
    Sally says:

    I don’t think a narrow question is necessarily a bad one. I think this one was pretty revealing: it showed, for instance, that while Edwards is good with soundbites, he’s not so great at translating his soundbites to a more specific question. I think that you can assume that both candidates have been prepped like mad for all the obvious “important issues,” and therefore it’s kind of useful to ask them about an issue that they didn’t know was probably going to be on the agenda.

  35. 34
    Larry says:

    To rephrase the question so its a little less PC:

    “I want to talk to you about heart disease right here in this country, where Indians over the age of 18 are 32 times more likely to die of the disease than many of their counterparts.
    What should the government’s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?”

    Important? Sure. But a rather narrow scope with in a much larger problem for VP debate question.

  36. 35
    Charles says:

    blue lily,

    Absolutely!

    Back to my little NC A&T hobby horse: sadly, what little coverage I could find of the Greensboro speech had absolutely nothing on race. I imagine that this is because race is way, way down on the list of things being given any attention in this race, and not because Edwards didn’t have anything to say on the subject. I’m hoping I can eventually find a transcript or a detailed event description somewhere.

  37. 36
    Ampersand says:

    Don, we’ve have pointed out that AIDS is beginning to rapidly spread into black women – a portion of our population that represents 6% of the population. (6%, by the way, is by many measures a higher portion of the US population than the total population of gay men.) We’ve pointed out that it’s far more effective to address an epidemic when it’s just beginning to hit a population than later. We’ve pointed out that rapidly spreading AIDS among any portion of the population is a danger to all Americans.

    Okay, let’s add that up.

    1) It’s an issue that affects a significant portion of America.

    2) It’s an issue that may be building to a crisis point, and in any case must be addressed soon.

    3) It’s an issue that, left unaddressed, could spread to harm an even larger portion of America.

    If the above doesn’t logically qualify something as sufficiently important to be worth talking about on national TV, then what does qualify something, in your view?

    In response to this argument, you wrote: This is just a repetition of the same irrelevant observation that ampersand made earlier. Yes, it’s important to fight infectious diseases early. Preventing infection is generally more effective than treating it once it has occurred. None of that means that AIDS in black women is a sufficiently important issue…

    I don’t see a single supporting statement in that paragraph that at all supports your conclusion.

    Don, could you please explain your threshold for what is “sufficiently important” and what is not? (For bonus points, try doing it without needless insulting comments).

    You then follow with a list of other issues. As I said before, it is obviously impossible for a moderator to ask about every important issue, so criticizing them for bringing up issue X instead of issue Y, when both issues are important, is unreasonable.

    Don: Why didn’t she ask about any of these other specific health issues instead of the specific issue of AIDS in black women? Because she was pushing her personal agenda, that’s why.

    I don’t understand what’s wrong with her pushing her personal agenda, if her personal agenda means asking about an important issue like AIDS among black women. If I had a chance to ask them a question, I probably would have asked them about UNFPA or the global gag rule; those are personal hobby-horses of mine, but that doesn’t automatically make them unimportant.

    If she had asked the candidates what they thought of her dress, then you’d have a point.

    * * *

    Charles: Amp has made abundantly clear that he would have been satisfied with an answer that generalized the question on any one of a number of levels,

    Don: No, amp said he wanted an answer that amounts to “let’s get people together and discuss the problem and how to solve it,” which is exactly the kind of time-wasting vacuous fluff that we should be trying to avoid.

    First of all, Charles was correct – the example answer I gave was merely an example. Edwards could have generalized it in many alternative ways (for instance, talking generally about the problems of getting healh care services to blacks and women) and I would have been satistifed.

    Secondly, I disagree that a committment to talk to experts about a probelm is a totally empty gesture. On the contrary – as you pointed out before, I think – it’s a necessary first step towards solving any problem.

    In the case of AIDS among US black women, taking that first step is something that the Bush administration has failed to do. Had Edwards taken my approach, he would have been making clear a real and significant policy difference between Bush and Kerry.

    Judging from Edwards’ answer, however, there is no difference. Like Bush and Cheney, he simply refused to talk about it, or even acknowlege that the problem exists. Gee, how unfair of me to criticize him for that.

    * * *

    Finally, if this really IS a personal hobby horse of Ifill’s (you’ve provided no evidence that it is, so possibly that’s just something you made up), then it’s totally inexcusable that Edwards wasn’t prepared to talk about it. Doing research on what topics a question-writer is fond of is basic; if Edwards isn’t capable of doing that, then he’s not capable of being vice president.

  38. 37
    Charles says:

    Don P,

    I’ve made clear (as have others) that I think that you should take a careful look at the manner that you are talking about Ifill in relation to issues of both race and sex, and that you should do some introspection on what this might reveal about your own issues on race and sex. Clearly, you refuse either to do so or to consider the point. I don’t find this surprising, but I don’t think there is anything further to say on the issue.

    On the question of platitudes, if Money for AIDS in Africa and doing something or other about genocide in the Sudan aren’t crowd-pleasing platitudes, then why do the B/C and K/E positions differ so little. Cheney says we should spend billions, Edwards says we should spend more. Of course, Cheney’s lying, but that only proves even more that what he is saying is a crowd pleasing platitude. Bush said in the first debate that we must do something about genocide in Darfur, and like Edwards he didn’t have much to say about what or how. Again, when we get the exact same mush from both sides it strongly suggests that it is crowd pleasing platitudes.

    And to agree with Amp on the importance of talking to the people on the ground who actually know what needs to be done, that has been the most monsterous thing about the Bush AIDS policy: it completely ignores everything that has been learned on the ground over the past 23 years, and replaces it with ideologically driven nonsense.

    For Edwards to have given Amp’s answer would have been to offer the real hope that a K/E administration would return to supporting effective programs such as needle exchange, effective programs such as meaningful sex ed, effective programs such as condom distribution, effective programs that include frank discussion of sexuality and sexual practices, effective literature that includes clear diagrams of safe sexual practice vs. unsafe sexual practice.

    And he could even have done so by merely putting forth a common sense platitude, and therefore not even risking frightening the horses. I don’t expect Edwards to say “We will support needle exchange programs” on national television, but many of us would have understood that that was what he meant if he had just answered the question with on-topic platitudes instead of off-topic platitudes.

  39. 38
    Charles says:

    Don P,

    One last addenda on Ifill and you. When I say I am not surprised, I mean 2 things: I’m not surprised because it is very hard to not take such criticism as an affront, an atack and an insult; and I am not surprised because I am pretty sure I have never seen you back down in any discussion here. I’m not quite sure what I am trying to clear up, but I just wanted to be clear that I am not trying to add an additional slap to the first slap (which I am trying to say I also don’t intend as a slap).

  40. 39
    Rad Geek says:

    Don clarifies his concern with Gwen Ifill’s question:

    “I didn’t attack her for being a black woman asking a question related to black women. I’m attacking her for not doing her job. I’m attacking her for abusing her role as moderator of the vice-presidential debate to push her personal agenda.”

    But you’re missing the point, Don, which is this: do you have any evidence whatsoever that Ifill’s question was just an attempt to “push her personal agenda” other than the fact that she is herself a Black woman? When old white dudes spend some time talking about upper-bracket income tax policy or Social Security, do you also dismiss their concern as purely a matter of pushing their personal agenda?

    As for why AIDS in Black women should be a major concern, I agree with what has already been said by other commentators, but I think that they are still making the issue more complicated than it needs to be. The reason why AIDS in Black women should be a major concern is that AIDS is a disease which kills people. That makes it serious. If hurricanes in Florida or terrorism in New York–which kill far fewer people than AIDS in the Black community–are worth extensive national discussion, then why not AIDS as it is affecting Black women, too?

  41. 40
    Shannon says:

    Young gay white men are not as affected by many of the social problems that black women are affected by, so they are not apporpiate barometers for how badly our country is unraveling. You think the people with the most power are the barometer for what is really going on. That is illogical. White men are insulated from the effects of public policy in many ways, and black women take the brunt of when we decide that we can just let some people die. We all know what happened in the gay community when we decided that AIDs in gay men wasn’t important enough to talk about. We don’t need to replicate that here.

    The logical thing to do is to see who is most affected by our policies and to see our policies’ affect on them. We have to nip the problem in the bud- if letting our public health system unravel is causing problems, we have to fix it. If not funding proper sex ed is causing problems, if wasting billions on jail for black men is causing problems, we need to fix it, not whine about how because the problems didn’t happen to ‘important people’ they just don’t matter. The vice president is vice president of the whole country- it’s not the United States of White America. This country isn’t just for the benefit of white people,etc.

    White men have been studied and given attention already. Thier infection rate is slowing. It may have reached a peak. We can’t simply ignore black people, and think they’ll go away, and by doing that, we cause problems for their entire population. Of course, that is the irrationality of racism to think that ignoring people will make their problems disappear. While we’re talking about how black folks aren’t important enough to ever be mentioned, a new strain of AIDs could be mutating.

  42. 41
    Ampersand says:

    Don, I value your imput on this blog because you don’t hesitate to go against the grain. What I don’t value is your inability or unwillingness to disagree with people without insulting them. Please respect that one of the ground rules of “Alas” is making at least an attempt to be civil.

  43. 42
    blue lily says:

    Let’s wait, shall we, and see how many questions in the entire debate process address the concerns of African-American women, before we castigate the sole person of color involved in the entire process for testing the candidates to see if they had any clue about her constituency? I really don’t believe it’s a coincidence that she was working the Veep debate and not the Presidential one, btw. That’s for the important white guys. They threw Black Americans a bone. Good for Ifill for making some soup with it.

  44. 43
    Don P says:

    Shannon:

    The higher AIDS rate is a sign of distress. Many things combine to create this disaster- substandard health care of all types, the gulag we create for black men, causing a shortage, and homophobia. Black women are our canaries in this country. We can no longer afford to only value the lives of some people. We can no longer afford to throw some people away. When your daughters are dying, it will no longer be a ‘narrow issue’, but by then, it’ll be too late. If our vice presidential canidates can not understand this, what hope does this country have?

    What utter nonsense. Look, black people are still significantly disadvantaged in this country compared to white people. And women are still significantly disadvantaged compared to men. Black women are hit with the double wammy of both kinds of disadvantage.

    But that doesn’t mean that “black women are our canaries in this country.” (In case you hadn’t noticed, the canaries for AIDS were white gay men.) Nor does it mean that we don’t value the lives of black women. Nor does it mean that we “throw away” black women. Nor does the fact that a woman who dies is someone’s daughter imply that the cause of her death is not a narrow issue.

    You’re just making ridiculous, irrational, over-the-top statements that undermine thoughtful and serious efforts to evaluate and address problems of racial and gender inequality, and that reinforce the conservative stereotype of the unthinking bleeding-heart liberal.

  45. 44
    Don P says:

    Charles:

    Also, on AIDS policy and why the current situation for black women is important, the period where a disease is rapidly spreading into a new population is the point at which it is most critical to do something about it. If you can stop the spread of AIDS into this additional population, you can radically change the course of the epidemic for this population. Once the disease is solidly established in a population, there is much less that you can do to slow the continued spread.

    This is just a repetition of the same irrelevant observation that ampersand made earlier. Yes, it’s important to fight infectious diseases early. Preventing infection is generally more effective than treating it once it has occurred. None of that means that AIDS in black women is a sufficiently important issue to warrant being singled out in a 90-minute vice-presidential debate, the only such debate that voters will get in this election. What about the rate of AIDS infection in young gay men, which is also increasing? What about breast cancer? What about obesity? What about health issues of Native Americans? What about new infectious diseases like West Nile virus and Hantavirus? What about influenza, which kills tens of thousands of Americans every year? What about the potential of a smallpox or anthrax epidemic caused by a terrorist attack? What about, what about, what about? Why didn’t she ask about any of these other specific health issues instead of the specific issue of AIDS in black women? Because she was pushing her personal agenda, that’s why.

  46. 45
    Don P says:

    Charles:

    Questions about complex subjects are often framed by way of specific examples.

    But she didn’t ask them a broader question about AIDS or race or some other major issue that would have deserved it. She asked them only about the role of government with respect to the narrow issue of AIDS in black women. And Edwards rightly used the question as an opportunity to speak to broader and more important issues.

    Amp has made abundantly clear that he would have been satisfied with an answer that generalized the question on any one of a number of levels,

    No, amp said he wanted an answer that amounts to “let’s get people together and discuss the problem and how to solve it,” which is exactly the kind of time-wasting vacuous fluff that we should be trying to avoid.

    but that Edwards’ answer generalized in 1) a way that the asker had specifically asked that he not generalize by talking about funding for AIDS in Africa and 2) then generalizing health care so far that racial disparities vanished, gender disparities vanished, and AIDS vanished. What was the question again?

    I don’t care that he ignored the specific question. It was a dumb question. Edwards rightly used the question as an opportunity to speak to the problem of AIDS in Africa, and of America’s moral duty to address that problem, and to the deficiencies of the current administration in addressing it, which was exactly the right thing to do.

    Attacking a black woman for asking a question relating to black women is fairly dubious.

    Lying about what I said is even more dubious. I didn’t attack her for being a black woman asking a question related to black women. I’m attacking her for not doing her job. I’m attacking her for abusing her role as moderator of the vice-presidential debate to push her personal agenda.

    Do you really feel that black women should only be allowed to serve as mderators if they promise to pretend that race doesn’t exist in America?

    No, of course not. A question about race and racial problems would have been warranted. Racial disparities are a huge and enduring problem in America. The narrow of issue of AIDS in 25-44 year-old black women is not. It’s not even a primary aspect of the problem of AIDS. Nor is it a primary aspect of the problem of racial inequality. It’s just one of Gwen Ifill’s pet causes.

    Do you really feel that black women (who make up 6% of the population) are such a peripheral group that a question directly relating to them is of no interest to the viewership?

    Another stupid question. Of course I don’t think the debate viewers have “no interest” in issues relating to black women. The point is that the issue of AIDS in black women is not a major issue, not a major concern, not a major problem and does not deserve to be singled out in a vice presidential debate at the expense of more important issues. The purpose of the debate is to inform the viewers, not to lobby for the pet causes of the moderator. I doubt Ifill even really cared what either candidate had to say on her question. She just wanted to exploit her position of having an audience of tens of millions of people to push an issue that is of particular concern to her personally but that is not a significant problem compared to Iraq, terrorism, the economy, jobs, health care, education and so on.

    Do you really feel that it was so much beeter to utter crowd pleasing platitudes that had nothing to do with the question.

    What crowd-pleasing platitude would that be? I fail to see how Edwards’ proposal to double U.S. funding to fight AIDS in Africa and his claim that AIDS and genocide in Africa are problems that the U.S. has a profound moral duty to address are any kind of crowd-pleasing platitude. They may warm the hearts of the liberal internationalists who tend to constitute the Democratic base, but in case you haven’t noticed, most Americans don’t fit into that category.

  47. 46
    Don P says:

    amp:

    I’d hope that Edwards or Cheney, if they applied themselves, could come up with something better.

    I’m still having a hard time figuring out what you think they should have said. You apparently agree that it would be unreasonable to expect them to describe concrete policy proposals for the particular problem that Ifill raised, so what should they have said? As far as I’m concerned, some version of “Let’s get people together and discuss solutions” is such a vacuous non-answer that it would be worthless. Worse than worthless, in fact, since it would just give their opponents ammunition for characterizing them as ignorant and evasive and given to uttering crowd-pleasing platitudes that don’t say anything meaningful.

    I don’t think the debate was a decisive win for either candidate. Cheney got in a few good shots, but Kerry hammered Cheney pretty effectively on both foreign and domestic policy and cited fact after fact that was very damaging to the current administration. See, for example, Will Saletan’s column in Slate for some instances. That was a far better use of Edwards’ limited time than trying to say something meaningful about a specific, narrow health care issue that the vast majority of voters understandably care little about.

  48. 47
    Phi says:

    I thought the low point of the debate was when Edwards was TOTALLY unable to explain why he is qualified to be “one heartbeat away”. WTF?! Of all the questions to prep for! Weak. If this guy can make millions through lawsuits, I’m in the wrong business.

  49. 48
    Shannon says:

    The higher AIDS rate is a sign of distress. Many things combine to create this disaster- substandard health care of all types, the gulag we create for black men, causing a shortage, and homophobia. Black women are our canaries in this country. We can no longer afford to only value the lives of some people. We can no longer afford to throw some people away. When your daughters are dying, it will no longer be a ‘narrow issue’, but by then, it’ll be too late. If our vice presidential canidates can not understand this, what hope does this country have?

  50. 49
    Charles says:

    Don P,

    Questions about complex subjects are often framed by way of specific examples. An intelligent debator or interview subject is free to reframe the question at the higher and more complex level if they wish to, but the specific example serves to ground their answer in the specific. Amp has made abundantly clear that he would have been satisfied with an answer that generalized the question on any one of a number of levels, but that Edwards’ answer generalized in 1) a way that the asker had specifically asked that he not generalize by talking about funding for AIDS in Africa and 2) then generalizing health care so far that racial disparities vanished, gender disparities vanished, and AIDS vanished. What was the question again?

    Attacking a black woman for asking a question relating to black women is fairly dubious. Do you really feel that black women should only be allowed to serve as mderators if they promise to pretend that race doesn’t exist in America? Do you really feel that black women (who make up 6% of the population) are such a peripheral group that a question directly relating to them is of no interest to the viewership?

    Also, you object to the idea of actually uttering crowd pleasing platitudes that have the faintest bit to do withthe question because

    Worse than worthless, in fact, since it would just give their opponents ammunition for characterizing them as ignorant and evasive and given to uttering crowd-pleasing platitudes that don’t say anything meaningful.

    Do you really feel that it was so much beeter to utter crowd pleasing platitudes that had nothing to do with the question. I guess I can see that: better to utter your pre-scripted platitudes than risk botching off the cuff platitudes on a topic you apparently know nothing about.

    Also, on AIDS policy and why the current situation for black women is important, the period where a disease is rapidly spreading into a new population is the point at which it is most critical to do something about it. If you can stop the spread of AIDS into this additional population, you can radically change the course of the epidemic for this population. Once the disease is solidly established in a population, there is much less that you can do to slow the continued spread.

  51. 50
    Don P says:

    NancyP:

    the greatest rate of increase in AIDS is among African-American women,

    As I already explained, that doesn’t make it a more important problem. A smaller rate increase in a larger population can obviously lead to far more cases than a larger rate increase in a smaller population. Simply citing the rate of increase of new infections is not a meaningful measure of the magnitude of the problem relative to other aspects of the AIDS epidemic.

    and these women are consistently underdiagnosed and undertreated in comparison to the Men who have Sex with Men population of either race. (White MSMs have better diagnosis and treatment rates than minority MSMs).

    Then that is a problem of racial and gender disparities in AIDS health care, not a problem of AIDS in black women specifically. And it is probably broader than AIDS anyway. Women may receive inferior health care compared to men, and blacks inferior health care compared to whites, more generally.

    2. there exists the possibility of transplacental transmission. If the mother is identified as having HIV, she can be treated pre-delivery and the baby’s risk of developing HIV infection is greatly decreased.

    The fact that there are modes of HIV transmission specific to women and babies does not justify Ifill’s question.

    I might also note that the rate of proper prenatal care is lower for African-American women than for white women.

    Again, that is a problem of racial disparity in health care. That’s obviously a much bigger problem than the narrow issue of AIDS in black women.

    3. education/ prevention, diagnosis, and intervention strategies that work well in the white MSM population don’t necessarily work well in the A-A MSM population, and are even less applicable to a female population.

    That is a reason for the CDC and other health agencies to develop comprehensive AIDS education and prevention policies that include programs tailored to particular groups. It does not explain why the problem of AIDS in black women deserves to be singled out for special attention in the one and only VP debate of this election. Even if there were ten debates, there are many more important issues that would deserve to be raised and explored than this narrow issue.

    I think that the question could have been addressed as part of a wider issue of disparities in health care delivery for racial minorities and the poor.

    Yes. Although, again, racial disparities in health care is such a big and complex issue that I’m not sure why you think the candidates should have been asked specifically about AIDS in black women, even in that context. Ifill could simply have pointed to racial disparities in health in general and asked the candidates what they were going to do about it, perhaps in the context of broader socioeconomic racial disparities. But no, she chose instead to focus on her pet concern.

  52. 51
    Don P says:

    ampersand:

    No, but no one is saying that AIDS among black women deserves more attention from the Federal Government or from society in general than AIDS among other groups of americans. However, the relatively high rate of increase means that it is an important question, deserving of interest.

    There are hundreds or thousands of important questions, deserving of interest. That’s not the issue. The issue is the importance of this problem relative to other questions and problems. As I have explained, it’s not even the most important aspect of the problem of AIDS. It does not deserve to be singled out for special attention in the one 90-minute vice-presidental debate of this election. There are lots of far more important issues that Ifill could have and should have asked the candidates about. A question about government AIDS strategy overall would have been far more pertinent, for example.

    And it wasn’t just this question. Ifill’s performance overall was pretty bad. That question with the “don’t identify them by name” rule she asked was another stupid question.

    As for what questions to ask, it IS an important question – as important as many others she didn’t ask. Since it’s impossible for her to ask every question about every topic of national interest in the time given, I don’t think criticizing her for asking this question rather than another is particularly useful.

    She deserves to be criticized for it because there are many more important issues and problems that she should have raised (and because the question was so badly formulated anyway). It seems pretty obvious that Ifill’s motives for asking this particular question were personal, not journalistic. Journalists are supposed to represent their readers and viewers, not their own pet causes. And that is especially true in something as important as a presidential debate.

  53. 52
    NancyP says:

    1. the greatest rate of increase in AIDS is among African-American women, and these women are consistently underdiagnosed and undertreated in comparison to the Men who have Sex with Men population of either race. (White MSMs have better diagnosis and treatment rates than minority MSMs).

    2. there exists the possibility of transplacental transmission. If the mother is identified as having HIV, she can be treated pre-delivery and the baby’s risk of developing HIV infection is greatly decreased. I might also note that the rate of proper prenatal care is lower for African-American women than for white women.

    3. education/ prevention, diagnosis, and intervention strategies that work well in the white MSM population don’t necessarily work well in the A-A MSM population, and are even less applicable to a female population.

    I think that it is strategic to address HIV infection in A-A women, simply because it is worth addressing any uptick in incidence at the earliest possible time. Still, judging by the arc of infection rates in men in the ’80s, we haven’t seen the peak in A-A women yet.

    I think that the question could have been addressed as part of a wider issue of disparities in health care delivery for racial minorities and the poor. I think that is probably the main issue. Married white men do the down low too!

  54. 53
    Don P says:

    By the way, here is a HIV/AIDS statistics factsheet from the NIAID, dated July 2004.

    Amoung the facts listed:

    Of new infections, half occur in people under 25 (Ifill’s question referred only to black women older than 25)

    Of new infections, 70% occur in men. 42% occur through male homosexual sex. 35% occur in black men. Only 19% occur in black women.

    None of this means that AIDS in black women is not an important problem in absolute terms, or that the government does not need to develop specific policies to combat AIDS in black women. But it does help put the problem of AIDS in black women in perspective. It’s simply not even the most important component of the problem of AIDS in the United States, let alone the problem of AIDS at a global level.

  55. 54
    Don P says:

    I thought it was a very timely question, and one that forced the candidates (or attempted to) to deal with a major problem in the African American community.

    I can’t think of a less important problem that Ifill asked about last night than this one.

  56. 55
    Samantha says:

    Thanks for the link, Amp.

  57. 56
    Ampersand says:

    First of all, sorry for having misread you on the national interest question. My bad.

    Moving on:

    Me: HIV infection & AIDS deaths are increasing especially fast among black women.

    Don: That doesn’t mean that AIDS amoung black women deserves more attention than AIDS amoung men, or even AIDS amoung black men. Rate of growth is only one factor affecting the seriousness of the problem.

    No, but no one is saying that AIDS among black women deserves more attention from the Federal Government or from society in general than AIDS among other groups of americans. However, the relatively high rate of increase means that it is an important question, deserving of interest.

    As for what questions to ask, it IS an important question – as important as many others she didn’t ask. Since it’s impossible for her to ask every question about every topic of national interest in the time given, I don’t think criticizing her for asking this question rather than another is particularly useful. Every question she asked was in the place of several dozen she could have asked.

    Your response boils down to “get people together and discuss possible solutions,” which is just a trivial repetition of what needs to be done to solve any social problem.

    I’d hope that Edwards or Cheney, if they applied themselves, could come up with something better. At least my answer addressed the question. What Cheney and Edwards showed last night is that, faced with an unexpected question, they’re not capable of doing anything more than ignoring the question and instead reciting prefabricated, irrelevant answers that were probably written by their staffs. I’d prefer that candidates show that they have an ability to think about the unexpected, than show that they have an ability to recite the memorized.

    I can’t think of a less important problem that Ifill asked about last night than this one.

    Yeah, right, because a totally predictable softball question like “what are your qualifications, Mr. Edwards” is such an important thing to ask.

    Frankly, I go back and forth on what’s important. She asked about the “global test” thing, which is the right-wing media’s talking-point-of-the-week. And it is important – but at the same time, because that criticism of Kerry is so shallow and so obviously taken out of context, it’s hard for me to be interested. Most of the debate consisted of the candidates repeating well-worn talking points in answer to well-expected questions. I think it would have been improved by having more questions that at least attempted to knock them both out of that easy and boring groove.

    Admittedly, the question failed to do that. But I think the candidates are responsible for the deficiency of their answers, not the interviewer.

  58. 57
    Ampersand says:

    Samantha:

    I think what Edwards was (correctly) referring to is that, hitorically, Full Faith & Credit has NOT required states to recognize other state’s marriages. Galois had an excellent discussion of the issue back in February.

  59. 58
    Don P says:

    ampersand:

    Don, what happens to black women is very relevant to the national interest. It’s disgusting to suggest otherwise.

    Of course what happens to black women is relevant to the national interest. What happens to any group of Americans is relevant to the national interest. I said more relevant, ampersand. MORE. The fact is, with respect to the national interest, and even with respect to the national interest on the issue of AIDS or the issue of race , the rate of AIDS amoung black women is simply not a particularly important problem. Ifill’s job was to ask questions that best serve the interests of the debate audience, not to push her pet causes.

    Furthermore, syaing “men have more, therefore lack of attention to women is justified” is nonsense.

    No it isn’t. The bigger the problem, the more attention it deserves. AIDS in the United States is a much bigger problem amoung men than amoung women.

    HIV infection & AIDS deaths are increasing especially fast among black women.

    That doesn’t mean that AIDS amoung black women deserves more attention than AIDS amoung men, or even AIDS amoung black men. Rate of growth is only one factor affecting the seriousness of the problem.

    No one is suggesting that Gore or Cheney should have been able to come up with a specific policy proposal on the spot. However, it’s possible to address the issue without having a specific policy proposal under your hat.

    I think your proposed response is just a vacuous non-answer that doesn’t say anything more meaningful about what the government should do than what the candidates themselves said. Your response boils down to “get people together and discuss possible solutions,” which is just a trivial repetition of what needs to be done to solve any social problem.

    And saying the question was vague is no excuse. First of all, either of them could have asked for a clarification of the question.

    It’s not their job to do that, especially given the limited time they have available to respond. It was Ifill’s job to come up with clear and intelligent questions in the first place. If I had been in Edwards’ place I would have done the same thing he did, which was to use the stupid question as an opportunity to talk about broader and more important problems that are of greater concern to more people.

  60. 59
    Diane says:

    I thought it was a very timely question, and one that forced the candidates (or attempted to) to deal with a major problem in the African American community. Cheney admitted he was clueless, but I’m pretty sure Edwards was willing to do anything to keep from talking about the crisis of men on the down-low in the African American community. Bringing up bisexuality and homosexuality was not something he wanted to do. He should have answered the question, however.

  61. 60
    Ampersand says:

    It just seems to have been a matter of Ifill focusing on an issue that is of particular importance to her personally rather than choosing to ask a question that is more relevant to the national interest.

    Don, what happens to black women is very relevant to the national interest. It’s disgusting to suggest otherwise.

    Furthermore, syaing “men have more, therefore lack of attention to women is justified” is nonsense. HIV infection & AIDS deaths are increasing especially fast among black women. The question, when dealing with an infectious disease, isn’t just “who has it the most right now” but “what are the current trends”?

    No one is suggesting that Gore or Cheney should have been able to come up with a specific policy proposal on the spot. However, it’s possible to address the issue without having a specific policy proposal under your hat.

    These people aren’t applying to be a warm body in a toll booth. They’re applying to be vice president of the United States. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they be capable of giving a credible response to an important, but unexpected, question.

    And saying the question was vague is no excuse. First of all, either of them could have asked for a clarification of the question. Secondly, being able to respond intelligently to a vague question is, once again, not too much to ask.

  62. 61
    Don P says:

    Charles:

    Perhaps because it was also the only question in the entire debate that mentioned the concept of race in America?

    Huh? How does that explain the focus on the issue of AIDS amoung black women? If there’s to be only one question that touches on race, why this one? It just seems to have been a matter of Ifill focusing on an issue that is of particular importance to her personally rather than choosing to ask a question that is more relevant to the national interest.

    Perhaps because less attention is paid to AIDS among women?

    In the United States, AIDS is less common amoung women than amoung men. So greater attention to AIDS in men is understandable and warranted.

    While the couterparts thing was somewhat vague, so what?

    So, it is relevant to the nature of the problem, and thus to the nature of the solution. If the comparison is between black women and black men, for example, the difference suggests the problem is a matter of gender in the black community specifically. If the comparison is between black women and some other group of people (white women, hispanic women, all other women, all other people, or whatever) then it would suggest a different kind of problem.

    The question was, what are you going to do about AIDS among black women, and both Dick and John failed to answer it in such a absolute fashion that it spoke of a total failure to think prepare anything on either race or AIDS.

    Nonsense. AIDS and race are both huge issues, and the fact that the candidates did not have proposals for addressing the specific problem of AIDS amoung black women means nothing with respect to their knowledge or concern about AIDS and race more generally. And since Ifill’s description of the problem was so vague and ambiguous anyway, it’s hard to see how you can expect any kind of serious policy proposals in response. I think John Edwards did exactly the right thing in citing AIDS in the context of Africa, where it is a catastrophic problem, and in framing it as a fundamentally moral issue.

  63. 62
    tikae says:

    My favorite part was where Edwards went on about what a wonderful person Cheney was for not kicking his gay daughter out of the family. Awesome!

  64. 63
    Charles says:

    Don,

    Perhaps because it was also the only question in the entire debate that mentioned the concept of race in America? Perhaps because less attention is paid to AIDS among women? While the couterparts thing was somewhat vague, so what? The question was, what are you going to do about AIDS among black women, and both Dick and John failed to answer it in such a absolute fashion that it spoke of a total failure to think prepare anything on either race or AIDS. From Dick, that was unsurprising, from Edwards it was sad.

    Edwards is making a campaign stop in Greensboro, NC, a city with a rich and powerful history in the civil rights movement, at NCA&T (my sister’s alma mater), presumably he will make up for this blunder there (A&T is a traditionally black college).

  65. 64
    Samantha says:

    I was a little surprised to hear Edwards say that for 200 years states have never had to recognize the marriage laws of other states. I was under the impression that the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 was passed specifically to declare that states are exemept from the “full faith and credit” clause in the Constitution.

    If states never had to recognize each other’s marriage laws like Edwards said, why bother passing the DOMA?

  66. 65
    alsis38 says:

    I mercifully missed much of the debate. I tuned out around the time that Edwards started making noises about how important it is to contain Iran.

    Assholes. Both candidates. Both parties. Who can watch this shit and take it seriously ? [bangs head on desk]

  67. 66
    Don P says:

    It was a bad question. It was one of a number of rather stupid or poorly-worded questions that Gwen Ifill asked.

    For one thing, what did she mean by “counterparts?” White women? Black men? Everyone except black women? And why the focus on black women, rather than black people in general, or people of color in general?

    I also do not think the candidates can reasonably be criticized for failing to be aware of the particular statistic that Ifill cited.