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The Tentacle


November 18, 2002

Fear Of The Unknown Is, Nevertheless, Real

David 'Kip' Koontz

I was told by one of my "Washington insider" type friends at a party recently, that itís those things the public doesnít know about that the Bush administration is doing that we should ultimately be most afraid.

Unfortunately, our paths parted and we were not able to complete that conversation. Yet it left me more than a bit perplexed.

What could be going on behind the scenes that could be worse than what is going on out front?

Then I realized how naÔve I can be at times as I realized that what happens behind closed doors in any administration, is most likely something that would knock off our proverbial socks should it become public.

But, as fate has it, someone at church two weeks ago provided me a very real and very scary insight into what is going on within the Bush administration that should not only make us afraid but should anger us as well.

This woman at church works for a subcontractor to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is contracted to write tracts and pamphlets about public health.

The current project they have been working on is a discussion on how to cut down on the use of illegal drugs and, more specifically, how to cut down on the risk of disease as a result of use of illegal drugs.

Regardless of political persuasion, one has to accept that drugs and the diseases, (hepatitis, HIV, venereal diseases of all varieties and more) are spread as a result of drug use, while taking the drugs, how the drugs are taken and those acts done to promote diseases while on, and even after, being on drugs.

It is a problem.

On first blush, discussing them seemed, to the company charged in writing the tracts, the right thing to do and they felt empowered to do so.

Then steps in Tommy Thompson, the arch-conservative appointed secretary of HHS, much to the shock of many and evidence that Democrats can be as bumbling in their decision making processes as Republicans.

A direct decree from the desk of Secretary Thompson informed these workers that they could write their tracts (which, of course, being on a deadline were just about complete) only if they did not mention the use of clean needles as a way to help cut down on the risk of spreading disease.

The edict went on that no mention of gays or lesbians could be made.

Of course, that rules out HIV, hepatitis and the fact that the studies they undertook showed a more than significant use of alcohol abuse among lesbian women.

Additionally, the tracts could not mention condoms - or their use.

Everyone knows, though they may not want to admit that people have sex, that the use of condoms greatly decreases the risk of spreading infectious disease, while those writing the pamphlets, as do most, admitted that they are not 100% safe, that have an upper 90% effectiveness rate when used correctly and thatís a better chance of stopping disease than in not using one at all.

My friend said her team sat in stunned silence wondering how they could write legitimate pieces on the topic at hand while not mentioning an entire class of people whom drugs and disease has affected greatly and while not mentioning two tools that are effective, to some degree, in decreasing the spread of infection.

The companyís boss, uncomfortable with the decree, went as far as he could get to HHS heads to express his concern, only to be told that they could not write the tracts as long as he felt comfortable telling his employees that he forfeited their contract, hence jobs, over their "moral dilemma."

So much for a kinder, gentler, bigger tent of people the Dubyas turned out to be.

Two things are striking about this.

First, to re-write these tracts will now actually extend the companyís contract to disseminate inaccurate information while costing us more money.

It is wrong to disseminate incomplete and inaccurate information, as it does not serve the mission statement of helping stop the spread of disease as a result of drug use.

Second, to continue to write these tracts without including the best information possible to complete its mission is simply a huge waste of our tax dollars while not helping prevent the spread of disease.

Why should we pay to publish material that is inaccurate and incomplete simply because it is already budgeted?

Why is our nationís heath reduced to being a pawn in the political agenda of one sect of the population whose point of view we are all paying to propagate?

My friend was wrong when he told me at that party that we should be most afraid about what we donít know about what the Dubyas are doing.

We should actually be outraged.

Outraged that the media is not uncovering this.

Outraged that agenda politics is more important than the lives of our citizens.

We should be terrified, not for fear alone, but because it seems that what we donít know about what the Dubyas are doing could, indeed, help kill people.

Or maybe that is part of the plan.



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