Wednesday, October 23, 2002

(An excellent article by Reason Columnist Cathy Young on the perception of
communism in the west and in academic elites circles. She criticizes the
west for not acknolwedgeing the heinous crimes of communism (amounting to
about 150 - 170 million murders this century) becuase the west spent a good
amount of time in political favor with many of these communist leaders.
Rejectinc communism also entails the acceptance that the US efforts during
the cold war in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanastan and other areas was morally
justified (albiet, as she notes, imperefectly handled) Given the fact that
more people died in the six months following the United States removal from
the Indochina region then in the entire conflict and subsequently 1/3rd of
the Cambodian population died from the corrupt, communist, despotic,
tyrannical regime which took over there, and that many actions of US
liberals and Academic elites directly supported and made these events more
likely to occur, its no wonder that those same people are reluctant to admit
that communism is as bad as Nazism. - Mike)

9- Still struggling with Stalin
by Cathy Young
Young reviews Martin Amis' new book "Koba the Dread: Laughter
and the Twenty Million" in which the author chronicles Soviet
crimes against humanity and questions the double standard
between Nazism and Communism. (08/27/02)

Excerpt - "The left's reluctance to acknowledge that Communism wasn't just a
failure but an evil is due to more than stubbornness. Such an acknowledgment
would amount to (1) validating a view of the West, Communism's Cold War
adversary, as good (albeit imperfect), and (2) admitting that the left spent
much of the 20th century cozying up to mass murderers and therefore has
precious little moral authority to criticize the West today. And that's very
relevant to present-day global conflicts. "
(An excellent article from relaying some modern
examples of mass hysteria and the tendancy for people to use things they do
not understand as the blame for illness which seemingly has no cause. - Matus)

7- Stopping the scares and scams
by Todd Seavey
"The day may yet come when outrage at the scares and scams is as
strong as the widespread fear of chemical and pharmaceutical
companies is today, when the tide turns and the scarers and
scammers are seen as fit targets for lawsuits, regulations, and
protest marches." (08/27/02)

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Hey all, here is the email I just sent to my friend who goes to Yale on Bjorn Lomborg and the Skeptical Environmentalist. I recently attended a lecture by him at yale. If you would like to familiarize yourself with Lomborg and his arguments, you can see the first chapter of his book at This introductory chapter outlines much of what he is arguing in an overview, and the lecture I attented virtually followed this outline. I have been working on this email for the past two weeks so I can clarify my opinion (at least the current state of it) on Lomborg. Alison, the Yale student, is idealogically similiar to an example of the typical environmentalist that Lomborg argues is over overblowing all the fears of the world, the 'Doom and gloom litany' as he may refer to it, and this discussion is on her and that particular groups perception of him, my own perception of him, and the validity (or not) of his arguments. - Mike

Subject: RE: The Skeptical Environmentalist Speaks

"Hey Michael. As you can tell by now, i'm absolutely horrible about responding to e-mail. Apologies about not responding to some of the ones concerning the talk last week on time..." "So i won't have the time to properly point you to some good sources until after hellweek is up (i unfortunately am insanely disorganized and don't keep useful information like that at my fingertips)."

As you can see from my delayed response, Im not much better at email. Actually the last few weeks were unusual, I was on vacation, but on top of that, my internet service provider decided to take all of his phones off the hook, and some other things kept me quite busy as well. Bonnie and I went to the white mountains in New Hampshire. Have you been there? Absolutely beautiful place, I am sure you would appreciate it. No problem about not having any links off the top of your head, should you ever come across sites in the future please feel free to email them to me.

As for Lomborg, I have been following a lot of the press around him since he published his book. As I had mentioned, my background is in philosophy of science, science, and skepticism. I have attended many lectures presented by the New England Skeptical Society and similar organizations, and was fortunate enough to attend a very entertaining lecture by the Editor of Scientific American, Jean Rennie, commenting on the important role that Scientific American in educating the public on the importance of the scientific methodology and enabling people to filter out psuedoscientific nonsense. As I said, I have no intentions of supporting viewpoints for merely idealogical reasons, as that gets us no where. Having been involved in the Scientific Skepticism group for some time, a group embodied by people such as Michael Shermer, James Randi, and Carl Sagan, it has become quite clear that this aspect of the skepticism movement seems to be weary of delving into political issues. The qu!
estion of global warming, for example, is obviously a scientific one, not a political one. And what should be done about it should be based on clear, logical scientific conclusions. But it remains an off limits topic to this aspect of the skepticism group. There seems to be two isolated skepticism groups now, to expand on this I'll quote an article I read that explained this separation much more eloquently than I am able to.


From - The Two Kinds of Skepticism -

Who are "the skeptics" in America today - the defenders of science and rationality, the scrutinizers and debunkers of dubious and unwarranted claims?

The above question, stated in deliberately broad terms, could generate diverse answers. A variety of intellectuals, organizations and publications fit the bill. That might sound like a good thing, if one is sympathetic (as I am) to a science-based skepticism. But there's a problem. The skeptics tend to fall into two groupings that don't often talk to one another, aren't sure if they like each other, and fail to see how much they have in common.

On one hand are avatars of what might be called "junk-science skepticism," which targets overblown or unfounded environmental or health scares. Such skepticism, dealing with matters ranging from global warming and mass extinction to asbestos and chlorine, is an important element of conservative and libertarian publications and think tanks. It is the main focus of specialized operations such as columnist Steven Milloy's and physicist S. Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project.

On the other hand (and ever watchful for sleight of hand) are exponents of what I'll call "pseudoscience skepticism," which examines alleged phenomena in areas including parapsychology, astrology, cryptozoology and alternative medicine. Such skepticism is propounded by groups such as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Skeptics Society, and the James Randi Educational Foundation. It is a feature, to varying degrees, of broadly focused science magazines.


When I begin studying philosophy and skepticism, I saw no problem applying the principles of empirical edification, parsimony, and occam's razor to any issue that could be guided by concerning oneself with the way the world actually does work, instead of the way we want it to work. Applying the principles led me to my current political viewpoints, which wherever possible are based on accurate descriptions of the world. Bjorm Lomborg's work embodies the results of the second kind of skepticism, with the methodology of the first. The results of the second kind, however, have a much greater political impact then the first, which is why this book has caused such a stir, I believe.

When his book was published I found it read well and made a lot of sound solid arguments so I eagerly anticipated equally impressive responses and critiques. I was quite disappointed, and still have been. Most people who comment on his book have A) never read it B) Characterize his arguments grossly incorrectly (either intentionally or accidentally) a prime example being the World Resources Institute who said of Lomborgs stance on Global Warming "Among Lomborg's claims that have captured media attention[1]: forests are not disappearing, the rate of species extinction has been wildly exaggerated; and global warming is not worth addressing and indeed will be a benefit for many"

Now, after attending a lecture presented by Lomborg, would you consider these a fair representation of what he said? He made it quite clear that Global Warming is occuring, and that it will hurt a lot of people (mostly people in third world countries) while slightly increasing agricultural output in developed countries, due to the fact that most western developed countries are far from the equator, and thus subjected to seasonal temperatures variations. The 'Slightly helping people in developed countries' is what the WRI characterized as his stance 'Global warming will help many' This is the kind of gross straw man characterization that I repeatedly encountered in critiques of Lomborg. Lomborg (to me at least) certainly came off as generally caring about the welfare of people in developing nations, so such comments of his stance are intellectually dishonest. Additionaly, the comment 'Forests are not disappearing' is also a gross mis-representation of his claims. What is a 'd!
isappearing' forest? Is it one that will be gone in 10 years? 100 years? 1,000 years? At current logging rates? Is that assuming no growth or reduction in logging rates? What Is a forest that is 'not disappearing' one that is not being touched at all? One whose rate of logging is continually decreasing? These are such abstract subjective claims that they should not be made in a scientific manner. After all, one could say that the Sun is 'disappearing' and the universe is disappearing. I was certainly left with the impression that forests were in one of the worst states of any topic covered in his book, yet this WRI comments seems to indicate that he said 'everything is fine' which he did not even imply. At least the comment on species extinction is accurate (and seemingly not really disputable as acknowledged by the other commentary) though the value that people place on diversity is obviously subjective and not addresses by Lomborg.

Scientific American published a summary of his arguments and then refutations by other scientists. The refutations were full of ad homimem attacks, and while the US publication of Scientific American sought it necessary to defend science aginst Lomborg, the Itialian domestic science publication equivalent to the US's SciAm gave his book a positive and favorable review. Some of the comments found in the SCI AM article were "On page xx of his preface, Lomborg admits, “I am not myself an expert as regards environmental problems”—truer words are not found in the rest of the book," Not taken out of Context, Lomborgs quote from the preface is

“I have let experts review the chapters of this book, but I am not myself an expert as regards environmental problems. My aim has rather been to give a description of the approaches to the problems, as the experts themselves have presented them in relevant books and journals, and to examine the different subject-areas from such a perspective as allows us to evaluate their importance in the overall social prioritization. The key idea is that we ought not to let the environmental organizations, business lobbyists or the media be alone in presenting truths and priorities. Rather, we should strive for a careful democratic check on the environmental debate, by knowing the real state of the world – having knowledge of the most important facts and connections in the essential areas of our world. It is my hope that this book will contribute to such an understanding.” (pxx)"

"Briefly (i'll answer more fully, and with more thought later) i really did think that Lomborg's weak point was his the data he chose to support some of his claims - "

I wouldnt doubt that, as Lomborg admitted he did not author much of the data he used, only put it together with related data. If the data itself is innacurate, then the collectors of the data should be attacked. If Lomborgs interprtation of the Data is incorrect, that is a different story. He seemed to value making very limited subjective claims, focused on statements such as 'This graph is going up' or 'This graph is going down' This attention he focused seems to be lost on most, especially in the doom and gloom predictions I most frequently hear. If you, by data he chose, you mean his selectively choosing data that supports his claims, then you certainly may have some validity to that, but that would require extensive effort and research to determine. THough I would certainly like to hear more that presents this case.

"specifically the chemicals example he used really bothered me."

I would be eager to hear more of your opinions on this when you have the time.

"Cancer morbidity rate is a bad measure in general, and there's a huge epidemiological debate about carcinogenic chemicals (and the effects of combined chemicals, etc). "

"Adjusting for age didn't make any sense to me at all either - but i'll rant about that in one of my next e-mails"

I disagree, I think it is very important to specify that cancer morbidity rates have actually decreased when adjusting for age. The main reason for this is that we are making significant strides in combatting all other ways that we die, and so are growing older and dying from fewer other things. In the 50's many americans died much younger from heart attacks, clogged arteries, and anuerisms. We have a plethora of medications now to treat just about every ailment related to circulatory disease. Because of this, people who used to die in their 40's and 50's from heart disease now commonly live into their 70's and 80's.

Lomborg addresses this fact at length in his book, which again it seems that no one who commented on it had actually read. He starts with some of the examples that have caused people to think that pollution is causing this widespread increase in cancer. "We know that there is a cancer epidemic in the UNited States" - AMerican Journal of Public Health. (pg 216) "[there is] An emerging tide of non-communicable diseases such as cancer" - WHO Director General. (pg 216) "The Cancer Epidemic continues to rage around the world" - Midlife Woman (pg 216) "Why are so many people getting cancer? One reason may be the legal release of millions of pounds of cancer causing chemicals into our air and water ways" - Sierra Club. (pg 216) These are just a few examples that Lomborg sites, and there are many others. But this is a common theme I have come across, essentially 'more people are getting cancer than ever before' This is of course true, but it is not likely because we are pumping more!
and more carcinogens into the environment (though there may be some specific ones causing some specific cancers Im sure), its because we are NOT dying from the things that used to kill us before we had the chance to develop cancer. If one were to say 'I hope you die from cancer' to a person living in a developing country, it would be a blessing. As they can only hope to live long enough to have to worry about cancer at all. Cancer is a disease of age, as Lomborg accurately describes. "The risk of cancer is roughly four of 100,000 in the first 25 years of life. Then over the next ten years, the rate triples to 12, the it triples again every TEN years [emphasis mine] ...Thus, when a population ages, it will die more of cancer. In 1900 young people were dying from tuberculosis, influenza, pneumonia, and other infections diseases. Today when we have got much older it is exactly because we did not die from these diseases..." (pg 217) Of course, we have to die from _something_ a!
nd cancer is the leading cause of death we have not yet 'cured'.

If there really were a 'cancer epidemenic' how would we determine its existence as something seperate from simply an aging population, since we know that cancer is a disease of aging. We would have to adjust for the age of the population, because naturally the older you get the more likely you are to get, and die, from cancer. We have made significant strides against cancer as well, in 1930 - 40, a child diagnosed with lukemia had about a 4% chance of survival, today that figure is around 80%. Compared to the 4% originally, this is significant progress. Back then, getting cancer was an absolute death sentence. When refrigeration eliminated the need to salt cure foods, cancer rates decreased dramatically. With the introduction of Chemotherapy, cancer deaths halved, and with radiation therapy (selectively targeting and killing cancerous cells without invasive surgery) cancer deaths again halved. But until we fix the fundamental genetic mechanisms that is responsible for variou!
s types of cancer (which will necessarily include us conquering senescence as well) cancer rates will continue to rise as our population slowly adds more and more infectious diseases to the conquered list.

I have spent a good amount of time researching and studying cancer (I have an article I wrote on the subject on my web site and the overwhelmingly significant cause of cancer is poor diet. In fact, there is a particular type of diet, a caloric restriction diet, which slows the progression of existing cancers, delays the onset of new cancers, and in all likelyhood in extreme restriction will actually cure one of cancer. After studying caloric restriction for some time and cancer, I came across this realization (that a severe CR diet can cure cancer based on the mechanisms by which cancers form and operate) and emailed a description of this to one of the leading reasearchers in the field, Dr. Richard Weindrich, who headed (at the time) the Wisconsin Primate Research Institute. I discussed over a few emails with him and he seemed interested in it. I have been following reports on CR Diets and cancer ever since, and just recently tw!
o Israeli scientists actually presented the case from a mathematical standpoint that a severe CR diet may selectively target each Cancerous cell, and cure cancer. I have no doubt that within the next few years it will be reported that severe CR diets under Physician supervision will actually entirely cure many types of cancer. Caloric Restriction diets require a person to consume less than the recommended daily allowance of Calories but at or more than the recommended intake of required nutrients. A caloric restriction diet is the only way proven to actually slow the process of senescence, that is, deterioration due to aging. And since aging and cancer are closely linked (in fact, it is likely that the mechanism at the genetic level responsible for aging is actually a mechanism set in place to prevent cancers from forming) curing cancer entirely will likely cure (at the very least) the genetic component to aging. This is a fascinating topic I have been following for some ti!
me and I can send you more information on it if you are interested.

But to continue, it is clear that cancer is a disease that is closely linked to aging, and if we did not live as long as we do, there would be far fewer cases of cancer. A more accurate and telling method is to determine how many people are dying from cancer adjusting for age. As Lomborg's graph on page 217 shows, Age adjusted cancer rates still increased, but not anywhere near as dramatically as non-age adjusted (less than 1/4 as much) But it is also clear that many of our chosen habbits also increase the incidence (and therefore death) related to cancers. Of this, smoking is the most significant contribution (2nd to diet of course) and when adjusted for age and smoking (since people are essentially choosing behavior more conducive to getting cancer) then cancer deaths from 1950 have actually decreased.

Of course, an even more accurate description then cancer deaths (since we are also getting better at fighting cancer) would be the incidence of cancer adjusted for age, this would truly reflect any actual increase in the developments of cancers. As I believe that commenter was trying to point out. Which I think is who you were reffering to when you said...

"i'm sure. I was really glad someone started to pounce on him about his data."

This is, of course, a significant point. But as Lomborg pointed out (in his book) and to this gentleman (who it, again, seems did not read it) there has been no significant increase in inicidences of cancer either. In fact, that section of his book was titled 'Cancer: Death' the very next section, which starts on pg 222, is 'Cancer: Incidence'. But Cancer Incidence is not as easy to determine either, all things being static, an inrease in the number of cases would indicate an increase in something causing those cases (like a pollutant) However, in our ever increasingly technological society, detection methods have increased orders of magnitude, so any increase in incidence should take into account our ability to detect with better accuracy cases of cancer. Most of the rises in incidence rates can be attributed to four specific types of cancer, the most influential of which are prostate cancer and breast cancer. Lomborg addresses this point very clearly pages 225 and 226. IN !
regards to Breast Cancer Incidence, he says

"Incidence has increased since 1973 by 62 percent (!) whereas death rates have decreased more than 13 percent - why?. As the American Cancer society points out, most of the incidence increase occurred from 1982 to 1988, where the annual growth rate was about 4 percent. This large increase is generally attributed to the rapid increase in mammography screening - in the early eighties screening had reached only 10 - 20 percent of women over 40, whereas in 1992 at least 60-70 percent of all women over 40 had a mammogram. During this period the incidence of small tumors more than doubled (<2cm), while large tumors incidence _decreased_ by 27 percent."

The story with prostate cancer is similar. How does one separate an increased rate of incidence of cancer from better technical advancements in detection? Indeed, the National Cancer Institute said of the perceived increases in cancer incidence

"There was no substantial change in incidence for the major pediatric cancers, and rates have remained relatively stable since the mid 1980's. The modest increases that were observed were confined to the mid-1980's The patterns suggest that the increases likely reflected diagnostic improvements or reporting changes. Dramatic devlines in childhood cancer mortality represent treatment related improvements in survival" (page 225)

In all, Lomborg sums up the evidence and the interpreation of it as

"Overall there seems to be no indication of a cancer epidemic, apart perhaps from smoking-related lung cancer. Age- and smoking adjusted death rates are declining, and when incidence rates are going up, it is mainly an indication of more and earlier screening being part of the cause of declining death rates." (page 226)

In fact, in various segments, Lomborg addresses Cancer Deaths, Cancer Incidence, Cancer Rise in special types of cancers, pesticides and cancer, Natural and synthetic pesticides, synthetic estrogens, and estrogen and breast cancer, among many other topics that he (in my opinion) handles with the same respect for objectivity and quest for the most reasonable interpretation of the data and suggestions to most reasonable courses of actions.

"As to strong points - his stance on global warming was really interesting - I want to read up more about that, because it looks better crafted than a lot of the bunk industry anti-Kyoto stuff i've read."

I found that chapter quite interesting as well. He definitely seems to want to do what actually makes a difference, instead of what we merely think will. Its too bad you missed the first lecture, he did chastise the Bush Administration for misinterpreting what he (and people parroting his claims) said about global warming. AS he was saying 'Kyoto is very expensive and will have very little impact, that money should be spent on things that have a greater impact' it seemed that conservatives who seek on ideological defense of their grounds were leaving out the second part of that statement and coming up with 'Its expensive and will do very little good' and leaving it at that, which is what he was criticizing (only on implication) the Bush Administration.

"But again, that'll take a little research. And some of his conclusions were good - such as spending money where it'd do the most good. I'm just not sure i agree with him on where the most 'good' is."

I gathered that from your statements afterwards. This seems to be the source of a lot of disagreement with Lomborg among many people. It is not necessarily a disagreement with his data or the implications of it (as he merely collected and presented the data) but more the suggestions he makes as to what to do about it. His argument seems to be the typical economist free-marketer argument, that is increase trade and increase prosperity, help all people become wealthy enough so that instead of worrying if they will starve to death they will be worrying if they have nice parks to walk through and nice forests on earth that they value. This is purely an ideological difference though, I dont see how it can be resolved objectively. I can see a value in giving everybody a greater standard of living, and it will definitely take resources to do so, but our rate of resource use increase does not increase as fast as the population demand on it (energy production efficiency, for example,!
continually increases 3-4% faster than demand increases) I must admit I share many of the same suggestions he does to resolve these problems, help these countries get out of poverty then worry about their environment. Considering the shitty conditions that most of these people live in, I hardly consider our western trivial concerns such as 'the obesity epidemic' as warranting anywhere near as much attention as they do. But the answers here all boil down to value questions. How much do we value species diversity? How much does a mother with 5 children starving to death value that? What value do we want to impose on them through our actions? Do we want to keep 3rd world countries at pre industrialized standard of living levels to prevent more deforestation and CO2 increase? Do we want to decrease our western societies standards of living to increase 3rd world countries standards while having no net increase in demand on the environment? How would such provision be enacted? R!
egulations? International agreements? What about countries that disagr
ee? What about corrupt despotic tyrannical dictators who terrorize their own people? Should these things take precedence?

This and other reasons is why we must determine the real impact of effects. Use the strictness of the scientific methodlogy to answer these questions which all center around benefit costs analysis. Do pesticides, which increase agricultural yeilds and make food less expensive (and therefore harder for corrupt despotic leaders to keep out of the hands of their subjegated people) actually increase incidence of cancer? If so, how much? is it significant? Is it an increase that is beyond background levels? Is stopping the use of pesticides (and thus decreasing agricultural yields by 1/4 - 1/3, and increasing food prices) worth the price paid by the millions of people who can now no longer get their hands on food? Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwe leader, recently rejected emergency food aide from the United States because it contained genetically modified corn (which has been in use over a decade in the US) Zimbabwe is in the midst of one of its worst droughts ever while at the same t!
ime Mugabe is 'reclaiming' the farms of all the whites in his country (as their descendants were early colonialists and took the land by force) and giving the farms to the black people of the country (who have no experience farming) all this in the middle of a severe famine while thousands are on the brink of starvation. Mugabe rejected the US food aide because he feared cross contamination of his countries crops, which would mean Zimbabwe could no longer export food to Europe, which holds the most significant fear of genetically modified organisms. So his people are starving to death because Europeans donts want to eat GMO corn (among other reasons) Is this a valid fear that Europeans have? Is it worth the lives of thousands of people in Zimbabwe. (Mugabe, btw, gave the 4 largest seized farms to immediate members of his family)

"I agreed most with the professor (Skelly) who commented afterwards, actually. Again, more later."

I am not sure which one was Professor Skelly, so Ill have to hear what you have to say on the his comments.

"it's tired, i'm late (or vice versa) - i hope some of that at least made sense."

Certainly. I hope I came across clear as well, and please accept my apologies for the length of this message. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me, I am always for developing and modyfying my own worldview to be an accurate as possible description of reality. Hopefully you managed to meander through this entire email without being bored to death by my ramblings or without my having said something offensive. Please do not feel obliged in any way to respond in any great detail to any of the points I have made, I will not take it as any kind of remote succession of any of the points. If you should come across some interesting links in your web travels I would be thankfull if you took the time to send them to me.

"how're things on your end of the world/state? i'm also interested to know what you thought of his presentations/positons."

Given my ideological background, its easy to agree with most of what he says. Though I do see a valid complaint recognized by in part by the World Resource Institute

"Confusing the issue. - The subtitle to Lomborg's book is "Measuring the Real State of the World," a lead-in to the author's premise that the state of the world is improving, not deteriorating as environmentalists claim. In support, Lomborg presents evidence that humans are living longer and healthier lives, with rising levels of income and growing amounts of leisure time worldwide, and he dismisses evidence of global environmental degradation. But the environmental issue facing society is not whether we are increasing our material well being -- we are -- but whether we are prospering in ways that damage the natural environment. Lomborg's book equates -- and confuses -- these two fundamentally different issues"

I dont think he necessarily confuses the issues, but he definitely blurs the distinction. Two distinct separate cases should be made, 1)is the state of the human condition improving, and how can it be made to improve better. and 2) is the state of the world improving, getting worse, or staying steady when compared to human actions (resource use, global warming), non human actions (volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, etc), and natural events (solar flares, ion storms, etc) From this the most important question is formed, Can the state of the human condition be made to improve while simultaneously the state of the world be made to improve. The later part of this question is obviously difficult to answer, as it is wrought with some many subjective value judgments. It is much easier to objectively determine the state of the human condition as their are obvious states of condition that people prefer. It is much more difficult to determine the 'state of the world' because it has to !
be compared against something. In what state *should* the world be in? And opinions on the reference set point for measuring the state of the world vary from ideology to ideology drastically, anywhere from 'we should do what we want with the world' to 'the human population should be relegated back to simple natural living environments, small populations and interacting (interfering) with the world and nature as little as possible (if at all) Finding a balance between all these preferences will indeed be difficult.

Without examining in depth every claim he makes and every counter claim, its difficult to assess the accuracy of his statements. I would guess, though, purely going from my own perceptions and information I have read on him and against his arguments, that probably some 60 – 80% of what he says is a reasonable accurate interpretation of the state of the world. Probably 10 –20% is too blurry by inaccurate data, and the remainder is probably just wrong, some of which I am sure was partly by Lomborgs own Bias (we all are biased, after all) Overall though, I do believe that the majority of the book is accurate, given the effort he puts in remaining objective. Again, this is merely a tentative opinion and rests upon deeper investigation.

Have a good day



The same trial lawyer that spearheaded the class action lawsuits against
'Big Tobacco' (and pocketed some 40 million dollars in the process) is after
the nations next biggest class of business, the fast food industry. Mr.
Hirsh is representing Caesar Barber in his lawsuit against the top four fast
food chains in the US. He now represents three teenagers from poor families
that are overwieght and bringing suit against McDonald's. Also of note, the
'Physicians Committe for responsible medicine' is the referenced group
advocating this healthy attitude. My Editorial sent to The Day on PHCR
follows this article. - Matus

Mr. Barber also is being represented by Mr. Hirsch

1- McDonald's marketing cited for teens' obesity
Washington Times
Three teenagers in New York City have filed a class-action
lawsuit against McDonald's, saying the fast food chain's
food caused them to get fat and develop serious health
problems including heart disease and diabetes.

McDonald's marketing cited for teens' obesity
By Ellen Sorokin

Three teenagers in New York City have filed a class-action lawsuit
against McDonald's Corp., saying the fast food chain's food caused them to
gain as much as 200 pounds and develop serious health problems including
heart disease and diabetes. Top Stories....


To the Editor of The Day, in response to the perspective article that was
printed on 08/03 entitled "Lawsuits, not fast food, are good for us" Neal
Barnard who is president of the "Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine" said "The truth is that the beef, chicken, pork, dairy, sugar and
fast-food industries - through their tremendous political and economic clout
- manipulate what Americans think, know and believe about food. With such an
uneven playing field, it's tough for those of us speaking in the public
interest to compete." Neil should be one to speak about 'manipulating the

With statements such as "Meat consumption is just as dangerous to public
health as tobacco use. It's time we looked into holding the meat producers
and fast-food outlets legally accountable." made by Neil Barnard, it is not
hard to imagine what agenda is hidden behind these actions.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (or PCRM) is an animal
rights front group that has no interest in the public health. PCRM,
ignoring scientific evidence, has claimed that milk causes cancer and
diabetes and weakens bones. John Doyle, director of communications for the
Center for Consumer Freedom says of the PCRM "Their so-called medical advice
and health advice is nothing more than a continuation of their extreme
animal rights agenda." Indeed, as the Center for Consumer Freedom points
out, Tax records show that PCRM is in part funded with $430,000 by the
Foundation to Support Animal Protection, a group co-founded by the president
of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA. John
Doyle said further of PCRM "They've frequently been cited by the media as a
legitimate physicians group, but nothing could be further from the truth.
What they are, simply, is an animal rights organization." On its Web site,
the PCRM calls itself a "nonprofit organization supported by approximately
5,000 physicians and 100,000 laypersons." "Using their own numbers, less
than 5 percent of their membership are actually doctors," Doyle said. Far
from being an unbiased source of health guidance, PCRM has asserted itself
as a home for anti-meat zealots who are committed to removing beef, dairy,
poultry, and other animal products from diets under the guise of protecting
the health of the people.

One wonders what the remaining 5% who are doctors received their PhD's in?
And does having only 5% of its members as Doctors justify their self
appointed title of 'Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine'?

The American Medical Association's opinion about PCRM is unequivocal, saying
that it "finds the recommendations of PCRM irresponsible and potentially
dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans." In a separate public
censure, the AMA "continues to marvel at how effectively a fringe
organization of questionable repute continues to hoodwink the media with a
series of questionable research that fails to enhance public health."

While it is clear to any objective observer or scientifically minded person
that animals have emotions to varying degrees correlating to their
complexity, choosing to eat meat or not is a moral choice, not a health one.
There are plenty of healthy meat inclusive diets and plenty of unhealthy
vegetable only diets. Promulgating an agenda based on pseudoscientific
medical claims under the guise of increased health is pure intellectual
dishonesty and does a disservice to the integrity of consumer protection
groups while simultaneously insulting the intelligence of the public.


Center for Consumer Freedom - -
A good article on the use of technology to create an environment suitable
for human life and discounting the notion that the earth has any pristine
natural place of harmony that we should strive towards, it also touches on
the luddite threat to the worlds population - Mike

1- Unsustainable anti-biotech protests
by Thomas R. DeGregori
"Resources are fixed and finite for any given level of
technology and therefore, no matter how frugal our use
may be, we will eventually exhaust them in the absence
of technological change. Sustainability can come only
from a transformational mentality that promotes the
development of resource-creating technologies." (09/09/02)
A good introductory description of trade, subsidies, tarriffs and how they perpetuate economic imbalanaces between 1st and third world nations and extend the lives of suffering and misery that much of the worlds population lives through every day - Matus

10- Trade economics 101
Consumers for World Trade
by staff
"The principles of free trade are really quite straightforward. International competition keeps American industry on its toes, encouraging innovation, and discouraging complacency. Like a lazy student, an industry that slacks off will fail to make the grade. This has always been the case." (09/03/02)
With the staggering popularity of 'Crossing Over' by John Edwards, it is
not surprising that other networks are rushing to jump on the bandwagon.
The next in line appears to be psychic James Van Praagh. Van Praagh has
authored a few bestsellers recently cetnering around conversations he
allegedly has with dead people. Van Praagh, in my personal opinion, is one
of the least talented of the cold and warm reader mediums. This article is
an enjoyable read published in the LA times on Van Praagh and Michael
Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine. Proponents of such readings
typically defend them with claims that it is just entertainment, or that
even if these mediums can not really communicate with dead loved ones, the
survivors are helped by the belief that these mediums are for real.
Opponents claim that such communication with the dead activities as these
are just devious people taking advantage of (and money from) grief stricken
families. - Matus

I awoke this morning to a nice surprise with Brian Lowry's commentary on
James Van Praagh, the psychic medium who talks to the dead and gets his own
television series starting September 16. Hopefully some television producer
will see this piece and get interested in our skeptical television show. I'm
sure Mr. Van Praagh was none too pleased to see this article, but he'll get
over it soon enough--as soon as the checks start rolling in from the show.


Room for Doubt? There Ought to Be


Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and director of the Skeptics
Society, has an idea for a TV show that would debunk psychics, faith healers
and other mysterious phenomena that he deems a fraud or simply explainable
less-than-supernatural terms.

So far, no one has bitten. And surveying the TV landscape, it's not hard to
understand why--the strange and unexplained having been very, very good to
television, providing scant incentive to suggest otherwise.

"Crossing Over With John Edward," whose host purports to communicate with
dead, is a modest hit in syndication and on the Sci-Fi Channel. Last spring,
ABC ran a similar prime-time special, "Contact: Talking to the Dead," and
did on and other late-night TV psychics
who must generate plenty of calls, at $3.99 a minute, to justify all those
commercials geared to advice-seeking insomniacs.

CBS' miniseries was very loosely based on spiritual medium James Van Praagh,
the latest paranormal practitioner to follow Edward into the mysterious but
potentially lucrative dimension of TV syndication. "Beyond With James Van
Praagh" premieres Sept. 16, courtesy of Tribune Entertainment, which has
placed the show on many Tribune-owned TV stations, including KTLA in Los
Angeles. And yes, sweet spirit, that would be the same Tribune that owns the
Los Angeles Times.

As I learned after writing about "Crossing Over"--and nasty e-mails are
dribbling in, almost a year later--believers in psychics cling passionately
to that view, and I wouldn't expect or wish to shake their faith even if I

Still, one would think, or at least hope, there would be room on TV for
naysayers, for those willing to propose alternative theories that don't
require opening up your mind--and pocketbook--to someone relaying messages
from a father figure who might be Uncle Ralph gabbing from the grave.

Shermer, in fact, was briefly associated with such an enterprise--a
since-defunct series for the then-Fox Family Channel titled "Exploring the
Unknown." Featured among the segments was a bogus psychic who admits his
"abilities" are a con, impressing subjects by asking earnestly during every
reading, "Who's Charles?" As he later explained, if it's a miss, keep
fast and press onward, but almost everyone comes back with, "My sister's
husband" or "My brother's best friend."

It was hard not to think about that while previewing episodes of Van
new program, especially when he asks actor Wesley Snipes during a celebrity
segment, "Who's Jimmy?" Snipes identifies the name as his late grandfather,
and in a subsequent interview says he's convinced.

Sorry, that wouldn't do it for me. I know a Chuck or Charles and a Jimmy or
James, and my guess is you do too.

"I'm pretty sure they won't have any skeptics on the show," Shermer said.

Based on an initial sampling, no, they won't. The opening credits certainly
make no bones about Van Praagh's being able to do precisely what he claims,
touting his "extraordinary psychic ability" as "your connection to the world
beyond." If that isn't enough, during readings text along the bottom of the
screen says definitive things like "James is communicating with her deceased
father" to help the TV audience keep up.

Donna Harrison, Tribune's senior vice president for unscripted and reality
programming, says most of the staff, herself included, was skeptical going
and that she has since been won over. Still, she said, "We're not out to
preach or convert anyone."

Although episodes are edited for time, Harrison maintains the program takes
pains to ensure that Van Praagh doesn't receive information in advance. What
the show does offer is a lot of maudlin music and a torrent of tears, as Van
Praagh talks to dead spouses, children, even one fellow's deceased German
shepherd ("He misses the car rides," Van Praagh tells him).

"It's obvious that it's canned and edited and staged," Shermer contends,
noting that Van Praagh deftly covers up incorrect observations and makes
statements "that can mean any number of things," such as saying a woman's
late mother is "larger than life."

In one episode, Van Praagh delves into a triple-homicide before engaging in
reading with the teenage victims' distraught relatives. "Unsolved murder
mysteries are great, because he can say anything and they don't know,"
Shermer said.

Given all the tears shed, subjects clearly draw comfort from feeling their
loved ones are somehow with them. In that respect, "Beyond" may intrigue men
with its paranormal elements but principally aims at women accustomed to
absorbing personal stories of loss and grief in soap operas, newsmagazines
and talk shows.

"This is a lot of the emotional storytelling that women are used to seeing
and want to see in daytime," Harrison said.

Yet even if it's a performance--a stage show by someone who admits to having
a theatrical background--many will doubtless say, "Where's the harm?"

"What's the harm with alcohol and drugs, and removing yourself from reality
with a fantasy just to make yourself feel good?" Shermer said. "In my
opinion, it's a scam.... He's playing with people's emotions. I think it's
deplorable--an insult to the dead and the living."

At the least, programs such as "Beyond" and "Crossing Over" provide hope to
people desperate to contact those who have "passed over"--potentially
bolstering their belief in others who might offer the same service for a
>From that perspective, stations airing these programs would seem
in the interest of fairness, to cultivate dissenting views.

Don't look for equal time, however, within "Beyond." "There are a lot of
fakes, there are a lot of charlatans out there.... I can't control the
rip-off artists," Tribune's Harrison said. "I can only control the integrity
of this program."

Van Praagh, meanwhile, seeks to dispel any doubt as to his legitimacy,
reminding viewers at each show's close to "forget what you know and believe
what you see."

Perhaps it's just my cynical nature, but all I can see beyond the tears and
piano music are dollar signs, and all I know is that as a Tribune employee
and stockholder, I couldn't be prouder.
Brian Lowry's column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at
If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at
Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times
-------------------------------- - Article archives

Here is a recent article by Junk Science Columnist Steven Milloy,
critiquing ads he claims as alarmist that ran recently in the New York
Times. - Matus

Desperate Activists, Desperate Ads
By Steven Milloy, Fox News
September 6, 2002

Americans are focused on serious national security and economic issues. In
the face of these real concerns, environmental activists sadly have geared
up another myth-fueled, public relations effort to alarm us about chemicals.

In the past two months, the enviros have placed seven full-page ads in the
New York Times-- more than $500,000 worth of newspaper space.

The ominous ads purport to link learning disabilities, childhood brain
cancer and male infertility with manmade chemicals. "Toxic" chemicals are
passed on to infants via breast milk, the ads claim. They also allege
chemicals are inadequately tested before use is permitted.

As far as I can tell, though, what really needs to be tested is the ads for
truth and Mt. Sinai for being contaminated with unscrupulous activism...

The full column is at,2933,62229,00.html
EU Fear-Mongers' Lethal Harvest

Ronald Bailey is science correspondent for Reason magazine and author of the
new Cato Institute study, "The Looming Trade War over Plant Biotechnology."
He can be reached at

WASHINGTON -- Millions of starving people in Zimbabwe have the European
Union to thank for their hunger. In early July, Zimbabwe rejected food aid
from the United States because the corn involved had been genetically
enhanced to protect it against insects. The decision wasn't based on
science. This current threat of mass starvation is the direct consequence of
a trade war over genetically improved crops that is brewing between the
United States and Europe.

Zimbabwe has refused biotech corn because its government fears that Europe
would ban its agricultural exports if its farmers started growing
genetically improved maize. After all, since the mid-1990s, the EU has
banned the importation of genetically engineered crops from the United
States, claiming--entirely speciously--that they aren't safe.
Parent offended by vocabulary lesson
Wilmington Star News
A fourth-grade teacher at Williams Elementary School taught
the word 'niggardly' to her class last week. Now a
parent wants her fired "because it sounds similar to a
racial slur." (09/03/02)
In a victory for science and reason everywhere, a federal judge ruled in
favor of scientists and anthropologists who wished to examine the remains of
a 9,300 years old early American inhabitant. The remains, which became
known as 'The Kennewick Man' were found by a students in a shallow swamp
watching hydroplane races. They were in such good condition that they were
originally thought to be from the victim of a recent murder. The skeleton
is important because it sheds light of the origin of humans in North
America. Most significantly, this particular skeleton and skull had
features very similar to modern Europeans, (tall narrow nose, tall narrow
skull, etc) which were contrary to prevailing theories and quite a surprise.
A forensic scientist was employed to reconstruct the face of the person and
the Kennewick ended up bearing a remarkable resemblance to the actor Patrick
Stewart (Captain Picard of Star Trek) The result was stunning enough that it
graced the cover of popular media publications such as Time. The
controversy begin when nearby native American Indian tribes attempted to
claim the remains as an ancestor and wanted a proper respectful barrier
instead of subjecting them to scientific study. The scientists argued that
the Native American would not exist for another few thousand years in
anything remotely resembling their present form, and that the tribes
claiming him as an ancestor did not exist. The tribal representatives went
on record claiming that they did not 'believe' the scientists
interpretations of the origins of the Indians, and that these Indians and
their involved tribes had 'always been there' One of the scientists
involved in the original case (which ended up being ruled in favor of the
Tribes) lamented that they (the scientists) would have been better off
claiming that it was their religion that Native Americans weren't always
their, as it appeared to hold more weight than reality did. The Kennewick
man, along with many other skeletons from the era, showed that far from
living in harmony with nature, life was hard, brutish and short. The
remains included multiple broken bones and a few spear wounds, included an
embedded spear point in the hip, which apparently did him in. The case was
appealed and moved to federal courts which overturned the original ruling.
Thankfully, the desire to learn about the real world and inquire about the
past of all humans prevailed over the arbitrary social constructs of
particular groups. To hear the other side of the story, see the wonderful
article by Ann Fabian at
For more
information on the Kennewick man or to see pictures -

Enjoy...- Matus

Kennewick Man to go to scientists, judge says

"A federal judge yesterday laid to rest the controversy over what to do
with the remains of Kennewick Man, ruling that the 9,300-year-old bones
should be turned over to a team of scientists for study."

Kennewick Man to go to scientists, judge says

Native American coalition had sought 9,300-year-old remains for burial

Saturday, August 31, 2002


A federal judge yesterday laid to rest the controversy over what to do with
the remains of Kennewick Man, ruling that the 9,300-year-old bones should be
turned over to a team of scientists for study.

The long-awaited opinion, which came more than a year after oral arguments
were presented in the highly charged case, sets a precedent that will affect
future findings of ancient remains, scientists said.
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture presented by Bjorn Lomborg
recently at Yale, outlining much of the arguments in his book 'The Skeptical
Environmentalist' Bjorn had a pleasant disposition and was quite outgoing
as I talked to him for a few minutes after his talk. His message is
essentialy lets look at the way the world actually is, and works, and then
act on the in the most reasonable manners with our limited ability and
resources. Lomborg makes some pretty powerfull and interesting claims and I
have yet to come across any decent counterarguments that are not gross
mischaracterizations of his statements, or are addressed in his Book.
Scientific American and Skeptic magazine both ran features on him, and I
eagerly anticipiated some well written, well argued counter points. I was,
unfortunately, disspointed from bother publications. Bjorn routinely
presents lectures on his book and is routinely scourned and attacked by
extreme environmentalists. He has even had death threats against him. This
short article outlines some of what his claims are. - Matus

The Environmentalists Are Wrong

"With global warming disproportionately affecting third world countries, we
have to ask if Kyoto is the best way to help them. The answer is no. For the
cost of Kyoto for just one year we could solve the world's biggest problem:
we could provide every person in the world with clean water."

Men presumed guilty in domestic violence
by Glenn Sacks
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson was arrested after
an altercation with his girlfriend last week -- the latest
example of how police often arrest men who have been attacked by
their female partners. (08/12/02)

Baseball Player's Domestic Violence Arrest Demonstrates How Men are Presumed
Guilty in Domestic Disputes
August 13, 2002
by Glenn Sacks

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson was arrested after an altercation
with his girlfriend last week--the latest example of how police often arrest
men who have been attacked by their female partners.

According to the Associated Press, the Baltimore police concluded that
Erickson's girlfriend Lisa Ortiz: initiated the fight by hurling objects;
decided to come back twice after Erickson carried her out of the apartment;
repeatedly kicked the apartment door; caused Erickson two minor injuries,
one of them to his pitching arm; and herself suffered no injuries.

Nonetheless the police, who were operating under Maryland's mandatory arrest
law, interpreted Erickson's actions as excessive and are charging him with
second-degree assault...
A prime example of the state regulating relationships. Sticking its nose where it has no business being...

Politicians meddle in marriage
Christian Science Monitor
With divorce common and alternative family arrangements on the
rise across the country, the quest to strengthen the bond between
couples is fast becoming a priority for governments at all
levels. Critics say it's none of the state's business. (07/18/02)
This is a wonderfull commentary written by a concerned local resident and
sent to 'The Day'. It was published in the perspective section and written
by a local pharmacist chastising a previous artile and The Day in general
for not being critical enough of 'natural' remedies. - Matus

Unregulated 'natural' remedies can endanger your life

Published on 08/05/2002

By Kim Labrie, R.Ph.

The Day's July 29 article "Taking the alternative route" is a fine example
of why newspapers are a questionable source of health information. The
premise that women on hormon replacement therapy are uninformed, clueless,
unhealthy people blindly popping pills given to them by male doctors simply
to control hot flashes is itself uninformed. Most women go on HRT to protect
their skeletons and, up until now, their hearts.

The idea that Western medicine remedies are all bad because they are
regulated, or because their negative effects are publicly reported, is
ludicrous. Thank goodness the HRT study was done, but is anyone really under
the assumption that an adverse event from using herbal remedies is an

This pharmacist advises you ponder the following:...