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October 2010

More on the 1.8 billion dollar man

Let's follow-up on the last posting, covering John Groom's new book.

We can get more specific on one glaring anti-Green aspect of the Obama White House, and that is travel.

Here's a guy with access to the bully pulpit, nearly anytime he wants, yet...

He traveled to Phoenix (and this is but one example) to announce a foreclosure prevention program. Supposedly, there is some sort of symbolism here in that Phoenix is one of the areas hardest hit. But, who cares? The news footage would look about the same if it originated from DC, wouldn't it?

Bear in mind that this is not a case of you or me traveling with hundreds of others on a jumbo jet, thus maximizing the energy usage, and minimizing the environmental impact. Rather, there is massive environmental impact because everything he does is on the biggest scale: huge jumbo jets, motorcades, and moving hundreds of security and other staff people around. And don't forget all the people who must travel to see him.

The Greenies voted for Obama en masse, but every trip he makes costs millions of dollars, and wreaks havoc with the environment. More than that, no person in the world has as large a carbon footprint as the president.

Isn't it interesting that the symbolism of Phoenix trumps the reality of Obama's non-Green ways.

The 1.8 billion dollar man

That's the title of John Groom's new book. Here's the blurb...

Did you know that, despite a token salary, Barack Obama has the most expensive lifestyle in human history, costing more than any other US president? That taxpayers pay $300,000 for every night he spends at the Camp David retreat? That, even after adjusting for inflation, the entire Versailles palace in France could be completely rebuilt every single year for what it costs to support the current US President? That his limousine costs over $2 million? That he has the most expensive fleet of aircraft in the world?

John Groom and his researchers have just completed the first ever complete investigation into the costs of the White House, and you’ll see how, even in the midst of recession, the US president lives like a king.

The environmental angle here is really quite simple. No organization can be Green, or even claim to support such a notion if it is this big and bloated. Moreover, under these rubrics, there cannot be some sort of exemption for the White House, just because it is the White House.

Either the future of the planet is at stake, or it isn't. Only don't hold your breath waiting for his supporters to call him on this.

More junk science on fragrances

It used to be "publish or perish." But now, anything—and I mean anything—can be published in a so-called scientific journal.

Here's Exhibit A.       Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted, touted by lead author Anne C. Steinemann on her faculty website at the University of Washington.

Basically, Steinemann's group looked at 25 common fragranced consumer products—laundry products, personal care products, cleaning supplies, and air fresheners—and found certain volatile organic compounds being emitted from many of them. It is important to understand that this—in and of itself—is absolutely meaningless.

Whatever harm that could conceivably come from these compounds could only be evaluated from EXPOSURE data, rather than content data. Consider, for example, that we are all exposed to gasoline, which is quite toxic (far more than any of the compounds listed in Steinemann's article) as well as combustible. So what? The plain empirical fact is that few if any people have ever died from "gasoline exposure."

And then there's the Article History. It was first received by the publisher (Elsevier) on 12 June 2009, and was then received in revised form on 3 August 2010. It was finally accepted on 17 August 2010.

Inasmuch as the lab work here was far from demanding, and no real conclusions were drawn, despite there being a "Conclusions" section in the article, the publishing delay bespeaks the poor quality of the original work.

It is quite likely that the authors were forced to include the following disclaimers, as a condition of publication:

In the abstract...

Because the analysis focused on compounds emitted and listed, rather than exposures and effects, it makes no claims regarding possible risks from product use.

And in the body of the article...

Finally, this study did not seek to assess, and makes no claims regarding, whether product usage would be associated with any risks.

You can bet, though, that the fear entrepreneurs will make all kinds of claims about risk, based on this pathetic piece of work.

You might ask why anyone would care about products that have been utilized with apparent safety for decades. Good question. Let's call it a perversion of the scientific method. The classic scientific method first requires an observation. Then, and only then, a hypothesis is suggested to explain this observation, and this hypothesis is tested by an experiment. If the hypothesis is verified by this experiment, it must be repeated by others, until its truth is accepted by the scientific community.

Back in the day, carcinogenic chemicals were determined to be such after people had observed an unusually high incidence of a particular cancer in the cohort of interest. Then, animal studies were done to verify the hypothesis.

Now, though, things have changed. Far too many "scientists," who are really little more than technicians, can achieve lifetime job security by picking some chemical—especially one that is in wide commercial use—and give outrageous doses of it to a rodent. If an effect is observed, then "further study is warranted" and the chemical is put on the bad list. It matters not in the least that empirically, in actual human experience, there have been no observable ill effects.

Steinemann isn't even doing this. She is merely cataloging a list of chemicals. Shame on Elsevier for publishing this tripe, and shame on the granting agencies for supporting it.

Making HITECH work

Surely you know that HITECH is an acronym for Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, right? Well, you'd be all over this if you were a vendor of any product related to electronic health records.

That's because the Feds are offering something close to $17 billion in incentive payments (out of an overall budget of $22 billion) for so-called "meaningful use" of certified e-health record technology. President Obama's goal is to have us completely switched over to e-health records by 2014.

Naturally, there are all sorts of problems that will have to be addressed, including data security and patient privacy. And, there will be increased costs, with absolutely no guarantee that outcomes would be improved. As decades of information technology have shown, no matter what the system, the people—and their human limitations—are still the same.

My latest HND piece discusses this, and profiles a cool new company in this space—LigoLab.

Read the complete article.

When EPA overreaches, someone always gets hurt

In my latest HND piece, I take a look at how chemophobia is rapidly becoming the dominant motivation of the EPA. Indeed, one of the first things the agency did—to their everlasting shame—was to ban DDT.

Back in the day, though, they could at least dilute that travesty with positive acts toward cleaning up the air and water. Unfortunately, long about 1985, when all the big problems were pretty much taken care of, the agency could devote more time to "potential" problems. That's when the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 really spread its wings.

A recent ratcheting up of this war on chemicals are the so-called Chemical Action Plans. Many chemicals that have been widely used without ill effects for decades are now targeted. While that's good news in terms of job security for the EPA bureaucrats as well as the lobbyists and lawyers on the other side, it's bad news for everyone else.

Read the complete article.

Obstacles on the road to health care nirvana

That's the title of my HND piece from 11 October. We're playing a bit of catch-up here.

The article starts off as a follow-up to the previous week's effort on obesity, and then takes a look at what happens when health care goes big time. For one thing, it has become disease care, not health care, since there's no money in prevention, except for a few over-hyped diagnostics. Even then, it's a bit of a stretch to call that stuff "preventive."

Adding to the confusion is the apparent attitude that the best health care program is one that's free. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Is there anything else in people's lives that is supposed to be so terribly important, yet no one wants to pay for it?

Read the complete article.

Let Me In

This remake of the far superior Swedish original retains the creepiness, but changes were made that did not improve the story, at all. At first blush, it seems like a sort of bizarro puppy love affair, but as you think about it more, it is really much darker.

Read my complete review.

Dealing with obesity

That's the title of my latest HND piece. It was inspired by the "good news" coming from the CDC earlier this year that Americans may have reached their peak level of obesity.

Yes, friends. The obesity rates have leveled off. However, this is hardly anything to write home about as an incredible 34 percent of American adults are obese, as are 17 percent of children. For those keeping score, compared to 30 years ago, that's twice the rate for adults and three times the rate for children.

So, what should we do about it?

Some authorities are invoking the restrictions and penalties that were placed on smoking as a way to proceed. Others talk about education.

One sure way would be to shift some of those ag subsidies onto healthier foods, only don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. It was already proposed for the 2007 Ag bill, but the politics would not allow it. Just one more example of how much your wonderful federal government actually does care about your welfare.

So, until they start putting their money where their mouth is, all the talk about obesity by the Feds is just "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (Apologies to William Shakespeare)

Read the complete article.