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Book Review of: Poisoned For Profit

How Toxins Are Making Our Children Chronically Ill

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Review of Poisoned For Profit, by Philip and Alice Shabecoff (Softcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

I've read several other books on the problem of corporations externalizing costs through environmentally bad behavior, and am familiar with the subject. So I was excited to come across this book. But the book falls far short of its potential because of how the authors framed things and because of factual errors.

The basic premise of this book seems to be that evil Republicans are killing the nation's children and we need to get behind the brave and noble Democrats to put a stop to it. The authors seem to filter their entire worldview through this lens.

No, I do not like the Republican wing of The Party (it really is evil). Nor do I like its Democrat wing (it is equally evil). No matter which wing is in power, we get the same corruption, wealth transfer to the wealthy, wars, debt, bureaucracy, trampling of freedoms, and currency devaluation. Only the rhetoric changes. The misbehavior is the same. And it's the same because these people work for the same employers.

I must point out that, even with its faults, this book contains some astute observations.

Three general comments

  1. The authors tossed around figures about the cost of this or that (e.g., the economic cost of a drop of X number of IQ points). The figures were large and impressive, but the authors did not show their calculations or stipulate the assumptions on which the calculations were performed. Since the authors did not present a basis for these figures, all I can conclude is the figures are baseless.
  2. Many quotes are judgment statements that appear without the context in which they were made. This kind of thing exists throughout the book, and it feels like an exercise in reader manipulation.
  3. The authors will talk about something bad that's going on, and inject irrelevant comments. For example, they talk about how rundown Pottsfield is. Being rundown is not what caused the illnesses. The authors didn't need to embellish the tragedy of Pottsfield with this kind of irrelevant information.

Specific comments

On page 45, the authors state that, in many instances, "...the profits are privatized while the costs are socialized." This is an accurate assessment. In 2010, many people are upset about socialism. But they forget we've had socialism on the cost side since the 1870s. You may recall that, as President, Teddy Roosevelt went after the big timber companies that were stealing wood from our land. This same attitude of robbing the many to enrich the few persists today. And the same dynasties are behind it.

On page 87, the authors state that fruit juice is a healthy beverage. No, it is not. Ask any endocrinologist. You should never give a child (or an adult) fruit juice. There is extensive literature on this, and the point isn't even debatable.

One page 143, the authors appear to believe that fluoride is added to drinking water as a dental health measure and it succeeds as such. Wrong on both counts. It's a byproduct of making aluminum. That's right, it's an industrial waste product. So it's dumped into the water based on the lie that it makes teeth stronger.

While fluoride does bond with enamel when applied topically, it harms teeth from the inside out when ingested. Just read the warning label on any fluoridated toothpaste--why do you think it's there? Because fluoride is toxic when ingested. Or ask any dentist who treats people from heavily fluoridated areas. Here in the Kansas City metropolis, dentists can tell who lives out in western Kansas because those folks have tell-tale fluoride spots on their teeth (along with other problems). No, I'm not saying the 1950s idea that the Commies put fluoride into our water for mind control is true (we have television, so they didn't need to do that). I'm saying fluoride is not something you should be drinking. Look up "fluoridosis."

On page 157, the authors talk about the outsourcing of federal projects. This is a problem, and the authors are correct to deride this practice. The reason for the outsourcing is simply pork barrel spending and "job creation," both of which reduce total employment due to the opportunity costs involved in taking money from the productive sector and funneling it into overhead.

On page 159, the authors are wrong about arsenic testing. The reason the national testing requirement for it was dropped is it applied to areas that didn't have arsenic. As there is only so much money to go around, the arsenic tests were done instead of other tests for contaminants. So common sense dictated letting regional characteristics, not some federal bureaucrat, dictate how testing funds would be spent.

On page 214, the authors are wrong about Braidwood. I've actually been in the plant, and did some work on its feedwater system. I can tell you it's a pressurized water reactor. The reactor water doesn't leave the containment building. I don't know about the tritium the authors are so upset about, but if that is a problem it's because all nuclear generating plants store their waste onsite because the USA doesn't have a central waste depot and doesn't recycle via fusion reactors. Radioactive water isn't emanating from reactors by the millions of gallons the authors claim. It isn't doing so at all. Maybe there is some tritium leaking out (I don't know), but it certainly is not in the millions of gallons and it's not leaking from reactors.

On page 245, the authors have almost correctly identified the role of corporations in the USA. If you start connecting the dots, you see that a handful of corporations run the US government and nearly all members of CONgress are merely the paid employees of these corporations. This is why we had the 1860 war between the states, why The Party took over elections following the "Chinese problem" during Reconstruction, why Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest while delivering a speech against having a central bank, and why the USA presently has 24 aircraft carriers while the rest of the world combined has only 12. If these seem unrelated, look more closely.

Despite making this vital point on this page, the authors seem to forget it in the rest of the book. Instead, they repeatedly say "right-wing" and fixate on the horizontal axis of the political quadrant even though everything that matters is happening on the vertical axis.

On page 248, the authors talk about how angry millions of Americans are and that Obama's being president "did not soften that anger." Well, let's see. In his first 10 months in office, Obama heaped as much federal debt on our backs as GW Bush did in eight whole years. He also broke every campaign promise in his first 100 days. So, yeah, he didn't soften any anger.

On page 251, we see how the authors can't get their facts right about elections, politicians, and the Supreme Court. They errantly characterize a Supreme Court decision on campaign finance as opening the door for corporations to go on a spending spree. Read the Court's decision. That's not what it said or what it permits.

On page 254, the authors state what they believe the cause of the 2009 financial implosion was. They are partially right, but they leave out any mention of the primary drivers of that mess.

On page 255, the authors tell us they thought Obama would bring a fresh start to the nation. Let's see, now. We were staggering under record federal debt. While Obama was a senator, he voted FOR every spending measure that came before him. In fact, he had an F rating from the National Taxpayers Union. The only other things he voted for were criminal protection measures. For anything else, he simply refused to vote. This guy was going to get us going again financially? It probably doesn't help that he tapped an egregious tax cheat to head up the US Treasury.

On page 259, the authors make false claims about the cause(s) of obesity. There is only one cause: overeating. Whatever your situation (glands messed up, etc.), there is a limit to how many calories you can take in. Exceed it and your body stores fat. It's really that simple.

On page 269, the authors insinuate that locally grown is always better and more nutritious. Soil varies by locale. Some foods grown locally just are not nutritious for that reason. Also, there are water problems. The cost of bringing water to a desert region so you can grow apples there is enormous. And it brings on just the sort of pollution the authors (and I) are opposed to.

On page 277, the authors advocate homeopathy. This form of "medicine" has no basis in reality. Essentially, you keep diluting the medicine down until only the "essence" or some other voodoo variation of it is left. The whole concept defies logic. But if you need this kind of fantasy for therapeutic placebo effect it might be useful.

Overall, I think the way the message is presented undermines the message. The authors need to decide if they want to peddle their personal political alliance with a group that's backed by the very people they excoriate or if they want to get people onboard the movement to get these criminals to clean up their act and our environment. It's an A-B choice.

 


 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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