Poisoned For Profit, by Philip and Alice Shabecoff (Softcover, 2010)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.