October 2007 Archives

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Skeptical question of the day (seasonal flu deaths)

By Michael Fumento

Dave wrote:

Today's paper again mentioned the 36,000 deaths per year from flu...........and I believe I've heard / read that the only way that kind of figure will hold up to scrutiny is if 1918-1919 is included!...........what is your take on this statistic?

How many people died of flu in 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003.............?

Thanks in advance,


This is seasonal flu, having nothing to do with even the last pandemic of 1968 (the Hong Kong flu). The CDC uses the number of 24,000 - 36,000, which the media naturally convert to solely the top end. I'll bet 24,000 is more like it.

Further, there's a lot of what's called the "harvesting effect." Flu causes few deaths outside the elderly population and probably kills those elderly not too long before something else does.

That said, I get my annual flu shot because I cannot afford any down time that I might otherwise have prevented. Plus, it adds to herd immunity so that it protects those who might get more seriously ill than I am but either didn't get the vaccine or are insufficiently protected.

In fact I've even had the pneumonia vaccine, which can prevent secondary bacterial infections from attacking immune systems under assault from the flu virus. Unfortunately, while it protects against 23 different bacterial strains, it does not protect against the worst of them - staphylococcus.

October 31, 2007 01:46 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

Hollywood's War on War on Terror, my piece in the NYSun

By Michael Fumento

Critics have labeled the new movie "Rendition" a "political thriller." Thriller? Maybe. "Political?" Absolutely.

As I write in the NYSun, it's merely the latest in an unbroken series of major films about the war on terror that range from those seeking to assure us that Islamist terrorism isn't the threat we might think, to those depicting the terrorists as no worse than those who fight them.


Tom Clancy's "The Sum of all Fears," when made into a film, converted Islamist terrorists into an Austrian neo-Nazi. How's that for realism? The reason for the change was an explicit kowtow to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a supporter of Islamist terror activities.

In "Babel," the accidental shooting of an American tourist is treated as a terrorist act; but in the end the only "terrorist" killed is a cute little boy.

"Live Free or Die Hard" makes you think at first that Islamist terrorists are the threats. Turns out it's an evil cyber-villain with a beautiful Kung Fu sidekick who once worked for . . . the DHS!

In "The Kingdom," we find out in the final seconds of the film that FBI agents sent to Saudi Arabia to track down the killer of 200 American civilians are on the same moral footing as the terrorists they tracked.

In "Rendition," a clearly innocent American "family man" born is Egypt is snatched from U.S. soil and shipped to a country where torture is allowed. And torture they do!

The predictable excuses don't wash.

1. "Hollywood just wants to make money. If we want to send a message, we use Western Union." Right. "Babel" lost money and so will "The Kingdom." "Rendition" is already a flop.

2. "Islamic terrorists are unsellable villains." Right. They routinely explode bombs in markets and launch chlorine gas attacks. They build torture chambers and make and display videos of beheadings in which the victim screams in agony as his head is sawed off with a dull knife. Even their foiled plots are often bizarre, such as Richard Reid's "shoe bomber" attempt. These guys are a scriptwriter's dream. Quentin Tarantino couldn't think this stuff up.

3. "We don't want to stereotype Muslims or Arabs." Right. Nobody suffers more from Islamic terror than Muslims themselves. Islamist terrorists everyday kill and maim Iraqis and Afghans. Now they've blown up at least 136 Pakistanis greeting former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. All were Muslims.

Truly, Hollywood has declared war on the War on Terror.

Some of Michael Fumento's combat footage from Iraq can be viewed on the History Channel over the Veterans' Day weekend.

October 25, 2007 11:31 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military ~ Terrorism

Another blow against anti-vaccine hysteria -- or is it?

By Michael Fumento

The vaccine preservative thimerosal has jumped the safety hurdle. Again. So indicates the Sept. 27, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. But as I write in my TCS Daily piece, "again" is the problem. One huge study after another has cleared thimerosal as a cause of child developmental disorders, but there is a powerful lobby that couldn't care less.

Jenny McCarthy
You can see why Jenny
McCarthy is treated as an expert
on childhood vaccines and autism.

There are over 150 anti-vaccine web sites. None will disappear as a result of the new findings. After all, who cares what a multitude of huge epidemiological studies from all over the world say when former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, with her 38 C IQ, claims on Oprah and in the new book she's hawking that her son got autism from a vaccine?

The major problem with this hysteria? It scares parents away from vaccination programs, even mandatory ones. And only mandatory programs can confer "herd immunity," meaning that immunization rates in the wider population are high enough (for example, 85 percent for diphtheria) to protect those not immunized.

Those who encourage parents to avoid vaccinating their kids are telling them to become free riders, relying on those parents who do vaccinate. But if enough people try to free ride, then herd immunity is lost and what follows is the return of childhood diseases we hardly think about anymore. Diseases like pertussis have made comebacks in countries as diverse as Australia, Japan, and Sweden after anti-vaccinationist scares.

Better known as "whooping cough," pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. Pertussis cases went from fewer than 8,000 in the U.S. in 2001 to over 25,000 in 2005.

Reaching parents who have already been practically brain-washed is hard, but for the sake of our children we must do so.

October 24, 2007 02:25 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer) ~ Vaccines

Agent Orange and New Zealanders who fought in 'Nam

By Michael Fumento

In an e-mail from New Zealand with the subject line: "At last," Rex Barron wrote:

It's nice to see and hear commonsense at last. I'm referring to your AO [Agent Orange] articles, of course. I'm a New Zealand soldier (infantry) who served in Vietnam 68-69. It may interest you to know that the NZ soldiers and families are a close knit family and therefore we know exactly how many went and how many have died since. I have been banging my head against a brick wall trying to convince my fellow veterans that they are not about to keel over with some dreaded lurgy brought on by TCDD. [TCDD is the trace dioxin that's present in AO as part of the manufacturing process. "Lurgy" or "lurgi" is British English slang for an unspecified or mythical disease.]

By using the population mortality graphs I have proved, successfully, that of the 3300 who went the 575 dead of various causes is quite normal.

At first glance it seems high but the percentage of Maori [The tribe native to New Zealand] soldiers serving was 20% higher than than the general population and tragically Maori die two and a half times faster than Caucasian. So unlike the scaremongers I used both population tables. Both Australia and the US used conscription and consequently have found it hard to come up with measurable numbers. In our case we were all volunteers and coming from a small country everybody is accounted for.

We were attached to the Australians so where they went we went.

There are too many fingers in the pie dish now with all the money that has been thrown around. It was your Mark Twain who said, "A man will not understand if his salary depends on him not understanding."

Cordially yours,
Rex Barron

Dear Rex,

Thanks for the info and thanks for having fought alongside our troops in a nasty war.

BTW, in future writings to people you suspect get a lot of e-mail you need to have a more detailed subject line. Something like "at last" sounds like it's for "At last, there's a penile enlargement pill that really works!"

All the best,

October 19, 2007 12:08 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer) ~ Military

Do illegal immigrants really do the jobs legals WON'T?

By Michael Fumento

That's what the open borders folks say. Or is it simply that they'll charge somewhat less, in part because the employer isn't paying his part of Social Security and Medicare and the employee isn't either? A commentary in the Washington Post by Gary Jacobsen may be instructive.

In it, Jacobsen relates that he owns two homes, one to live in and one to let. The one he lets "was going to need a lot of work before a new tenant could move in." So he "arranged for a contractor from Manassas (Virginia) to walk through the house . . . . He estimated the cost of painting five rooms would be $500. That, of course, included the paint. Power-washing the rear deck would cost another $100, and trimming bushes and other yard work would cost $80. Total cost of repairs: about $700 . . . "

Now, if you live in his area, and I more or less do, you know he was getting a hell of a deal. And owning two homes, he wasn't bordering on being impoverished. Nevertheless . . .

"I decided there had to be a better (read: cheaper) way."

So he drove to a 7-Eleven parking lot and hired two men who could only speak Spanish. It ended up that "my total expense for the day was $295. It was a bargain."

End of his story.

End of story.

October 8, 2007 07:13 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Immigration

It's been a bad hurricane season for Chris Mooney

By Michael Fumento

Chris Mooney is a left-wing writer who specializes in injecting politics into practically any scientific subject you can name. Mooney could make a case that there would be no cavities but for conservatives and the GOP. His latest book is called Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming.

But as Steve McIntyre, the guy who put egg all over the face of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies for overstating U.S. global warming, notes and shows in charts: "At this point, despite a couple of intense hurricanes, 2007 is even quieter thus far than 2006."

Stating that, "Some of you have been noticing a tendency for almost any gust of wind in the Atlantic to now become a named storm," he charts both hurricane days and storm days. Both make his point nicely.

As to Mooney, is it really fair to say a mere two-year stretch undercuts his position? Why not? Despite any statistics he may have to twist, er, offer, the fact is his book is essentially based on just one year, 2005. In fact, but for just two storms - Katrina and Rita - neither his propaganda nor the entire massive push to either blame both recent and future hurricanes on global warming wouldn't exist.

October 2, 2007 04:25 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Environment