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January 2010 Archives
Does positive thinking lead to positive outcomes?
By Michael Fumento
Recently I wrote a positive review (no pun intended) of Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America for Forbes Online. A reader nevertheless wrote to me: "studies show that optimism leads to more positive outcomes." My response:
No, actually they don't. They find correlation but not causation. Being fat is associated with overreating, but not too many people would argue that being fat causes you to overeat anymore than they would see a cart behind a horse and presume that the cart is pushing the horse forward. I allude to this in my book review.
As far as success and riches go, yes, studies of both individuals and nations do link greater wealth with a more upbeat attitude. But our pathological positivism thrusts the cart squarely before the horse, insisting that attitude leads to circumstances. Evidence that suggests positive attitudes lead to positive results - like cheerier people being more likely to get a job or promotion - could merely reflect societal prejudice against those with negative or merely realistic attitudes, Ehrenreich points out.
Ehrenreich writes of a plenary session on "'The Future of Positive Psychology'" featuring the patriarchs of the discipline, Martin Seligman and Ed Diener. Seligman got the audience's attention by starting off with the statement, 'I've decided my theory of positive psychology is completely wrong.' Why? Because it's about happiness, which is 'scientifically unwieldy.'"
So we're left to consider this logically. And logically circumstances are more likely to dictate attitude than attitude is to dictate circumstances. The connection in the first case is obvious; in the second case you have to provide all sorts of explanations as to why this might be the case.
Now, I have a friend who has a positive attitude despite current very negative circumstances. But why?
Because as he says he's utterly convinced the novel he's completing will be a best-seller notwithstanding that he's never even written a novel before and the objective odds are he won't even get a publisher. But he's factoring a best-seller into his mental attitude.
Unfortunately John Kennedy Toole probably had exactly the same attitude and for the best of reasons. "A Confederacy of Dunces" was a fantastic book. It did in fact become a best-seller. But not before every publisher poor Toole went to rejected it outright and he killed himself. If Toole had a more sanguine attitude he might have gone on to write other books, gotten one of those published, and then gotten publishers to look at the first book. We know of similar examples, as with J.K. Rowling.
I'm sorry, but there's nothing inherently good about positivism and, again as I note in my book review, there are indeed studies showing that pessimists are better able to handle bad news than optimists. All that said, I'm not pushing pessimism per se - although pessimists do serve an important function in society as a brake on the optimists - I'm pushing realism.
Bin laden joins global warming doomsayers
By Michael Fumento
Apparently oblivious to the amount of carbon dioxide he released into the atmosphere in that nasty little incident in 2001, Osama bin Laden has joined with Al Gore and other warmists to condemn the U.S. as a rogue nation for its alleged contribution to global warming. (The New York Post quipped that he "raised the terror warning level to green.
In an audiotape played by Al Jazeera, the al Queda leader warns of the dangers of climate change (If polar bears go extinct, how will he be able to blow any of them up?) and echoing Gore and his ilk called for "drastic solutions" to global warming - "not solutions that partially reduce the effect of climate change," according to the taped message. He declared the world must bring "the wheels of the American economy" to a grinding halt.
"We should stop dealings with the dollar and get rid of it as soon as possible," bin Laden said. "I know that this has great consequences and grave ramifications, but it is the only means to liberate humanity from slavery and dependence on America." Bin Laden also blamed the U.S. for refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol - notwithstanding that almost no nation that did sign it actually abided by it.
Al Gore was unavailable for comment. Hah!
(Thanks to Jaime Arbona for the photoshopping. Alas, yes, it was photoshopped.)
John Stossel salutes my swine flu work
By Michael Fumento
[Herewith his blog for Fox Business, titled "Swine Flu Hysteria." I agree with him about the pharmaceutical companies. As I've written elsewhere, in addition to the usual bureaucratic desire for growth in power and budget, the WHO was seeking to cover its tracks for an earlier hysteria - that of avian flu. Moreover, it has been remarkably open (Even if I'm the only one to report on it) about seeking to exploit swine flu to engineer hard-left political change including the redistribution of wealth between countries and instituting "social justice."]
"The Official Word to All, Get a Swine Flu Vaccination Now" was the New York Times headline earlier this month. That followed months of headlines like:
"Swine flu has killed 540 kids, sickened 22 million Americans" (USA Today)
"U.S. prepares for possible swine flu epidemic as global cases rise" (CNN)
But Michael Fumento writes that the facts on swine flu hardly live up to the months of hype.
Hidden within the latest edition of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's
You may recall all those additional deaths we were supposed to suffer as a result of swine flu - 30,000 to 90,000, according to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (a number I previously disputed)...
But like New Zealand and Australia, the United States can actually expect considerably fewer overall flu deaths because of the swine flu...
Only 161 new infections were reported to CDC-monitored labs last week, compared to 11,470 at the epidemic's mid-October peak.
One reason that there are fewer deaths - a reason little reported by the overheated media -- is that most swine flu is milder than seasonal flu. The Council of Europe now wants an investigation of the United Nation's World Health Organization. It claims WHO, in league with pharmaceutical companies, declared swine flu a pandemic to sell vaccine. The WHO denies the accusation, saying the pandemic is not over.
I doubt that WHO bureaucrats hype swine flu to promote pharmaceutical companies. I suspect that they do it because it inflates their self-worth.
After all the media coverage, scaring us to death, now we'll see if there are stories that inform us of how deadly swine flu really turned out to be.
Why Scientific Arguments Don't Go Very Far Anymore
By Michael Fumento
Do vaccines cause autism? Here's your answer.
Jenny McCarthy, by virtue of being a former Playboy Playmate who claims her son had autism but that she personally cured him, has been anointed an expert by the media as evidenced by appearances on such shows as Oprah, ABC's 20/20, and Good Morning America. Typical of her evidence was her appearance on Larry King Live in which she countered three knowledgeable physicians with "Bullshit!" immediately followed by "My son died in front of me from a vaccine injury!" (Yes, it's on YouTube.)
A stunned King asked what or who she was talking about, whereupon she admitted he was actually alive. This woman to many Americans - including the newsmakers - has more authority than every medical journal in print or every scientific panel that's ever met.
Flu Report Jan. 29 - What Swine Flu ISN'T Doing
By Michael Fumento
Deaths down, hospitalizations down, infections reported to CDC-surveillance labs down. Again the usual disclaimer that this probably represents a time lag in reporting and this are probably all actually the same as the week before.
The only aspect of interest again is that of 164 positive samples those labs have received, only two clearly were not swine flu. So here we are, approaching what is the peak of the annual flu season (mid-February) and it does appear that, as was the case in Australia and New Zealand, the milder swine flu has simply brushed aside the far deadlier seasonal flu. In essence, swine flu has become our seasonal flu. And a lot fewer of us are going to die this year as a result.
WHO swine flu chief caught on video lying about pre-fab pandemic
By Michael Fumento
Even before the World Health Organization declared its phony pandemic last summer, its designated fibber-in-chief has been Keiji Fukuda. Yet I've never been able to catch him a lie so explicit that he couldn't somehow worm out of it. Till now.
Thus when he said (and still does), the virus may be mild now but it could mutate to become worse I would point out that this would be the first time a flu virus has suddenly changed course like that. But technically he was right. Finally, I've caught him with his nose stretched out three feet long - and on a vital issue.
As I pointed out upon the WHO's pandemic declaration in June, the previous definition required "enormous numbers of deaths." But the agency desperately wanted a pandemic and swine flu, vastly milder than ordinary flu, clearly didn't fit. So they simply penned a new definition to match swine flu, making deaths irrelevant and explicitly declaring "mild" strains would qualify.
Since flu always strikes throughout the world, the only reasonable distinction between a normal year and a pandemic year is severity. So clearly this was politically motivated, and I've addressed those motivations. They include everything from power grabbing and money grubbing to a hard left agenda of redistributing wealth and instituting "social justice."
Now the WHO is defending itself against charges of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that it created a "false pandemic" in "one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century." To which the WHO disingenuously responds that it is a real pandemic - by its fresh and nonsensical interpretation.
But the WHO can't change what the old definition said. At the PACE hearing, though, Fukuda boldly told the assembled experts, reporters, and, yes, cameramen: "Having severe deaths has never been part of the WHO definition."
Here's a snapshot of the WHO definition, also viewable at the agency's Web site, at the very time swine flu broke out.
Moreover, at a "virtual press conference" ten days earlier, he stated:"Did WHO change its definition of a pandemic? The answer is no, WHO did not change its definition." The man is an arrogant lying machine.
First WHO Director-General Margaret Chan needs to fire Fukuda. And then she needs to fire herself.
Brit M.D. who tied MMR vaccine to autism acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly"
By Michael Fumento
The doctor who first suggested a link between MMR vaccinations and autism - and subsequently made rates of measles and other skyrocket - acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research for a landmark 1998 Lancet paper, says Britain's official General Medical Counsel.
During over two years of hearings Andrew Wakefield was accused of a series of charges, including that he didn't have ethical approval or relevant qualifications for such tests, he improperly gathered blood samples (paying children 5 pounds each for the samples at his son's birthday party), and (here's the kicker) not disclosing that he had been paid to advise lawyers acting for parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR.
The GMC also declared two of Wakefield's former colleagues at the hospital where he worked had also broken the guidelines.
In 2004, 10 of the 12 co-authors of Wakefield's paper issued a retraction.
The board didn't look into accusations that Wakefield had outright faked his data, yet a 2009 Sunday Times investigation, confirming evidence presented to the GMC, revealed that:
In most of the 12 cases, the children's ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.
But the damage has been done. After Wakefield's study appeared, new anti-vaccination groups popped up like toadstools after rain. (There are now over 150 anti-vaccine Web sites.) Older ones such as the National Vaccine Information Center were reinvigorated. This in turn caused surges in cases of all three viral diseases, each of which is highly infectious and potentially fatal.
This notwithstanding an absolute mountain of evidence that the MMR vaccine and other childhood vaccines (all under fire) are safe. Some of the epidemiological evidence for this comes from whole countries and one body of evidence includes the entire state of California. I have written repeatedly about this problem.
Measles, mumps, pertussis, and other illnesses are on the rise. The accompanying graph shows U.K. measles cases going from nearly zero to close to 1,500 in just the past four years. Not all children need be vaccinated to prevent any disease, but there need to be enough to maintain "herd immunity" or around a 95 percent rate depending on the specific disease. In many areas, rates have fallen well below that level. The ferocious anti-vaccine lobby (and if you think I'm kidding about the ferocity, you should check out my hate mail on the subject) is literally killing our children.
Because vaccines are so effective, people don't remember these diseases and how they would kill. But we're being forced to relearn.
Cold, bitter winter is "proof" of global warming
By Michael Fumento
"Winter offered as proof of warming" declares a headline in the print edition of the Washington Post, although perhaps the irony of that later struck the editors and they softened it a bit in the online edition to "Harsh winter a sign of disruptive climate change, report says."
Nothing especially outrageous here. The enviros have been doing this for years; indeed, it's why they adopted the term "global climate change" so that any change in climate or even just weather - which obviously this is - can be portrayed as a result of man's nefarious activities in putting greenhouse gases into the air. The report, incidentally, is from the National Wildlife Federation that makes money by promoting global warming in the same way that GM makes money selling trucks.
But folks are having trouble buying it. A poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked respondents to rank 21 issues in terms of priority. Global warming came in dead last. It's come in last before, but this time just 28 percent of those surveyed list global warming as a top priority, down from 35 percent in 2008.
Flu expert slams WHO pandemic panic-mongering in German magazine interview
By Michael Fumento
I missed this interview when it came out in the German magazine Der Spiegel in July, but it's still relevant. Unfortunately, even though the interview subject Tom Jefferson of the esteemed Cochrane Collaboration is an American, you're not going to find anything like this in a U.S. publication. Our media bought into the scare lock, stock, and virion and they're not going to admit they were wrong. Herewith some excerpts.
SPIEGEL: Do you consider the swine flu to be particularly worrisome?
Jefferson : It's true that influenza viruses are unpredictable, so it does call for a certain degree of caution. But one of the extraordinary features of this influenza - and the whole influenza saga - is that there are some people who make predictions year after year, and they get worse and worse. None of them so far have come about, and these people are still there making these predictions. For example, what happened with the bird flu, which was supposed to kill us all? Nothing. But that doesn't stop these people from always making their predictions. Sometimes you get the feeling that there is a whole industry almost waiting for a pandemic to occur.
SPIEGEL: Who do you mean? The World Health Organization (WHO)?
Jefferson: The WHO and public health officials, virologists and the pharmaceutical companies. They've built this machine around the impending pandemic. And there's a lot of money involved, and influence, and careers, and entire institutions! And all it took was one of these influenza viruses to mutate to start the machine grinding.
SPIEGEL: Do you think the WHO declared a pandemic prematurely?
Jefferson: Don't you think there's something noteworthy about the fact that the WHO has changed its definition of pandemic? The old definition was a new virus, which went around quickly, for which you didn't have immunity, and which created a high morbidity and mortality rate. Now the last two have been dropped, and that's how swine flu has been categorized as a pandemic.
"The Hole in the EPA's Ozone Claims," my piece in Forbes Online
By Michael Fumento
To the EPA, "safe" is a constantly moving target - and that's the way it likes it. Always something new to regulate, always a new hobgoblin from which to save us. Take the agency's proposal to yet again lower allowable ozone levels. It's another one of those win-win regulations for which the EPA is famous, supposedly saving both lives and money. But its assertions collapse when you examine the science on which they're allegedly based.
U.S. ground-level ozone concentrations have fallen by 25% since 1980 and 14% just since 1990. Yet in 1997 the EPA tightened the screws with what it called a "safe" standard at 80 parts per billion (ppb). Then in 2008 "safe" became 75 ppb. Now the agency insists "safe" is a maximum of between 60 ppb and 70 ppb. No doubt the agency is already laying the groundwork to drop the "safe" level yet again.
Read about the EPA's mighty effort to take us to pollution levels so low that giant national parks will nonetheless be above the allowable limit, in my article "The Hole in the EPA's Ozone Claims" in Forbes Online.
By Michael Fumento
A question to Slate's "Green Lantern" environmental adviser:
Instead of glasses, I wear contact lenses. This means throwing out scraps of plastic (as well as their packaging) every two weeks, in addition to using cleaning fluid (which comes in plastic containers) and plastic lens cases. How much better would it be for the planet if I switched to glasses?
The response goes on for 10 paragraphs, essentially concluding "Don't worry about it." A better response: "Give me a break!"
Or how about this, "Say five 'Our Gaias'" and go forth and sin no more.
WHO squealing like a pig over charges it fabricated the flu "pandemic"
By Michael Fumento
The WHO has suddenly gone from a cackling Chicken Little crying "The Sky is Falling!" to squealing like a stuck pig, in response to charges (such as I've been making since day one) that it fabricated a pandemic. "The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is wrong and irresponsible," the agency claims on its website.
A WHO spokesman declined to spell out whom the World Health Organization was responding to in its statement, saying merely that "this applies to anyone who believes it is not a real pandemic."
But as I've previously noted, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, described as a "human rights watchdog" recently recommended that the European Union investigate WHO's swine flu pandemic declaration to see if the health agency acted under undue influence. Indeed, the chairman of its influential health committee, who is an epidemiologist, has referred to what he calls the "false pandemic" as "one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century."
To be sure, swine flu has proved to be vastly milder than ordinary seasonal flu. And in fact we knew that (and I wrote about it) before the WHO ever made its pandemic declaration. Yet spokesman Gregory Hartl told the AP this was irrelevant, because "A pandemic has nothing to do with severity or number of deaths," rather it just means a global spread of a disease."
But as I've written, that's only because the WHO changed the definition of "flu pandemic." "A previous official definition (and widely used unofficial one)," I noted, "required 'simultaneous epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness.' Severity - that is, the number - is crucial, because seasonal flu always causes worldwide simultaneous epidemics.
They're saying "We weren't caught with our hands in the cookie jar because we labeled those Oreos 'rocks.'"
Why? The initial reason is that this is the same WHO that for five years screamed that the sky was falling over avian flu - again even as people like me said it was nonsense. So when swine flu came along, they seized the opportunity to scratch out "avian" and insert "swine." Add to that the obvious incentives for budget-enhancing and power grabbing. But bizarrely enough, the WHO even saw the chance for economic and social engineering.
In a September speech WHO Director-General Chan said "ministers of health" should take advantage of the "devastating impact" swine flu will have on poorer nations to tell "heads of state and ministers of finance, tourism and trade" that:
This is no longer a health agency, it views its function as agit-prop. It's time to start over with people who see disease as something to combat, not to exploit.
More dirt in the IPCC melting Himalayas scandal
By Michael Fumento
In an update to my blog on the alleged melting of the glaciers atop the Himalayas (and imminent extinction of the yeti), the scientist behind the bogus claim in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report claiming the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.
Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the coordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action."
The claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 relied on magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled into a 2005 report by the warmist World Wildlife Fund. Lal and his team then cited this as their source.
Moreover, the WWF article also contained a arithmetic error. A claim that one glacier was retreating at the alarming rate of 134 meters a year should in fact have said 23 meters – the authors had divided the total loss measured over 121 years by 21, not 121, said the newspaper.
As to the 2035 melting date, it "seems to have been plucked from thin air."
Which is only right, considering how very thin the air is atop the Himalayas.
January 25, 2010 04:16 PM · Permalink ·
Flu Watch Jan. 24, 2010 - Swine flu appears to be sweeping aside seasonal flu
By Michael Fumento
Reported infections, deaths, hospitalizations all down. Again, though, when adjusted for the time lag they were probably the same as last week. The only thing that still interests me is the percentage of non-swine flu infections. That's because, as I've noted, in countries like Australia and New Zealand, swine flu simply swept the seasonal flu aside. The result was a tremendous reduction in flu deaths as the milder swine flu inoculated people against the deadlier seasonal flu.
I repeatedly predicted we would see the same here and again this week we see evidence of that. Of the infections reported to the CDC labs last week, only four were clearly not swine flu. And here we are in mid-January, approaching what is normally the peak of seasonal flu season (mid-February).
Here's a report from the Jan. 20 Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
"In ordinary years, the first seasonal flu cases typically show up in December and start mounting in January, said Richard Danila, deputy state epidemiologist. But so far, "there's been virtually zero" confirmed cases of seasonal influenza, he said. 'It's really surprising.'" [Ahem! It wouldn't be if he'd been reading my material!]