Becky Fenger Fenger PointingJULY 21, 2010

Faux science and fools

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Just when you think that the California State Assembly cannot top itself for legislative flatulence, they let fly with another doozey.

Legislators there are seriously considering a bill by State Senator Gloria Romero, a Democrat from Los Angeles that would de-list the mineral serpentine as the state rock. Sen. Romero claims that her bill would raise "awareness to protect the health of our citizens. Serpentine contains asbestos, a known carcinogen. Toxic materials have no place serving as emblems for the state." What a ditz.

Their state does have a greater number of minerals and a wider variety of rock types than any other state. In 1965 it named serpentine, a pretty green and blue rock, their official state rock.

Upon hearing about the bill to de-list serpentine, geologists reminded the politicians that not all serpentine contains asbestos. Not even most of the samples of the mineral group did. So why the ban? As usual, one can follow the money. Language for the bill was written by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization whose major sponsors are (ta da!) law firms specializing in asbestos litigation.

An article in the Monterey Herald written by Dan Walters explains that if the state defines serpentine itself as asbestos-laden – not just those forms that sometimes contain the substance – then trial lawyers can sue more people for having the rocks on their property. "Common Sense" author Paul Jacobs thinks that California politicians "have rocks in their heads." Yes and trial lawyers have politicians in their pockets.

I wonder if the state of Washington will follow and de-list the apple as its official state fruit. After all, there are trace elements of cyanide occurring naturally in this food. Just a thought.
More flatulence comes to us by way of a study commissioned by Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group. The conclusion? "Culling the feral animals that burp and fart their way around Australia's outback could eliminate billions of tonnes of carbon emissions." A program of culling feral camels is already underway, Pew spokesman Barry Traill informs us, but counsels that it needs to be extended.

"When feral animals belch they release methane, a particularly noxious greenhouse gas, and every single camel or water buffalo releases the equivalent of around one tonne of carbon dioxide each year," Dr. Traill told reporters. Multiply this by millions of animals, he says, and you've got a lot of pollution. Are the makers of Beano aware of a potential huge new market?

Comically, the unfounded fears over global warming has led Organic Manifesto author Maria Rodale to jump to the conclusion last week that there is a connection between global warming and bedbugs. Ms. Rodale stumbled upon a home remedy for catching the little critters that involves dry ice. Her scientific mind reasoned thusly: Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide. Therefore, maybe there is a connection to the excessive amount of CO2 in our atmosphere and a surge in bed bugs. "Maybe, just maybe, people will listen to the bedbugs," she hopes. "Instead of thinking of global warming as a scientific hoax, they can think of it as INVASION OF THE BEDBUGS!" gushes Rodale.

The truth is that one can largely thank President Barack Obama's current climate czar, Carole Browner, for any increased population of these pests. As reported in the Daily Bayonet, back when Ms. Browner was the head of the EPA under Bill Clinton, she banned the use of Dursban, a chemical treatment sprayed on mattresses to avoid bedbugs.

It turns out that Dursban was a victim of a junk science hit job, just like Alar was for the apple farmers of Washington State. Many farmers went broke over this nonsense and it was too late to save them when the truth emerged. People like Rodale and Browner need to listen to the bedbugs less and to reproducible science more.