Subverting Free Speech in the Name of Free Speech

A few days ago I wrote the entry, “McSwane Is No Defender of Free Speech.” J. David McSwane, editor of Colorado State University’s Rocky Mountain Collegian, published what I described as “a four-word, nonsensical, profane utterance in place of an actual editorial” — “Taser this? F– Bush,” spelling out the F-bomb. (I’ve seen the punctuation between “this” and “F—” published three ways — a question mark, ellipses, and a dash — but that’s an irrelevant detail.)

Unfortunately, various journalists and commentators continue to completely misunderstand the concept of free speech. Indeed, by setting up a false conception of “free speech,” they are actively undermining real free speech.

Free speech, as I wrote in greater detail previously, means that you are free to say and write what you want, with your own resources, without suffering any force or threat of force from the government.

Free speech implies that you are free to start a newspaper and establish policy for that newspaper. It means that you are free to hire and fire writers at your discretion. If you are forcibly prevented from hiring and firing writers at your discretion, then your rights of free speech are being violated. If you choose to fire a writer, then you are certainly NOT violating the free-speech rights of that writer, who may continue to say and write whatever he or she wishes, only not with your resources.

There are three complications.

First, generally newspapers are owned by corporations. This just means that policy is set according to the legally established governors of the corporation (the voting stock holders acting through a management team).

Second, typically newspapers hire writers according to a contract. Most assuredly, newspapers do NOT offer contracts that allow writers to write whatever they want. If writers violate the terms of their contracts, then they may be fired before the contract (otherwise) expires.

Third, college newspapers are affiliated with tax-funded institutions, a condition that, as I discussed previously, generates all sorts of intractable problems, as the tax-funded advocacy of any idea automatically violates somebody’s rights of free speech. Nevertheless, as I also discussed, this issue is irrelevant in the case of McSwane, because McSwane failed to uphold the clear, published policies of the paper that are in accordance with normal standards of professional journalism. The tax funding of colleges does not imply that all standards fly out the window.

With that context established, I’ll take a look at a new article that was brought to my attention by a reader.

UCLA’s Daily Bruin published an article on the matter today (October 8). The story is by Jessica Roy:

Since it ran, the [four-word] message has sparked a nationwide dialogue about freedom of speech and the rights of college newspapers.

“Even though I think that it was in bad taste, it’s certainly their right to go ahead and express whatever views it is that they have,” said Arthur Lechtholz-Zey, chief executive officer of L.O.G.I.C. (Liberty, Objectivity, Greed, Individualism and Capitalism), a UCLA student group associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, which promotes objectivism and the value of philosophy in general.

“Certainly I don’t think anybody should be punished for this,” he added.

The Board of Student Communications at Colorado State is an independent group that oversees the newspaper, which relies on advertising rather than student fees for its funding. …

But Ryan Dunn, a third-year law student at UCLA, said he believes the paper overstepped the boundaries of freedom of speech and the press.

“I think there’s obviously a limit (to freedom of speech). They need to be aware of what their words can cause,” Dunn said. …

Lechtholz-Zey said advertisers were well within their own freedom of speech rights to cancel any affiliation with the paper. …

What the article reveals is that these American college students have no idea what is the significance or meaning of the First Amendment or the right of free speech.

It is debatable whether the CSU paper is truly “independent” or a part of the tax-funded institution. However, if it is “independent,” then any possible First Amendment concern about firing McSwane evaporates.

I was most disappointed to read the comments of Lechtholz-Zey; Objectivists should know better. Lechtholz-Zey makes two errors. First, he confuses the paper’s right to publish what it wants with the paper’s right to fire McSwane. Second, he conflates getting fired with government-backed punishment. Only the latter actually violates First Amendment rights. At least Lechtholz-Zey gets it right when discussing the rights of advertisers.

But Dunn’s comments are far worse. Dunn first suggests that firing McSwane would have somehow violated his rights of free speech. It would not have done so. More seriously, Dunn outright endorses the limitation of free speech. The right of free speech is absolute — within its context. For example, prohibiting somebody from yelling “fire!” in a theater, when there is no fire, is no limitation of that person’s rights of free speech. The person has no such right. Instead, the prohibition protects the theater owners’ rights of property and expression. When people start talking about limiting free speech, then actual abuses of free speech are just around the corner.

What is frightening is that many of tomorrow’s journalists and lawyers — the people who should be most concerned with defending the First Amendment and the right of free speech — have no idea of what rights are.

How to Access Dental Care Without Insurance

Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., wrote the following comments for the October 7 Rocky Mountain News:

While 770,000 Coloradans are without health insurance, twice that number of citizens do not have dental insurance and, therefore, lack access for preventive and restorative services. They must wait until their dental problem becomes a medical emergency before they are likely to get service. …

Therefore, it is my hope that Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform takes seriously the need to include dental care as part of an overall strategy in fixing our health-care system in Colorado.

Wiant’s assertion is false. It is simply not true that people who lack dental insurance therefore “lack access for preventive and restorative services.” They have all kinds of access. Since Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is apparently ignorant of this fact, I’ll describe how people may access dental care.

Step One: Locate a phone book.

Step Two: Look up “dentist” in the phone book. It’s under “D.”

Step Three: Using a telephone, call a dentist in the phone book.

Step Four: Make an appointment to see the dentist.

Step Five: Go to see the dentist at the appointed time.

Step Six: Pay the bill.

As an alternative to the first two steps, look on-line — I found 2,080 dentists listed through DexKnows — or ask friends for a referral (which is what my wife and I did).

My wife and I do not have dental insurance. Indeed, we have never used our high-deductible insurance to cover any medical cost. We pay all of our medical and dental costs out of pocket (or out of our Health Savings Account, which is an extension of our “pocket”). And we like it that way.

My wife and I have both been very proactive in seeking out (and purchasing) “preventive and restorative” dental services. For example, just within the last few weeks, I had my first cavity filled (which was tiny because I went in as soon as I noticed it), and my wife had a filling replaced. Months ago I had a cracked molar repaired. We both get regular check-ups and cleanings.

Our dentist does an outstanding job. He is worth every cent that we’ve ever paid him — and much, much more. We get a spectacular value for our money with him, and I am proud to pay him for the services that he renders. Now that’s “access.”

We don’t need Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., to force us to purchase dental insurance that we neither want nor need. And that’s really what he’s saying here. It is now common knowledge that the 208 Commission has endorsed an “individual mandate” for Colorado, meaning that the Commission wants to force people to buy “insurance” that’s approved by politicians and bureaucrats (as opposed to, say, removing the political impediments that make insurance too expensive for some people to purchase).

But Wiant is concerned with the fraction of people lacking dental insurance who have trouble with Step Six. But they don’t need “insurance” (i.e., government-managed, pre-paid care that others are forced to fund) in order to have “access.” Those without funds to pay for dental services can and should set up payment plans or turn to voluntary charity.

Wiant’s article is indicative of what we can look for if the political takeover of medicine advances. Special interests will continually lobby to have their favored services included in the politically-enforced mix. As people “access” more of the “free” (or nearly free) services, the result will be price controls and rationing. Real “access” will be reduced.

By the way, “Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation.” And what manner of group is that? According to its web page:

In November of 1999, Anthem Insurance, a for-profit company, purchased Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado, which had non-profit status. This sale yielded proceeds of $155 million. As mandated by Colorado state law, the profit from the sale was dedicated to benefit the health of the people of Colorado. Caring for Colorado Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(4), tax-exempt Foundation, was endowed to fulfill this responsibilty (sic).

Let us leave aside the absurdity of state laws stacked on federal tax codes micromanaging mergers. Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is, by advocating more political control of medicine, actively undermining ” the health of the people of Colorado.”

Human Health as a Pretext for Animal Rights

The ad from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) featuring Alicia Silverstone is an amazingly effective piece of propaganda that has earned enormous unpaid publicity. Featuring a nude but strategically concealed Silverstone emerging from a pool, the ad promotes a vegetarian diet. Silverstone says, “I feel so much better and have so much more energy. It’s so amazing.” The ad features the web page, GoVeg.com, which is run by PETA. So the hook is human health. But the motive is animal “rights.”

But this is odd. Why doesn’t PETA just make its case directly? The fact is that PETA would advocate a vegan diet even it were demonstrably less healthy for humans. PETA’s main web page proclaims:

Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way

If animals indeed have such rights, then human health is irrelevant. By way of comparison, did anti-slavery writers of the 1800s argue that the reason to end slavery is to make life better off for slave holders? No. They argued that people have rights, and slave holding is morally wrong. Whether the abolition of slavery hurt or helped particular slave owners was mostly beside the point.

On PETA’s page, Silverstone is a little more explicit about her motives:

Like most people, I wasn’t always a vegetarian, but I’ve always loved animals. If you ever have a chance to meet a cow, pig, turkey, or goat, you will see that they are just as cute and funny as your dogs and cats and that they, too, want to live and feel love. They don’t like pain. Now when I see a steak, it makes me feel sad and sick because right away, I see my dog or the amazing cows I met at a sanctuary.

Then she goes on to discuss her health.

But even this discussion is too limited. If animals have rights, then why is Silverstone featuring only cute, fuzzy animals like cows? Why not rats? According to PETA’s doctrine, setting a trap to kill a rat in the basement is just as immoral as eating a steak. By PETA’s own standards, Silverstone is unfairly discriminating against less-popular animals.

So here is my theory. The folks at PETA are caught up in the post-modernist notion that language is a tool used for social control and manipulation, not a means of communicating objective truth.

Here’s one of the lines from GoVeg.com:

Eating Chickens Is Bad for Your Health
According to a major 2006 Harvard study of 135,000 people, people who frequently ate grilled skinless chicken had a 52 percent higher chance of developing bladder cancer compared to people who didn’t.

But is the problem the chicken, or is it the grilling? Grilling anything creates carcinogens. So I suspect that throwing a tofu dog on the grill is just as harmful.

Recently I wrote about the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group associated with PETA. Here’s what a September 4 news release from the group claims:

Prostate Cancer Survival Improves with Low-Fat Vegan Diet, New Study Shows

Levels of Hormones That Feed Tumors Are Lower in Men Who Consume Less Fat and More Fiber

WASHINGTON—Men who increase consumption of cancer-fighting vegetarian foods and avoid foods that feed tumor growth, such as dairy products and meat, may significantly increase chances of living longer after prostate cancer diagnosis, say the authors of a new review in September’s Nutrition Reviews.

According to lead author Susan Berkow, Ph.D., C.N.S., and her colleagues, high-fat, low-fiber diets raise circulating testosterone, estradiol, and insulin levels, which in turn may fuel prostate cancer cell growth. Among men with the highest intake of saturated fat, the risk of dying from prostate cancer is three times higher than among men with the lowest intake, the authors found. …

The 76 published studies analyzed for the current review include the groundbreaking work by Dr. Dean Ornish that shows serum from patients following a low-fat vegan diet inhibits the growth of cultured prostate cancer cells eight times more than serum from a standard diet group. Several studies, including Dr Ornish’s, found that patients on a low-fat, plant-based diet experience a significant decrease in PSA levels, a marker for prostate cancer progression.

For a copy of the new study or an interview with one of the authors, journalists can contact Jeanne S. McVey at 202-686-2210, ext. 316, or jeannem@pcrm.org.

I requested “a copy of the new study” on the evening of October 4 but have yet to hear back. But, even without a copy of the full study it my hands, it’s obvious that the release is manipulative.

Is a low-fat, high-fiber diet the same thing as a vegan diet? Obviously not. For example, one can purchase fat-free milk. According to NutritionData.com, a 71-gram serving of skinless chicken breast contains 0.2 grams of saturated fat.

Does Dr. Dean Ornish promote a vegan diet, as the news release implies? No, he does not. Instead, Ornish says, “Fish oil provides omega-3 fatty acids that are protective to the heart and have other significant benefits as well.” Obviously, fish oil, which, it turns out, comes from fish, is not vegan.

Ornish continues: “The problem is that most doctors and dieticians recommend a 30% fat American Heart Association-type diet. In other words, less red meat, more fish and chicken, etc. This diet may be enough to prevent heart disease in some, but it’s not sufficient to reverse it in most people.” Ornish indeed recommends a low-fat, high-fiber diet, but he does not recommend a vegan diet.

In describing Ornish’s diet, Anne Pearce writes:

Guidelines for both versions of Ornish’s diet emphasize reducing your intake of high fat, high animal protein foods, such as red meat, pork, bacon, ice cream, etc., and increasing your consumption of complex carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their natural forms, legumes, nonfat dairy, soy products, and egg whites. …

You may include moderate amounts of fish, skinless chicken, avocados, nuts, and seeds. However, if you are working toward losing weight and sustaining a healthier, target weight, these allowances could also be sources of unwanted calories and fat.

Apparently, some animal-rights activists do not believe that they can bring mainstream America over to their cause through honest argument.

Schwartz Advocates Free Market in Medicine

Brian Schwartz continues to speak out as voice for liberty and free markets in medicine.

David Montero quotes Schwartz in an October 5 article for the Rocky Mountain News.The subject is a meeting of October 4 sponsored by the 208 Healthcare Commission.

Montero closes his article:

And at least one speaker, Brian Schwartz, proposed getting government out of health care entirely – calling Medicaid a “failure” and an example of why single-payer won’t work. Instead, he advocated the free-market system.

“Should we have single-payer food and housing?” he asked. “Didn’t we settle that with Soviet Russia and North Korea? Why is health care different?”

Congratulations to Brian! And thank you for speaking out at a meeting stacked with advocates of political force in medicine.

McSwane Is No Defender of Free Speech

It would be pleasant if more journalists actually understood the concept of free speech. J. David McSwane, the editor of Colorado State University’s Rocky Mountain Collegian, obviously does not understand it.

As a late October 4 article by Erika Gonzalez in the Rocky Mountain News reviews, McSwane published an “editorial” on September 21 that stated “Taser this? F– Bush,” ” with the expletive spelled out,” Gonzalez notes. (While I reserve the right to publish swear words, I choose not to do so as a general matter of policy, which is not to say that I’ll never make an exception.) That’s it — just four words.

If the story were only about a dumb college kid or swearing about Bush, I wouldn’t care. (I’ve sworn about Bush plenty of times myself, though not in print.) But the important part of the story is much more important, as it gets to the heart of the First Amendment.

Gonzalez’s story notes that a CSU board allowed McSwane to keep his job as editor. Here are the two relevant paragraphs from the article:

Although the board said it considered the opinion expressed in the editorial protected by the First Amendment, it also acknowledged the impact the piece has had. …

“We did not do this to capture headlines,” McSwane said last week. “We did this to spark a discussion about free speech”.

Of course the editorial is protected by the First Amendment. Nobody is questioning that. But that has absolutely nothing to do with whether McSwane should have been fired for publishing it.

If McSwane cares to check, here’s what the First Amendment actually states: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” A document by Cornell further explains:

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. … Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.

Article II, Section 10, of Colorado’s Constitution reiterates this protection:

No law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech; every person shall be free to speak, write or publish whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuse of that liberty; and in all suits and prosecutions for libel the truth thereof may be given in evidence, and the jury, under the direction of the court, shall determine the law and the fact.

Has Congress passed a law censoring McSwane? Has any law been passed regarding the matter? Has any level of any government taken any action whatsoever regarding what McSwane can say or write?

No.

In fact, no one is trying to prevent McSwane from saying anything whatsoever. If he wants, he can start his own newspaper called Taser This? F– Bush, “with the expletive spelled out.” He can start a “F– Bush” blog. He can run off flyers proclaiming “F– Bush” and distribute them to willing takers (provided that he does not violate property rights in doing so). McSwane is perfectly free to wander the the sidewalks endlessly repeating “F– Bush” if he wishes.

But whether any particular newspaper chooses to hire McSwane is simply not a matter of free speech or the First Amendment. There’s just no connection. The fact that many professional journalists have failed to point out this simple fact does not change it.

Ayn Rand explains the matter with characteristic clarity:

Freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression or punitive action by the government — and nothing else. It does not mean the right to demand the financial support or the material means to express your views at the expense of other men who may not wish to support you. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one’s own antagonists. A “right” does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort. Private citizens cannot [legally] use physical force or coercion; they cannot censor or suppress anyone’s views or publications. Only the government can do so. And censorship is a concept that pertains only to governmental action. (The Ayn Rand Lexicon, page 175)

For CSU’s board even to mention the First Amendment in the context of McSwane keeping his job is bizarre. Apparently that board understands the First Amendment as well as McSwane does, which is to say not very well. (I wonder whether McSwane cried “free speech!” when Imus got fired.)

There is only one way in which free speech is at issue. If the state-subsidized college’s newspaper is in any way subsidized by tax dollars, directly or indirectly, including related faculty salaries and costs of facilities, then McSwane’s editorial violated the rights of free speech of those who were forced to subsidize it against their will. But this problem is inherent in any spending of tax dollars to advocate any idea or expression whatsoever.

And, arguably, when school administrators accept tax dollars, they effectively become agents of the government. Agents of government-funded institutions are subject to Constitutional limitations. So if administrators of a tax-subsidized college try to limit a student’s expression using tax-subsidized facilities, that may indeed raise First Amendment concerns. But does that mean, for example, that a student could parade around in class screaming “F- Bush?” Obviously not. The problem with any tax-subsidized expression of ideas is that it necessarily violates somebody’s rights of free speech. Within the context of tax-subsidized speech, the problem is intractable. (An article by David Hudson illustrates the difficulties of defining rights of expression in the context of tax-subsidized institutions.) The only solution — the only way to consistently protect free speech — is to stop funding schools via the forcible redistribution of resources. A fuller examination of this particular matter would take us rather far afield. For our purposes, I need merely point out that firing McSwane for publishing a four-word, nonsensical, profane utterance in place of an actual editorial would not pose any serious First Amendment challenge. Otherwise, one might as well argue that students have the protected right not to be “censored” with low marks if they squawk like chickens in response to oral examinations. I mean, let’s get serious.

It is no coincidence that some of the same people who invoke the First Amendment in cases where it doesn’t apply also advocate laws that clearly violate the First Amendment. (I am not writing of McSwane here, as I don’t know what his views are.) The “Fairness Doctrine,” more accurately called the Censorship Doctrine, is an obvious example. Campaign laws that outlaw select political speech are another.

But let us leave the matter of free speech and consider whether McSwane should have been fired. Part of me thinks that he’s just a stupid college kid who pulled off a stupid college prank and found himself in the national spotlight, so who cares. God knows I did far stupider things while in college. But, quite obviously, if he wrote such an editorial for any real newspaper in the country, he’d be immediately kicked out the door. I frankly don’t care whether he edits a podunk paper that hardly anybody reads. But if he imagines that his treatment at CSU is remotely similar to what he’ll face in the real world, then CSU is doing McSwane quite a disservice.

Here’s a fun side-note: I went to Westword.com and searched for “f–” (“with the expletive spelled out”). I got 1,000 results. To read my own defense of the right to use the “f word,” see my article of 2003.

Doctors for Corporate Welfare

You wouldn’t hire an accountant to fix your pipes, and you wouldn’t hire a plumber to audit your financial records. When doctors start prescribing huge doses of corporate welfare, it’s clear that they’ve strayed rather far from their calling.

April Washington’s October 3 article for the Rocky Mountain News reports, “[A] commercial was created by the Physician Committee For Responsible Medicine [that] seeks to spotlight contributions from the agricultural industry’s political action committees.”

According to the article, Neal Barnard, president of the group, said, “Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers, and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch programs.” (See the group’s news release.)

The travesty! The injustice! The solution, then, is to roll back federal intrusion in our diet, right? Of course not.

Washington continues, “Between 1995 and 2004, more than $51 billion in federal agricultural subsidies went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and feed crops to be used to fatten cows and other farm animals, according to the physicians group based in Washington, D.C. … The watchdog organization is urging Congress to overhaul the Farm Bill and shift more funding to producers of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables to help combat childhood obesity.”

In other words, these doctors don’t have any problem with federal elites determining people’s diets; they just want to be the ones in control of the purse strings.

The group details the subsidies it doesn’t like on its web page. However, the federal government should not be in the business of subsidizing any agricultural crop or of buying food (excepting military use). The problem is not that the wrong elites are in charge; the problem is that elites are in charge. The money in question rightfully belongs to the people who earn it, and they have the right to decide what food to buy on a free market.

An “Animal Rights” Agenda

I began to suspect that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a broader agenda when I noticed that the group’s web page states, “We promote alternatives to animal research.” The group’s archive of news releases includes the following entries:

The Secret to Long-Term Weight Loss Might Be a Vegan Diet, Research Finds: New Study in Obesity Shows a Vegan Diet with Social Support Helps People Lose More Weight Over Two-Year Period than Conventional Low-Fat Diet
(Sept. 10, 2007)

Prostate Cancer Survival Improves with a Low-Fat Vegan Diet, New Study Shows: Levels of Hormones that Feed Tumors Are Lower in Men Who Consume Less Fat and More Fiber
(Sept. 4, 2007)

Nesquik Commercial Voted Most Deceptive Ad in Online “Badvertisements” Poll: Voters Weight In on Dairy Commercials’ Faulty Health and Beauty Claims
(Aug. 16, 2007) …

Doctors Sue University of California Over Animal Welfare Act Violations: Dog and Monkey Experiments at U.C., San Francisco, Under Fire
(July 31, 2007) …

Residents Sue City of Chandler Over Covance Animal-Testing Facility: Seven Local Plaintiffs and Physicians Group Accuse City Officials of Improper Collaboration with Covance, Violating State Open Meetings Act, Failing to Give Proper Notice of Hearings, and Violating City Zoning Ordinance
(July 3, 2007)

Are you seeing any patterns here? PCRM is not exclusively an “animal rights” group, but it certainly is an “animal rights” group.

A quick Google of the group came up with Wikipedia’s entry, which in turn pointed me to an article published August 1, 2004, by The Observer. That publication states:

Beauty and the beasts

Jamie Doward and Mark Townsend
Sunday August 1, 2004

Kevin Jonas understands the media. As well he should. Over the years the president of Shac USA, the American wing of the militant group campaigning to close down Britain’s Huntingdon Life Sciences, has had a good tutor.

As Jonas, 26, himself pointed out at an animal rights conference in Washington recently: ‘I come from the school of thought and from essentially the school of training of Peta – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.’ …

With such deep pockets Peta is able to disburse millions of dollars every year across a global network of interest groups, including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which opposes animal experiments on scientific grounds and whose members (95 per cent of whom do not have medical degrees) have well documented links with Shac and other militant animal rights groups.

Over the years Peta has given more than $1.3m to the organisation whose research is regularly cited by Shac supporters as scientific proof that animal testing does not work. In 2001 Neil Barnard, the group’s president, joined Shac’s Jonas to co-sign hundreds of letters sent to the bosses of companies involved with Huntingdon, urging them to break their links with the firm.

(The Observer apparently misspells the name “Neil Barnard,” while April Washington spells it “Neal Bernard.” According to PCRM’s web page, the correct spelling is “Neal Barnard.”)

The left-wing SourceWatch also notes the relationship between PETA and PCRM, though SourceWatch downplays the connection:

PCRM does partner with PETA on some issues of common interest, including a campaign to reduce animal use in toxicity testing. However, PCRM has not received any monies from PETA or the PETA Foundation since 2001, and such funding has never been a significant part of PCRM’s budget.

When Fat is Good

As an aside, the PCRM doctors ought not bash “fatty foods.” Okay, they obviously mean foods with high levels of saturated fat. However, the amount of saturated fat in a burger depends on the quality of meat and the method of preparation. Besides, eating even bacon and burgers in moderation can be consistent with a basically healthy diet. And, as I learned, it’s unhealthy to eat too little fat, though unsaturated fat generally is better. For example, almonds are half fat by weight, and they’re listed among WebMD’s “25 Heart-Healthy Foods.” If you eat too little fat, you may suffer severe health problems or death.

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about fat:

Your body needs fat to function properly. Besides being an energy source, fat is a nutrient used in the production of cell membranes, as well as in several hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids. These compounds help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and the nervous system. In addition, dietary fat carries fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E and K — from your food into your body. Fat also helps maintain healthy hair and skin, protects vital organs, keeps your body insulated, and provides a sense of fullness after meals.

But too much fat can be harmful. Eating large amounts of high-fat foods adds excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for several diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gallstones, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. And too much of certain types of fats — such as saturated fat or trans fat — can increase your blood cholesterol levels and your risk of coronary artery disease.

The Coalition to "Do Something"

Chris Barge’s story for today’s Rocky Mountain News states:

Calling itself “Partnership for a Healthy Colorado,” the group emphasized that reform is needed because the cost of caring for the uninsured and underinsured is passed on to Colorado’s insured majority.

The group acknowledged that it had not arrived at any agreement on a proposal for reform, or how to pay for it.

But there was agreement that something must be done. …

“The members of this partnership are diverse and we don’t always agree on everything,” said Amy Fletcher, associate director of the Business Health Forum. “But we’re here to say that, when it comes to health care, something must be done in Colorado.”

Something, anything must be done — except to actually figure out what’s wrong with medical policy and fix it. Various members of the “new” coalition, including the Service Employees International Union, the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters, and the Colorado Medical Society, have already advocated more political control of medicine.

Yet political controls of medicine — tax distortions that entrench expensive, non-portable, employer-paid insurance, massive tax spending, and reams of federal and state mandates — are what have caused prices to skyrocket and quality to suffer.

In addition, the claim that “the cost of caring for the uninsured and underinsured is passed on to Colorado’s insured majority,” when taken as a broad assertion, is simply a lie. When my wife and I were uninsured, we paid for all of our own medical expenses out of pocket. The article’s claim insults those who pay their own way.

To the extent that the the statement is true, it is true only because politicians have mandated treatment, forced insurance companies to guarantee coverage, subsidized costs, and made insurance so expensive that many workers cannot afford it. But will the “new” coalition advocate the repeal of the political controls that have caused the problem? Obviously not. Instead, I predict, it will urge politicians to force people to buy insurance. Because, in the eyes of such reformers, the solution for failed political controls is more political controls.