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May 26, 1998

Editorial

Primary Killers

Republican gubernatorial gladiators will bludgeon each other for two more weeks. On June 2 they will drag their tridents and nets to the final round, the primary election.

Fob James, Winton Blount, Guy Hunt, Lewis McAllister and Phillip Williams are all running in the Republican race. Although James is favored, the wide field will prevent him from winning a majority. Polls predict that James and Blount will fight to the death in a runoff election on June 30.

How did the popular populist Fob James get into this pickle? James' crusade for religious expression in schools and courtrooms has made both Christian conservatives and the business community uneasy. Mickey Kirkland, a Montgomery evangelist who heads the Coalition of Christians for Family Values, has criticized James for his stunts. "I think people of faith see the sensationalizing of issues for political gain, and we despise that, detest that," Kirkland said. The Coalition has endorsed Blount, a wealthy Montgomery businessman. When gibing at James, Blount is blunt. He accuses James of "playing to the worst instincts" of voters, and scaring away investment in Alabama.

The survivor of the Republican race will face Lieutenant Governor Don Siegelman, who is expected to be the Democratic nominee. Siegelman has raised $4 million. He has not had to spend much, because he has little Democratic opposition. The Republican challenger, on the other hand, will be both bloody and broke.

-- Dan Silver

LOOKING FOR ART

The Harbinger plans an increased emphasis on the arts when we return on August 24. For the next three months we will be looking for writers and artists who would like to contribute to our effort. If you are interested, please contact one of the editors.


Life Forms by Dan Silver

Read more comics in the Life Forms Archive!


Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I live near the USA campus and drive by almost every day. I have heard stories about unpleasant encounters with the USA police from numerous individuals. Some of these people have stated they want to file a complaint with the University. After reading Mr. Boone's story in your paper I wasn't surprised about the treatment he received by the USA police. I do have concerns about the University's willingness to investigate these matters. I am asking anyone who has had a problem with the USA police to write in and give their story. Also, can you tell us exactly what jurisdiction the USA police has?

Sincerely,
A. Peavy
Mobile, AL

Editor's note: The judge presiding at Tony Boone's trial arising from the April 26, 1996 incident established that the USA Police have the same status as Alabama state troopers.


Dear Editor,

Mr. Boone's treatment at the hands of both the USA and Mobile police was deplorable. Officer McDonald should have just gone on her way upon realizing nothing illegal was taking place between Mr. Boone and Mrs. Hill. I believe Mrs. Hill's accounts of the events that took place and obviously the jurors in Mr. Boone's previous court appearances found her to be a credible witness as well. Officer McDonald apparently made much more of the situation than was necessary. Apparently, she is still employed by the University; that fact, in and of itself, is appalling. What is the jurisdiction for USA police? In seems possibly more than they can handle. The Mobile Police also acted inappropriately. After Mr. Boone's 911 call for help, did they really meet with the USA police in the parking lot of Anders bookstore? Did they really proceed to take the offending officers with them to Mr. Boone's to confront him? Is that normal procedure when they are called for help. No wonder Mr. Boone was not cooperative with them; they obviously were not interested in helping him. If I ever feel the need to call the City police for help I hope they send competent ones to my aid. Believe me, I won't be selling term papers or anything else near that campus. Good luck, Mr. Boone. USA and Mobile "Police," you messed up big time, and I hope you pay.

Thank You
P. Holland
Mobile, AL


Dear Mr. Justice,

I have long been a fan of The Harbinger and I pick up a copy every chance I get. Consequently I have more or less followed your series on Global Warming. I can sum up my position as a "lackey of the business-as-usual lobby" by quoting your first line of Global Winning. "If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" (IPCC) is to be believed..." That's a very, very big IF since they are not to be believed. Unfortunately you have followed the politically correct line throughout all that I have read.

I won't bore you with my qualifications in this field unless you would like to see some of my references. Instead, in the hope that you may retain an open and inquiring mind, I would like to refer you to http://www.junkscience.com/ on the Internet. In addition to all kinds of interesting information, there are numerous references, [underlined] authoritative references, to global warming. I enclose a sample for your information.

Sincerely,
Walter W. Burdin
Mobile, AL

Editor's note: Author replies:

Dear Mr. Burdin,

We are always glad to hear from fans of The Harbinger -- truly, we are -- so please don't take offense as I question your "authoritative references."

I do retain an open and inquiring mind, and, unlike http://www.junkscience.com/, the websites I consult usually provide links to alternative viewpoints. Authored by Steven Milloy, director of The Advance of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), it claims to debunk unsound science in policy decisions, but mostly relies on the same dissenting voices of the industry shills. To be fair, some of the listings refer to embarrassing government policy judgments that steer environmental decisions; those do take place and usually environmental and public health suffer for them. I am as opposed to bureaucratic-driven science as I am to calling Al Gore an environmentalist. However, many of Milloy's examples follow the Rush Limbaugh strategies of taking something out of context and just plain ridicule. As in the over-used politically-correct label: Why is it that whenever someone espouses an idea or policy that is altruistic, has no gain except for the public good or the global commons, they are tagged as either mistakenly or intentionally "following the politically correct line?"

Another irregularity of the junkscience homepage: nowhere does the author inventory any steering members or funding organizations. Then again, the websites of neither Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project nor Pat Michaels' World Climate Report admits who pays their bills. Michaels lists the WCR sponsor as "Fredrick Palmer, Chairman of the Board of Greening Earth Society" not "General manager and CEO of the Western Fuels Association and board-member of the National Mining Association." (The following quote referencing compliance with a global CO2 reduction treaty is one of Palmer's: "The U.S. is a highly moral society. Not many other societies on the globe live that way...") So, for your information, TASSC's funding comes from Amoco, Chevron, Exxon, General Motors, Occidental Petroleum and the Louisiana Chemical Association, among others.

It seems that most of the dispute over the IPCC's findings are that (a) global warming isn't really happening, (b) the IPCC is biased against the dissenters, and (c) the CO2 reduction will impose economic disaster on this nation. For a starting point, read the transcript of an on-line debate between seventeen supporters and critics of the global warming hypothesis available at the Pace University website http://www.law.pace.edu/env/energy/debateintro.html. (This website does list links to both sides of the argument.)

The IPCC report is science, and the climate-model predictions are in good agreement with the observed phenomena. Because scientific theory has standards, no one credible is likely to make such a broad and incontrovertible statement as the one in the sample you submitted: "climate change 'has nothing to do with carbon dioxide.'" (By the way, that sample breaks Milloy's own rule about "Science by press conference.") It took much discussion and a lot of preceding sentences about uncertainties and qualifications and multiple reasons for supporting the conclusion before the IPCC scientists were able to conclude in the summary that "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." This may sound like indecision, but it is merely standard clarification of the context of their findings. There are no bold or unsupported claims.

Participation in the IPCC process is extremely broad; anyone with a valid and scientifically supportable point of view can present his/her findings. The IPCC report attempts to provide a perspective that spans the full range of peer-reviewed scientific findings. Just as there are members who think that the data is less-conclusive, there are other members who think that the report and recommendations do not go far enough.

The following is an excerpt from a January 1997 letter signed by more than 2,000 economists (including six Nobel Laureates): "As economists we believe that global climate change carries with it significant environmental, economic, social, and geopolitical risks, and that preventive steps are justified. Economic studies have found that there are many potential policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions for which the total benefits outweigh the total costs. For the United States in particular, sound economic analysis shows that there are policy options that would slow climate change without harming American living standards and these measures may in fact improve U.S. productivity in the longer run." For other responses to the alleged economic crash, Rocky Mountain Institute offers free downloads of their reports "Profitably Abating Global Warming" and "Climate: Making Sense and Making Money" at http://www.rmi.org/, and the World Resources Institute website (http://www.wri.org/) has their report "The Costs of Climate Protection: A Guide for the Perplexed" available online.

It is unfortunate that the few critics are so effective in undermining support for necessary reductions in fossil-fuel use. They do not have to prove their case, only add enough "he said, she said" confusion to make the public tire of trying to sort out the facts until they give up in disgust. Inaction will suit the business-as-usual lobby just fine. I hope that by pondering motives and incentives, people will give more credit to the legitimate sources. For those who are still unconvinced, consider this: if the IPCC is wrong and human CO2 contributions won't lead to widespread famine, flooded coastal areas, and the panicked emigration of million of people, we at least gain a more efficient economy and our descendants a healthier environment. If the IPCC is right and we do nothing...

For the planet,
Woody Justice


Dear Editor,

After a week of critical self-evaluation, some of the nation's newspaper editors gathered in Washington last month concluded that the current era of American journalism is "a time of frighteningly low respect" for newspapers, and more specifically, for their standards of objectivity (as reported in the Sacramento Bee, April 5). Alarmed by the newspapers' loss of credibility emerging from Clinton popularity polls, which showed a record high after a long period of extremely negative press, editors tried to figure out what to do about the distrust they feel from readers everywhere.

Well, let me inform you that many readers have felt this way for a long time. There are other areas of public concern, press coverage of which has annoyed readers immensely. One of these issues, which is admittedly somewhat less urgent than the President's interest in women since it concerns a mere 8 percent of the world's economy, is the drug crisis. If there is one issue where news has been traded for propaganda, it is this. While the death toll for alcohol in the USA approximates 100,000 a year, and a brief visit to just one alcohol clinic would probably convince anyone of the devastating effects this substance can have on the human mind and body, hardly anyone considers alcohol prohibition a sensible option. At the same time, although casualties for cannabis are too few to be measured (and hence e.g. no statistics are maintained), most media choose to continue admonishing this substance, rather than advocating development of regulations and norms for prudent usage, as is done in the case of alcohol. And although the casualty ratio for tobacco, alcohol and all drugs averages to 100 to 25 to 1, a picture is painted of drugs as the "plague of our time," an image Pope John-Paul reiterated in his last Christmas speech. The prohibition of drugs is currently turning into a worldwide crisis. Hundreds of thousands are incarcerated in the US alone. Annual criminal turnover is approaching the 1,000 billion dollar mark, and 80 percent of this, some 8 percent of the world's economy, is from the trade in drugs, which now rank among weapons and oil as the world's top cash generating commodities. While drug use is a mere fraction of alcohol use, it must in essence be misinformation and public fear which are fueling this crisis. The media are part of this crisis, and they are part of current efforts to rev it up some more. The United Nations will adopt extreme plans for expanding drug repression in its session on drugs in June. An equally extreme national media campaign will start next month, funded by millions of US federal dollars (a sequel to the earlier "Any questions?" campaign), in an effort to further intensify public fear. "Drugs czars" are installed, and plans for transforming prohibition into a tool of social control are under way in the USA, Europe and else where.

By failing to thoroughly analyze this crisis, the media have failed as objective informers of the public. If a sudden fit of increased self-awareness will be the final outcome of the Clinton- Lewinsky affair, if it may get journalists to get us the information instead of the hysteria, then we may in the end even want to thank President Clinton for it.

Yours,
Harry Bego,
Utrecht, The Netherlands


Dear Editor:

The Reuters story titled, "RITALIN MAY ENCOURAGE DRUG ABUSE, STUDY SAYS" and widely published in the mass media under different titles, is the result of poor research by Nadine Lambert of the university of California. The researcher infers that, because Ritalin has similar properties as cocaine, children with Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become cocaine addicts if they have used Ritalin for the disorder.

There is a plethora of sound research that contests the findings of Ms. Lambert. The one that particularly comes to mind is the work of Lily Hechtman's of Montreal. Ms Hechtman found that there was no difference in relation to the propensity for chaotic drug use between adults who took Ritalin for ADHD as children, and those who did not. Moreover, research from the opposite spectrum shows highly contrary results. Dr. Edward Knantzian (American Journal of Psychiatry 140:784-785, 1983), Beverly Horner, Karl Scheibe, and Susan Steine of Veterans Affairs Medical Centre (Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Vol. 10, March 1996), and other Addiction and Treatment academics have determined that Adult Deficit and Hyperactive (AADHD) individuals who are addicted to cocaine quit the drug when administered high doses of Ritalin. My own research leads me to conclude that these individuals were using cocaine for the purpose of self-medicating.

Therefore, even if Nadine Lambert's findings are accurate, Ritalin is not the dependent variable. Rather this variable is the underlying disorder/disease (AADHD). In other words, Ms. Lambert's cocaine using subjects may be self medicating when they discontinue Ritalin. Thus, their prior use of Ritalin has nothing to do with their current addiction to cocaine. In this climate of war on drug users, it is best to shy away from scare tactics and seek out solid information so that people can make informed choices, rather than choices based on hysteria.

Raffi Balian,
Toronto, Canada


The Harbinger, Mobile, AL