PBS: Wowing Us With Woo

The infomercials have invaded publicly-funded teevee in the guise of “medical programming.” How fucking wonderful.

Robert Burton appears less than impressed:

Last week, I turned to my local PBS station, KQED, and ran headlong into yet another program of medical self-promotion. Mark Hyman, M.D., a family physician, was talking about “brain fog” and “broken minds” and how such “conditions” could be cured or prevented by using “The UltraMind Solution” — a combination of books, DVDs and home questionnaires.

Before I could change the channel, I heard Dr. Hyman make the following comments: “The way we think about disease, mental illness, and our brain aging, actually has nothing, nothing to do with how our body actually works … The way we think about disease is all wrong … the name of the disease tells us nothing about the real reason or the causes of them. Diseases don’t exist.”


Looks to me like they do.

If Dr. Hyman is correct, then we should disregard present medical knowledge and research. And yet, to justify his pet theories, Dr. Hyman cherry-picks from the very medical literature that he thinks approaches disease from the wrong perspective. Take, for example, his opinion that “the most remarkable scientific finding of the last decade is that you can have an inflamed, sore and swollen brain.” And from his blog site: “New research proves that almost all brain problems are connected to or caused by inflammation.” Indeed, Dr. Hyman opines that “if you treat the inflammation, the symptoms go away.”

Wow, that’s brilliant. And I suppose next he’s going to tell us that since hemophilia, traumatic amputations and Ebola all involve bleeding, Bandaids will cure all.

An appropriate analogy would be a bacterial sore throat. The streptococcus organism causes the sore throat; what we see on examination of the throat is inflammation of the underlying tissues. But it wouldn’t make sense to say that the inflammation caused strep throat; rather it would be a response to the strep. In order to blame inflammation as the primary cause, one has to abandon the traditional disease model — the position that Dr. Hyman takes at the start of his program.

Note to Dr. Hyman: Association is not causation.

Although associating Dr. Hyman with PBS has apparently caused a precipitous decline in the quality of their science programming.

Break Out the Bubbly

Sometimes, good people really do get the recognition they deserve.

First up, one of my favorite bloggers of all time, Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report, got snapped up by the Washington Monthly:


Now that my friend Kevin Drum has made the announcement, I can pass along the big news.

Starting this Friday, Aug. 22, Kevin will be leaving the Washington Monthly, heading over to a new blog at Mother Jones. He’ll be replaced at Political Animal by … me.

Yes, five-and-a-half years and more than 16,000 posts later, I’m giving up The Carpetbagger Report to blog exclusively for the Washington Monthly. I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.

For years, I had this idea in mind — start a site, work hard, build an audience, and wait for some wonderful news outlet to come along and hire me. Given this, and my love for the Washington Monthly (which I’ve been reading assiduously since I was an undergrad), I’m genuinely thrilled. Joining me at Political Animal will be Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings, who, as one of my very favorite bloggers, only makes the news even better.

For Carpetbagger readers, the only thing that’s going to change is the url and the layout. I’m going to keep doing exactly what I’m doing now; just update your bookmarks and follow me to my new home.

My first day at the Monthly is this Friday, Aug. 22. The schedule will remain the same until then, but starting Friday morning, I’ll be posting full-time at Political Animal. Hope to see you there.

As you all know, without Steve, there wouldn’t be a Happy Hour Discurso. You can bet your fucking bippy I’ll be there!

(Question: does anyone here know what, exactly, a bippy is?)

Steve’s one of the hardest-working bloggers in the known universe. He’s also one of the funniest, kindest, and competent. He’s earned this, and I’m absolutely thrilled for him.

Kevin Drum had just better keep up the Friday Catblogging tradition over at Mother Jones, or I’m going to have to buy Steve two cats and a camera to compensate.

Steve’s not the only deserving person who got a better gig. MSNBC did the right thing and gave Rachel Maddow a show. I don’t watch television anymore – I barely manage to catch me some Daily Show and Colbert Report from time to time – but I might have to make an exception:

I’m very rarely encouraged by any of the decisions made by major news outlets. Yesterday afternoon, however, was a spectacular exception.

Rachel Maddow has been sounding off about politics on MSNBC so often she might as well have her own show.

And now she does.

The liberal commentator and Air America radio host, who has become a breakout star for the cable channel during the presidential campaign, is taking over the 9 p.m. slot following Keith Olbermann, whom she often subs for on “Countdown.” Olbermann broke what he called a “fully authorized leak” yesterday on the left-wing Web site Daily Kos. Dan Abrams, the former MSNBC general manager who had been hosting “Verdict” at that hour, will continue as NBC’s chief legal correspondent, become a “Dateline” contributor and serve as a daytime anchor for MSNBC.

A recent profile of Rachel in the Nation noted, “Maddow didn’t get here by bluster and bravado but with a combination of crisp thinking and galumphing good cheer. Remarkably, this season’s discovery isn’t a glossy matinee idol or a smooth-talking partisan hack but a PhD Rhodes scholar lesbian policy wonk who started as a prison AIDS activist.”

I’d just add that Rachel is, without doubt or hesitation, the best political observer on television, and her insightful analysis of the 2008 cycle has set a very high bar for the rest of the media to follow. The question hasn’t been whether Rachel would get her own prime-time show; the question has been why Rachel didn’t already have her own prime-time show.

That would be because the media moguls are fucking morons. It’s good to see them wising up a bit.

So, my darlings, raise your glasses high to two of the best people in political reporting. Salud!

Skeptics Unite! Take Back Your TV!

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer himself, could become a TV star!

The pilot episode of the Skeptologists has been filmed, and it’s time now to shop it out to the networks in hopes that they’ll nudge aside enough pseudoscience, bullshit, mindless yapping, and otherwise pure crap to make room for a nugget of pure gold.

You can find more information on the show here and here. You can throw your weight behind the show thusly:


Also, if you want to support the show (and given how many people responded to the call for a transcriptionist, I see that y’all do!), you can send an email to [email protected]. You’ll get an automated reply, but we’re collecting emails to show networks that there is a demand for quality shows for intelligent people who don’t buy into all the nonsense being aired right now.

Wanna see Phil & Crew on TV! Wanna wanna skeptical show! So do you. So start bawling with me in hopes we get fed. Mmm, tasty fun skepticism!