Mr. Gumpert had cancer of the prostate. All things considered, I don’t rate this as tragic. Unfortunate, yes, but certainly not down in the depths as was the case with Frank Zappa,  whose prostrate cancer struck at the age of 53 and was fatal.

With Zappa’s death, the world was deprived of an unusually sharp wit coupled with a virtuosic musical talent and an incredible knack for humor and originality. (I am in no way saying that Zappa’s life was worth more or less than any other human being’s. But I feel free to compare their works.) Mr. Gumpert, on the other hand,  is a sort of reverse Carrie Nation, wielding his hatchet so that we can drink something instead of having it prohibited. Like Ms. Nation, Mr. Gumpert will probably not achieve any long-term success. I believe that raw milk will continue to be a highly regulated substance, consumed only by a small part of the population. Most Americans, I imagine, are to be content to drink inexpensive, safe milk.



But while raw milk is a bagatelle, prostate cancer is a serious problem. It is also an extremely complicated problem. there are a lot of unanswered questions that come up after the doctor’s glove comes off:

Should all men get PSA tests?How often? Is it different for those with a family history of prostate cancer? How do we know when a biopsy is called for? What is the best way to biopsy? What are the consequences of false positive tests? How can a patient find the best surgeon? How can we be sure that the media is conveying this information accurately? How do we get the correct information to the men at risk? How do we deal with the fact that men tend to be such poor patients? Can we change the behaviors of men to make them act more in their interest as patients?

So here is a very real public health problem, suffered by someone who is actually a real journalist. He has an audience. He knows how to meet a deadline and get his material out. He has connections with trusted publications with large circulations. He is in a real position with the help a lot of men parse out the difficulties of a very difficult disease, one that even if it doesn’t kill, strikes at the very core of what it means to be a man. And yet, he chooses to be the bandleader for a small group of fanatics, many of whom have an economic interest in the outcome of this bizarre fight. The Complete Patient (which is neither complete nor about patients) doesn’t even say if  Mr. Gumpert is so interested in raw milk  because he believes that it cured his prostate cancer.

I don’t think most of his current readers are interested in real and pressing public health and health policy problems. If so, it seems to follow that he would’ve been writing about them more regularly. There are, however, plenty of worried people out there with plenty of questions about problems other than the single imaginary one dealt with in his blog. With all the monomaniacal energy expended on something that really isn’t a problem, one can’t help but wonder if he couldn’t use all this energy to perhaps give the next Zappa a few more years.

OK, I’m done writing about raw milk weirdness.

Prostate Cancer Victim, but most definitely not a monomaniac

Lactic Wackiness and the Fightin’ Foodies–Some things are beyond parody

Historical note: August 2010 was the biggest month ever for the Assassin Bug, when for some unknown reason , searches for Brigitte Bardot (its matron saint) shot up like the price of Halliburton shares during an unnecessary war. The Assassin Bug was the unintended beneficiary.We are hoping that this August we will top last August’s number of visitors, when over 6,000 gawkers drooled over pictures of France’s most famous hate-speech criminal. Please check in daily to The Assassin Bug, or the Meta-Bug if you must, as often as possible between now and Labor Day. Every time you visit, another mosquito is squished. 

Wrong blog, buddy. If you want Bardot (or Ekberg or Loren), look somewhere else.

August Sweeps Month is coming up for the Assassin Bug, and the foaming-at-the-mouth believers in raw milk can always be counted upon to drive up a site’s number of hits whenever their sacred cow (ha!) is looked at askance. But I won’t write about this on my public health blog, because as a matter of public health, this is settled (at least as far as the science is concerned).

So I’m not going to write about raw milk. I’m going to write about the Tragedy of David Gumpert. It’s a minor league tragedy  in comparison with real tragedies, like  the dismembered child in New York, or that woman whose drowned body wasn’t discovered for two days in Massachusetts, or that there are people still not able to find adequate medical care.  It’s hardly poignant like great fictional tragedy, like Othello or the book version of The Natural (Roy Hobbs does not hit a homer off of the lights, but strikes out–How  could Hollywood change that?) But  it is tragic nonetheless in the low level why-do-the-Cubs-keep-losing- and-won’t-I-ever-see-a-pennant-in-my-lifetime  kind of way.

Gumpert has become the Glenn Beck of the “food rights” movement. (No, this is not the right of foods to vote, marry each other, or not be eaten–it is the supposed right of any citizen to put into commerce whatever he or she deems is edible, though I daresay that that has as much sense. )The movement would have us believe that there exists in the Constitution something that they call food rights.

Historical aside: Some noted historians claim that  Food Rights are found in the famous “Lost Amendments Scrolls,” purportedly written by Jefferson while in France (Jefferson was serving as Ambassador to France while the Constitutional Convention was meeting), and lost in transit on their way to the United States. Some scholars go on to say that someone paid to have these parchments hijacked and taken to the Barbary Coast by the hired pirates. On the beaches of North Africa one can occasionally find a pink-skinned American wearing something that looks like a medical detector, but is actually a parchment detector in the hands of a history buff. I know one guy, Apoteoso Arco-Balena’s father of all people, who regularly goes there on his vacation to look for such lost parchments. He never found any of interest in terms of American History, but he  did find communications between Hannibal and his generals. Alas, Roman history didn’t interest him, and he sold them for a song–literally–and they eventually ended up in the National Museum in Iraq where they were lost during the pillaging of that institution during the recent sacking  of Baghdad. Apparently, Apoteoso’s father, Heinrich, was convinced that Arabic covers of Connie Francis songs were to be the next big thing. He heard a band playing that very stuff at a night club in Oujda, and traded a band member the manuscripts for some low-quality cassette recordings and the international rights to their music. The band’s oud player, it turns out, was an out-of-work archaeologist who specialized in the Roman Conquest of North Africa. Having received a rather healthy sum for the parchments, he now lives in villa on the Costa Smeralda. Much to the dismay of his mother, he hasn’t touched his oud in years.

The Fightin’ Foodies  usually fail to distinguish between the right to consume something and the right to enter something into commerce. No matter. In the mind of the zealot such distinctions are useless. The playbook is familiar: Take no quarter! Admit nothing negative! Attack on any level! Play victim! Reading the comments on Gumpert’s blog seem to bring to mind the worst groupthink tendencies of the our current political hostage takers. It seems that fanaticism in our country ranges from tax policy to what goes into your cereal bowl.

But, yesssssss, Gumpert’s Blog, a kind of Cosmic Convergence point of hokey-anna. A milky white hole, if such a thing existed, where misfit minds are sucked in and nothing with any sense escapes. First of all, it’s got a great title: The Complete Patient. Secondly, it’s a complete misnomer. It’s not about being a patient, and it’s far from complete. It’s a busted old harmonica that plays but one note, the one that the Gummint and Big Dairy are engaged in an not-so-secret evil plot to deprive the public of nature’s most miraculous food: milk that has not been pasteurized.

See? Wasn't that easy? (Scanning electron micrograph courtesy of

To be continued. . .

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