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18 Jan 14:00

An apt metaphor

by (Vox)
For the charade of globalist "leadership":
Once again the mainstream media peddled the spoon-fed propaganda that world leaders "led the march" to honor the victims of the Paris shootings last week. Glorious photo-ops of Merkel, Hollande, Poroshenko, David Cameron (oh, and not Barack Obama) were smeared across front pages hailing the "unity in outrage." However, as appears to be the case in so many 'events' in the new normal managed thinking in which we live, The Independent reports, French TV has exposed the reality of the 'photo-op' seen-around-the-world: the 'dignitaries' were not in fact "at" the Paris rallies but had the photo taken on an empty guarded side street.

We are living in a Potemkin world. Take nothing reported by the media at face value.

Posted by Vox Day.
17 Jan 19:00

EPA Reform: 6 Crucial Areas Congress Should Investigate

by Jon Basil Utley

Congressional hearings should be used to investigate and shed light on shady science, ties, and practices from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although many failings of the EPA have already been exposed, proper investigations into these issues could help publicize the agency's looniness and also yield further details about EPA's questionable methods and relationships.

Congressional investigations and publicized hearings provide a way for the public to understand the real objectives of extreme environmentalists (known as "radical greens") and the incredible costs these impose upon America, in terms of both lost jobs and wasted resources. But such an undertaking needs to be done intelligently, with skilled, persistent questioning and sustained focus on particular, egregious issues, not just letting congressmen grandstand for their home districts. Below are six issues these hearings should address to help bring about reform at the EPA and remind Americans to be skeptical of exaggerated EPA warnings. 

Oil Spill Inaction

A good issue to start with would be exposing the EPA’s role in exacerbating the damage done by BP’s giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Few Americans know that the spill might have easily been prevented from reaching shore. Holland offered during the first days to send over its experienced skimmer boats from the North Sea, which take up oil off the sea surface and separate most of it. The Dutch even offered to train Americans in their procedures. But EPA regulations stated that any cleaned ocean water must be 99.9985 percent free of oil before being dumped back into the ocean.

Despite the emergency, the agency refused to modify the regulation until a month later, when oil was already reaching shore. (Many more details are in my 2010 Reason article, "Government’s Catastrophic Response to the Oil Disaster.") A Congressional hearing with subpoena power could get to the bottom of who at the EPA was responsible for this delay, how, and why.

Regulation through Litigation

Second, Congress should subpoena emails sent between EPA officials and their radical green (RG) brethren on the outside concerning the multibillion-dollar scam known as "sue and settle" litigation. Here's how it works: RG lawyers sue the EPA demanding it tighten standards on some obscure but costly issue. The EPA then "settles" the suit by agreeing to new, often impossibly-tight standards. An October '14 report from the National Center for Policy Analysis found these regulations "run the gamut from dictating precisely how much sulfur is allowed in a gallon of gasoline to setting efficiency standards for microwaves." A 2013 paper from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that "EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups" between 2009 and 2012, resulting in more than 100 new regulations.

Natural Gas Nannying

The EPA's shutting down of coal mines—and wasting tens of billions on subsidies for "alternative" energy—is already on Congressional agendas. Coal may be the EPA’s first target, but natural gas is next. In its crosshairs is hydraulically fractured oil drilling ("fracking"), with new plans to force drilling rigs to shut down unless they pay for very expensive collection of flared methane gas, now burned away when gas pipelines are not close by.

Distorted Science

EPA’s distorted use of its own "science" and methodology needs serious questioning and exposure. The agency's carbon dioxide rulings are already under fire, and I have written in detail about how its radiation limits were preposterously irrelevant to real threats. Under these limits, a "dirty" nuclear-radiation dispersal device which actually contaminated a hundred-foot distance would require an emergency evacuation of half a city. The Government Accounting Office even insisted that EPA revise the limits.

EPA's rules come from the discredited "linear no threshold theory" (LNT). Explaining to the American public the basis for this theory is vital and needs repeating over and over again. Its main premise is extrapolating any possibility to illogical extremes. For example, LNT deducts that, if 100 aspirin is a fatal dose for healthy humans, then out of 100 people each taking one aspirin, one of them will die. This nonsensical model is used to decree that even a few parts per billion of something or other will cause a cancer somewhere, with someone, and on this basis it shuts down industries and orders the spending of billions of dollars upon non-existent problems.

Another example of the agency's poor science is the Clean Air Act, where EPA uses standards and regulations set for densely populated cities to demand that oil drillers keep the air above the Arctic Ocean pristine clean. This requirement cost Shell Oil a whole year in lost drilling, because it was effectively forced to close during the few months of the year when drilling is permitted by the extreme weather.

Lead Paint Regulation

Lead paint is another hyper-scare where EPA policies are hurting more than helping. Its removal or painting-over should be done properly and carefully. But stringent EPA requirements for precisely how contractors must go about this (and the fines they'll pay if they don't) has some home contractors scared to work on houses built before lead-paint use was discontinued. Threatening small contractors with $37,000 per day fines for scraping paint from an outside window is preposterous. Congress could cut through the hype and highlight how such strict rules for removing lead paint harm American workers and businesses, without making us any safer. 

Ground-Ozone Regulation

The EPA wants industry to spend tens of billions more to bring ground-level ozone further down, from 75 part per billion to 65 to 70 parts per billion, all based on its LNT theory. In 2011, it said that costs could reach $90 billion to gain public health benefits of $100 billion. It should explain the methodology! And the alleged benefits that this reduction will bring.

Unfortunately, we can expect to see more action on ozone regulation in 2015: last December, an appeals court overturned (at the behest of the National Resources Defense Council) EPA rules allowing states more flexibility and time in complying with ozone regulations. "All statutory indications militate against allowing the agency’s lengthening of the periods for achieving compliance with revised air quality standards," the court ruled. Last week, the White House announced that "EPA will develop new guidelines to assist states in reducing ozone-forming pollutants." 

16 Jan 12:46

Red Meat Increases Cancer Risk Because of Toxic Immune Response

by Kevin Cann

Written by: Kevin Cann

I am sure seeing this headline on the Paleo Solution blog caught your attention. That title was the title of a January 2, 2015 article published in Discover magazine. If you live in a cave and have not yet been inundated with this via your Facebook newsfeed check it out first, , and here is a copy to the research, . Typically I do not get into these debates anymore as it is just the same old arguments. However, this study mentioned something a bit different. These researchers are blaming a sugar molecule, Neu5Gc, found in beef, lamb, and pork.

Their argument is that the human body cannot digest this sugar molecule and this causes an inflammation response. Neu5Gc cannot be synthesized in humans due to an irreversible mutation of gene CMAH. This gene is actually found in other mammals including apes. Neu5Gc is immunogenic in humans and DOES cause an inflammation response. ( ).

Researchers, just like anyone else, want to get their names out there. Showing the dangers of red meat has always had some media sex appeal. Science has already known that Neu5Gc causes an immune response in humans, so why would researchers need to do further research on mice? My guess would be to get their names published in a magazine.

These researchers knocked out the CMAH gene in the mice to “humanize” them. They then fed them the mouse equivalent of red meat. This was mouse chow enriched with the Neu5Gc. They then fed the mice this for the next 12 weeks. The mice were then injected with the antibodies for Neu5Gc to mimic the human response. The mice fed the enriched chow were 5 times more likely to develop tumors then the mice fed a normal diet.

The mice in this study tended to develop tumors mostly in the liver. However, the popular claim against red meat is colon cancer. The fact that the mice were developing tumors in different areas brings to question the difference in the digestion of the sugar molecule between the two species. Knocking out certain genes in mice is good for metabolic research, but for cancer research it gets a bit dodgy. Humans and mice will disburse Neu5Gc throughout their tissues in different ways. This may explain why the mice were developing liver cancer and the suspected outcome would have been colon cancer. Also, the fact that the mice were developing liver cancer makes me question the dosages they were receiving. Our liver is our major detox organ and if the dosage of a “poison” was superiorly high, this could be the cause of the liver cancer. Remember the poison is in the dose.

All foods contain at least one compound that can lead to negative health outcomes when taken at extreme doses. However, none of these compounds tend to show these same negative health outcomes when taken in the amount found in a normal dietary setting. If I am a researcher and I want my research published in magazines this is exactly how I would do it. I would overwhelm a mouse with an amount of one of these compounds that is larger than any human would ingest on a given day, slap a catchy title on it like “Red Meat Causes Cancer” and send it out for everyone to read. The layperson is none the wiser and my name is published in major media outlets. Not saying that this is what happened, but definitely something to keep in mind.

Research has shown using the same mouse model that Neu5Gc is present in cancerous cells. However, just because the sugar molecule is there does not mean that it is the cause of the tumor. We know that some tumors require sugar for the energy to continuously divide. Perhaps Neu5Gc is one of the sugars it can utilize as fuel. This would make sense from an evolutionary perspective since humans do not synthesize the sugar.
After quite a bit of digging I was able to find that the dosages that they gave the mice in the study were about 100 times higher than the dosages that humans consume when we look at how much Neu5Gc was consumed per kg of bodyweight. Also, 12 weeks is about half of the lifespan of the mice they used in the research. To sum it up these mice were fed 100 times more of the sugar molecule then humans would consume per day for half of their lives. To add even more, this was not within the context of their normal diets.

My question would be, what would happen if we consumed normal amounts of Neu5GC within the context of a normal diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats? I have written about the meat and inflammation link in past articles ( ). Meat is an important source of many critical nutrients including our B vitamins and iron. If the sugar molecule Neu5Gc is toxic to humans within the context of a realistic diet we should expect to see increased cancer rates amongst populations that consume high meat diets. These increased cancer rates should correlate directly with the amount of meat consumed as well. However, this is not what we see.

There are a few hunter gatherer groups that can be found across the planet. One of them being the Maasai eat a high fat diet from animal products, but yet do not suffer the same lifestyle diseases that are so abundant in the Western hemisphere ( ). Two other groups that are compared often are the Mormons and the Seventh-day Adventists. The Mormons eat meat and the Seventh-day Adventists do not. Other lifestyle factors between the two groups are very similar. Their smoking rates are lower, they have strong spiritual connections, and they drink less. Their total life expectancies are comparable at 2-4 years higher than the general population. They also both have cancer rates much lower than the general population. This includes colon cancer, a cancer in which red meat is supposed to negatively affect ( ).

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Neu5Gc is not a major cause of cancer. It comes down to a plethora of lifestyle behaviors. The more positive actions we take to take care of our health the better off we will be. Manage your stress, move around a bit, get some sunlight, hug your mom, and eat some steak.
For more information on this checkout the podcast with guest Chris Kresser:

15 Jan 02:57

Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from David Ricardo.

My policy is, as it has always been, to use as Quotations of the Day (and as Bonus ones) only quotations that I’ve run across in my own readings.  For a variety of reasons I don’t take suggestions from readers – and that policy will not change.  But today I make an exception for an unsolicited suggestion that comes from a scholar whose work – and whose person – I admire unreservedly.  My dear and good friend Bob Higgs sent this suggestion from David Ricardo’s posthumously published [1824] “Observations on Parliamentary Reform“:

The quantity of employment in the country must depend, not only on the quantity of capital, but upon its advantageous distribution, and above all, on the conviction of each capitalist that he will be allowed to enjoy unmolested the fruits of his capital, his skill, and his enterprise.  To take from him this conviction is at once to annihilate half the productive industry of the country, and would be more fatal to the poor labourer than to the rich capitalist himself.

Ricardo here concisely summarizes (1) the Austrian understanding that an economy’s ‘microeconomic’ details at least match in importance any considerations of aggregate demand, and (2)  Bob Higgs’s own deep understanding of the depressing consequences of regime uncertainty.

14 Jan 16:30

Child Services Still Hounding Couple Who Let Their Kids Play Outside

by Lenore Skenazy

Kid with ramYou may recall the story last month of a family threatened by the authorities for letting their kids walk outside. Here's the latest from the mom, Danielle Meitiv, who is hoping the rest of the media takes note. I hope so, too.

Meitiv explains via email:

Dear Reason: On Monday, a Montgomery County child protective services worker went to my children's school and interviewed them without my knowledge or consent. Why?

Because last month we'd let them walk home from the park by themselves. It's a mile away. They are 6 and 10. We live in suburban Maryland. Let me recap the story and then tell you where we're at.

On a Saturday afternoon in December, my husband, Alexander, gave our kids permission to walk home from the local playground. I was out of town at the time. When they'd walked about halfway, a Montgomery County Police patrol car pulled up. A "helpful" neighbor had called 911 to report unaccompanied children walking outside. Our kids were brought home in a police cruiser.

At the door the police officer asked to see my husband's ID, but did not explain why. When he refused, she called for backup.  

A total of six patrol cars showed up.

Alexander then agreed to get his ID and went to go upstairs. The officer said—in front of the kids—that if he came down with anything else, "shots would be fired." She proceeded to follow him upstairs, and when he said she had no right to do so without a warrant, she insisted that she did.

Our 10 yr. old called me crying and saying that the police were there and that Daddy was going to be arrested. Alexander stepped outside to continue the conversation away from the kids. When he disagreed with one of the officers about the dangers that walking alone posed to children, she asked him: "Don't you realize how dangerous the world is? Don't you watch TV?"  They took notes and left.

Two hours later a CPS worker arrived with a “temporary safety plan,” which she told my husband to sign. It stated that he would not leave the children unsupervised at any time before Monday morning, when someone from their office could contact him. He refused to sign it. She informed him that if he didn’t, she would instruct the police to take the children away immediately. He signed.

free-range-kidsWe were then contacted by a CPS social worker named W. Don Thorne who made an appointment for us to come to his office on Friday,  Jan. 9. A little while later he called back saying that he needed to come to us, so that he could see our house. We told him we would meet with him at his office, not our home. He said he would speak with his supervisor and call us back.

On Monday, Mr. Thorne showed up at our door unannounced, accompanied by a police officer. He insisted that he had the right to come into our house without a warrant. I said that I was invoking my Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search, and would not let him in, but repeated my willingness to go to his office to answer questions. Then I noticed that he had a visitor’s sticker from my children’s elementary school on his jacket. Had he been to my children's school to interview them?!

He didn't answer that question and they quickly left. I have since learned that he visited my children’s school and spoke to my children without my knowledge or consent.

We do not know what actions CPS will take next.

We are frightened and confused. We are good parents, educated professionals, and our children are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and academically successful.

As difficult as it is for us to believe, all of these events occurred as the result of allowing our children to walk along public streets in the middle of the afternoon without our supervision.

My husband grew up in the former Soviet Union. Now he wonders if we have to just go along with whatever the authorities want us to do. I keep reminding him that we have RIGHTS in this country and that neither the police nor the bureaucrats can arbitrarily dismiss them.

Read more from Reason on the Meitiv family's problems with CPS here.

14 Jan 14:45

GOP Considering Gas and Other Tax Hikes

by Lactose the Intolerant

(AP) – Sounding much like their Democrat counterparts, GOP Senators Hatch, Inhofe and Thune have been considering raising the federal gasoline tax in the wake of the rapid decline of gas prices nationwide.  “With gasoline prices at lows not seen since 2009,” Senator Inhofe has said, “now is the ideal time to raise the tax on gas.  People have become accustomed to the higher gas prices and have budgeted for it. Now that the prices have dropped, they can afford to pay their fair share to upkeep our nation’s highway system.”

“Nothing is off the table,” Senator Hatch commented.  “I don’t know why anyone would complain about this.  The American citizens didn’t do anything to drive down the price of gasoline.  They did nothing to earn this sudden windfall of money.  Is it really too much to ask them to give back some of this undeserved cash?  I can’t believe Americans are that selfish.”

Senator Thune, however, felt that raising the tax on gasoline didn’t go far enough.  “There are many occasions when the American public benefits economically without warrant.  When they head over to Super Target or Smith’s Marketplace to stock up during their annual case lot sale, they are getting quite the bargain and are saving quite a bit of money.  They did nothing to earn this savings.  Isn’t it just to expect them to spread these savings around for the greater good?  That is why I am proposing that all such undeserved income be considered windfall profits and be taxed appropriately.  I propose that anytime someone pays less than the MSRP for any product, those savings will be considered windfall gains and taxed at 75%.  The citizen gets to keep 25%of this unearned income, so what do they have to complain about?  Savings from coupons will also be taxed at 75% except for on double-coupon Tuesday when the extra savings will be taxed at 90%.  Kohl’s cash, being illegal currency in my opinion, will be justly confiscated and turned over to the congressmen’s wives and mistresses for disposal.”

When Speaker of the House John Boehner was asked his opinion about this, he merely said, “We have to pay for President Obama’s executive amnesty somehow.  Illegal immigrants can’t be expected to pay for themselves.  In addition, it is anticipated the oversight of these new taxes would create on the order of 10,000 jobs in the IRS, and in this economy, we need all the jobs we can get.  If the CBO calculations are correct, these new taxes will almost cover the salaries of these new federal employees (not counting benefits, of course), and those are the kind of budget numbers I can stand behind.  It would likely also require that all retailers hire additional accountants and software/capital equipment to comply with collecting these new taxes, and that would cost the government nothing, and that’s a win in my book.”

When asked to comment, Rand Paul merely shook his head forlornly and tossed Hatch, Inhofe and Thune into the Boston Harbor.

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13 Jan 19:49

Great Moments in Bad Economic Policy

by admin

This article on bad bipartisan energy laws and regulations from Master Resource brought back some old memories of the 1970s.

Folks who are at all economically literate understand the role that government price controls (specifically price caps) had on gasoline shortages in the 1970s.  When there was a supply shock via the Arab oil embargo, prices were not allowed to rise to match supply and demand.  As in the case of all such price control situations, shortages and queuing resulted.

It is too bad in a way that most folks today can't really remember the gas lines of 1973 and again in 1978.  It was my job in 1978 as the new driver in the family to go wait in line for gas for all the family cars.  I wasted hours and hours sitting in gas lines. I wonder if anyone has every computed the economic value of the time lost to Americans sitting in gas lines because politicians did not want the price to rise by 20 cents.

A number of my friends who knew my dad was an Exxon executive were surprised at my waiting in lines, and wondered why we didn't get some sort of secret access to gas.  But my family waited in lines like everything else.

Well, almost like everyone else.  Because of my dad's position, we did have a bit of information most people did not have, at least in the first shock of 1973.  It was not a secret, it was just totally unreported in the media.  The key was the knowledge of a piece of Congressional legislation called the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973.  It had an enormous impact on exacerbating the urban gas lines, but either out of a general ignorance or else a media/academic desire not to make government regulation look bad, it is as unknown today as it was unreported in 1973.

What the law did was this -- it mandated that oil companies distribute gasoline geographically in the US in the same proportion that it was sold in the prior year.  So if they sold x% in area Y last year before the embargo, x% must be distributed to area Y this year after the embargo.  I can't remember the exact concern, but Congress had some fear that oil companies would somehow respond to price signals in a way that caused gasoline allocations to hose someone somewhere.

Anyway, the effect was devastating, probably even worse than the effect of price controls.  The reason was that while Congress forced gasoline supply distribution patterns to remain the same as the prior year (in classic directive 10-289 style), demand patterns had changed a lot.  Specifically, with the fear that gas might not be available over the road and looming economic problems, people cancelled their summer long-distance driving trips.

Everyone stayed home and didn't drive the Interstates cross-country.  So there was little demand for gas at the stations that served these routes.  But by law, oil companies had to keep delivering gasoline to these typically rural stations.  So as urban drivers fumed sitting in gas lines for hours and hours, many rural locations were awash in gas.  Populist Congressmen berated oil companies in the press for the urban gas shortages and lines, all while it was their stupid, ill-considered laws that created a lot of the problem.

So this was the fact that should have been public, but was not: That instead of sitting in urban gas lines for four hours, one could drive 30 minutes into the countryside and find it much easier.  Which is what we did, a number of times.

By the way, it was about this time that I read Hedrick Smith's great book "The Russians."  It was, for the time, a nearly unique look at the life of ordinary Russians under Soviet communism.  I wish the book were still in print (I would love to see one of the free market think tanks do a reissue, at least on Kindle).  Anyway, about 80% of the book seemed to be about how individual Russians dealt with constant shortages and ubiquitous queuing.  It seemed that a lot of the innovation in the general populace was channeled into just these concerns.  What a waste.  Dealing with the 1970s gas lines and shortages is about the closest I have ever come to the life described in that book.

13 Jan 18:01

Lobbyists Deal -- Easily -- with a Changing Congress

by David Boaz

David Boaz

On NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Peter Overby discusses the way lobbyists are adjusting to the new Republican Congress. Some are hiring former Republican lawmakers and congressional staff. Some are reminding clients that there are still two parties, as in this nice ad for superlobbyist Heather Podesta, former sister-in-law of White House eminence John Podesta:

OVERBY: Even in a Republican Congress, lobbyists will need to court Democrats, too. Heather Podesta is happy to point that out. She runs her own small Democratic firm.

HEATHER PODESTA: The power of the Congressional Black Caucus has really grown.

OVERBY: In fact, she says CBC members are expected to be the top-ranking Democrats on 17 House committees and subcommittees.

PODESTA: Corporate America has to have entree into those offices. And we’re very fortunate to have the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus as part of our team.

After every election, the lobbyists and the spending interests never rest. The challenge for the tea party and for groups such as the National Taxpayers Union is to keep taxpayers even a fraction as engaged as the tax consumers.

In the last analysis, as I’ve written many times before – and in my forthcoming book The Libertarian Mind – the only way to reduce the influence of lobbyists is to shrink the size of government. 

As Craig Holman of the Nader-founded Public Citizen told Marketplace Radio, “the amount spent on lobbying … is related entirely to how much the federal government intervenes in the private economy.” Marketplace’s Ronni Radbill noted then, “In other words, the more active the government, the more the private sector will spend to have its say…. With the White House injecting billions of dollars into the economy, lobbyists say interest groups are paying a lot more attention to Washington than they have in a very long time.”

Big government means big lobbying. When you lay out a picnic, you get ants. And today’s federal budget is the biggest picnic in history.



13 Jan 17:33

American Household Income, 1975 to Now: More Richer, Fewer Poorer

by Brian Doherty

Don Boudreaux over at Cafe Hayek highlights this interesting chart showing household income distributions from 1975 and roughly today, and the news ain't terrible. It shows that the percentage of households in every income distribution from fewer than $15 thousand a year to $75-$100 thousand a year has fallen, with the only rise--a pretty big 11.7 percent--in the over-$100K-a-year category.

As Boudreaux explains:

The percentage of American households with what might commonly be regarded to be middle-class incomes is indeed falling – but so, too, is the percentage of American households with what are surely “poor” incomes.  So once-middle-class Americans are not becoming poor.  Instead, they’re becoming rich; their real monetary incomes are rising.  The percentage of American households earning high incomes ($100,000 annually and above) is on the rise – and impressively so.  Let me emphasize: A much greater percentage of households today (compared to 1975) have annual incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2013 dollars).....

 the average number of persons per American household today (2013) is 13.6 percent fewer than in 1975, so each real dollar of household income is today shared by fewer people than in 1975 – meaning that the increase in “per-person-in-household” annual real incomes is even more impressive than these data show....these data are pre-tax yet post-cash transfers (such as Social Security payments),

Nick Gillespie from November on three more illuminating charts from Congressional Budget Office data on American income, income growth, and income inequality.

13 Jan 16:37

Why You Should Care That Trial of Ross Ulbricht, Accused of Running Silk Road, Begins Today

by Nick Gillespie

The trial of Ross Ulbricht, whom federal authorities say ran the "dark web" site Silk Road, starts today after multiple delays. If you care about Internet freedom and basic civil liberties, you should watch the proceedings with great concern.

Silk Road is best known as a bitcoin-enabled online marketplace for drugs (read Brian Doherty's feature on the topic). But the case against Ulbricht, who war arrested in 2013, raises hugely important questions about Internet freedom and due process. When they nabbed Ulbricht, the feds made sure everyone knew that he had allegedly tried to hire hitmen to take care of drug-selling rivals. The New York Times Magazine ran a story that underscored the feds' one-sided portrait as Ulbricht's transformation from a literal Eagle Scout to the power-drunk "Dread Pirate Roberts" who was getting rich and insane from his role as proprietor of Silk Road.

Yet when it came time to, you know, actually charge him with crimes, the conspiracy to commit murder charges weren't entered. Well, not exactly. They're in the court documents but won't actually be vetted by the court:

In addition to the drug and conspiracy charges, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled last week that she will allow prosecutors to try to prove their case by presenting evidence that Ulbricht discussed six different murder-for-hire plots to protect Silk Road.

That's one way the feds are stacking the deck against Ulbricht, who may or may not be guilty of running Silk Road (I have no idea; but in the interests of disclosure, I contributed $100 to his defense fund out of concern of the way in which he is being prosecuted). The feds also have not explained to the defense how they tracked down Ulbricht, raising concerns that the evidence was initially gathered via intelligience operations that functioned without a legal warrant. That's troubling, as is the government's position that regardless of whether he profited from the site or actually trafficked in drugs himself, he should be responsible for what was going on at Silk Road. That charge flies in the face of existing laws that exempt ISPs and site operators from responsiblity for the actions and speech of users. The outcome of that specific issue could well chill the Internet well below absolute zero.

To paraphrase Joe Biden, this is a big fucking deal. Not simply because Ulbricht may be railroaded but because the way in which the prosecution is proceeding potentially threatens all of us who run websites, transact business online, and want to live in a country where the government has to be transparent about where it got its evidence against us.

Reason interviewed Lynn Ulbricht, who lays out the larger issues raised by the trial of her son:

12 Jan 23:47

Wholly Stupid Conclusions About Whole Grains

by Tom Naughton

Take a look at this headline from a Shape magazine online article – but I’m warning you, if you’re prone to head-bang-on-desk incidents like I am, you’d best don your helmet before continuing.

Low Carb Diet Linked to Shorter Life Expectancy

That’s the headline.  Here’s the subhead:

If your healthy diet doesn’t include breads, rice, oats, and other whole grains, you may be missing out on a huge health perk, says new science.

And here’s the opening paragraph:

Swearing off carbs may mean forgoing health perks as well: People who ate more whole grains throughout their lives lived longer than those who didn’t, reports a new study in the JAMA Network Journals.

Better eat your bread and other grains, because a low-carb diet is linked to an early death.  That’s the takeaway message.  So obviously, the study being reported by the Shape magazine writer compared low-carb diets to diets rich in whole grains, right?

Wrong.  The study wasn’t about low-carb diets at all.  The headline and the opening paragraph are both complete nonsense.  Hardly a week goes by when I don’t see some goof in the media misinterpret a study (often with help from the researchers), but I ignore most of those articles these days simply because they’re so common.

But this article … wow … I found myself asking the same question I often ask when politicians give speeches:  Is this goofball knowingly dishonest, or just plain stupid?

So let’s put on our Science For Smart People hats and ask some questions about the study that prompted the Shape reporter (and others, no doubt) to conclude that a low-carb diet is linked to shorter life expectancy.

Q: Is this a clinical study or an observational study?

A: It’s an observational study.  Actually, researchers dug data out of two ongoing observational studies.  Here’s a quote from the study abstract:

We investigated 74,341 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984–2010) and 43,744 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–2010), 2 large prospective cohort studies.

I’ve written about those studies before.  The Reader’s Digest version is that they’re based on occasional food questionnaires, which are notoriously unreliable.  Whenever I see a new analysis of the same old data from either one of these studies, I know it’s time to roll my eyes and walk away.  Move along folks, nothing to see here.  But for the sake of argument, let’s assume food questionnaires are reliable and observational studies actually tell us something useful.

Q: What was the actual difference?

A:  Well, you can refer to the abstract for the details, but here’s what got the researchers and members of the media all excited:

After multivariate adjustment for potential confounders, including age, smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and modified Alternate Healthy Eating Index score, higher whole grain intake was associated with lower total and CVD mortality but not cancer mortality…. We further estimated that every serving (28 g/d) of whole grain consumption was associated with a 5% lower total morality or a 9% lower CVD mortality, whereas the same intake level was nonsignificantly associated with lower cancer mortality.

So people eating whole grains had lower mortality.  Which leads to the next question …

Q:  Compared to what?

A:  Well, from the headline in Shape magazine online, you’d think researchers compared diets rich in whole grains to low-carb diets.  But like I said before, that’s not the case.  All this data shows is that people who ate more whole grains were less likely to die prematurely.  So … if a person eats more whole grains, wouldn’t that mean he or she is eating less of something else?  Which leads us to ask …

Q: If A is linked to B, could it be because of C?

A:  That’s the $64,000 question.  And the answer in this case is almost certainly yes.  Whole grains are associated with better health outcomes, but that’s because people who eat whole grains usually choose them over refined grains.  This study was conducted at Harvard, which trumpeted the results in the media and promoted the idea that there’s something especially health-enhancing about whole grains.  Here’s a quote about the study from a Harvard press release:

“This study further endorses the current dietary guidelines that promote whole grains as one of the major healthful foods for prevention of major chronic diseases,” said Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and senior author of the study.

Wow, so it turns out the government dietary guidelines are correct!  We just proved it here in our government-funded study!  (The NIH funded the study, according to the same press release.)  People who ate more whole grains lived longer, so that proves whole grains — in and of themselves — are good for you.

Uh-huh.  But here are some quotes from a different Harvard press release, commenting on earlier data extracted from the same two observational studies:

Refining wheat creates fluffy flour that makes light, airy breads and pastries. But there’s a nutritional price to be paid for refined grains. The process strips away more than half of wheat’s B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all of the fiber. It also makes the starch easily accessible to the body’s starch-digesting enzymes.

A growing body of research shows that returning to whole grains and other less-processed sources of carbohydrates and cutting back on refined grains improves health in myriad ways.

Eating whole instead of refined grains substantially lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels. Any of these changes would be expected to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

More recent findings from this study (the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study suggest that swapping whole grains for white rice could help lower diabetes risk: Researchers found that women and men who ate the most white rice—five or more servings a week—had a 17 percent higher risk of diabetes than those who ate white rice less than one time a month.

In other words, the supposed magic of whole grains comes down to them being a somewhat better choice than refined grains that jack up blood sugar, triglycerides, insulin, etc.  That tells us absolutely nothing about the health effects of whole grains vs. no grains.

The researchers noted that “replacing” one serving per day of red meat with whole grains was also associated with lower mortality.  I put “replacing” in quotes because people in these studies don’t check a box that says I am now swapping one serving of red meat for one serving of whole grains in my daily diet.  Those daily servings are the result of number-crunching by the researchers.  Their conclusion just means that given what they consider a “serving,” people who ate one serving less of red meat and one serving more of whole grains lived longer.

As I’ve explained before, the “red meat” in these studies most often comes in the form of pizza, burritos, deli sandwiches, hot dogs, etc. – in other words, processed meats that are served with a generous helping of white flour.  So when the researchers inform the media that “replacing” red meat with whole grains was associated with greater longevity, it could simply be the result of comparing people who eat pizza for dinner to people who eat chicken, vegetables and brown rice for dinner.  That doesn’t tell us diddly about what would happen to your health if you swapped a steak for a plate of whole-wheat pasta.

The folks at Harvard may understand that (not that you can tell from their conflicting press releases), but the reporter from Shape magazine clearly doesn’t.  She somehow managed to interpret this study as demonstrating a link between low-carb diets and an early death, even though the data doesn’t deal with low-carb diets at all.

To illustrate the depth of the stupidity, let’s take the smoking analogy I used in Science For Smart People and extend it a bit.  Suppose we conduct an observational study of smokers and find that those who smoke filtered cigarettes have lower rates of lung cancer than those who smoke unfiltered cigarettes.  The proper conclusion is that filtered cigarettes might be a better option than unfiltered cigarettes.  It would be stupid to conclude that our study proves filtered cigarettes are good for you.

But our Shape magazine reporter took that level of stupidity a step further.  To borrow a phrase from the comedy Tropic Thunder, she went full retard.  Her headline is the equivalent of reading a press release about our observational study on smoking and then writing a headline like this:

Non-Smoking Linked To Higher Cancer Rate

Like I said, I can’t tell if she’s being intentionally dishonest or is just plain stupid.  Either way, it’s not comforting to know she writes for a major health and fitness magazine.

You may now bang your head on your desk.


09 Jan 03:45

U.S. News Ranks the Diets

by Tom Naughton

It’s January, which means millions of people are either already on a weight-loss diet or considering one.  If you watch TV this time of year, you can’t help but see ads for Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers and all the other usual suspects.  So many options out there … which one should people choose?

Well, let’s suppose you were offered these choices:


That brew in the glass contains 18 grams of sugar, by the way.

So which meal should you choose?  Why, the glass of Slim-Fast, of course.  (How many of you guessed it from the list of ingredients?)

I know the Slim-Fast is a better option because a group of (ahem) experts says so.  Here are some quotes from an article on the NPR site, and from an article in U.S. News:

Despite the buzz about paleo and raw food diets, a new ranking of the 35 top diets puts these two near the bottom of the list.


I’m guessing it’s because the list was created by a bunch of nutritionists who still believe the same old anti-fat, anti-salt, hearthealthywholegrains nonsense they’ve been preaching for years.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings are based on evaluations by a panel of doctors, nutritionists and other health experts. For each diet, the experts evaluated short-term and long-term weight loss, ease of adherence, and how the advice stacked up against current dietary guidelines.

… and how the advice stacked up against current dietary guidelines.  In other words, the diets may as well have been ranked by the guiding lights at the USDA.

One expert concluded that “a true paleo diet might be a great option: very lean, pure meats, lots of wild plants.” But the problem, according to the report, is that it’s too difficult to follow in modern times.

Well, yes, if you tried to go out and track down a Megaloceros giganteus, you’d be sorely disappointed.  But the paleo diet is about eating nutrient-dense whole foods and avoiding Neolithic foods, not recreating the exact diets of our caveman ancestors.

The experts say that in avoiding dairy, grains and other mainstays of the modern diet, paleo followers may miss out on key nutrients.

Yeah, that’s why Custer kicked ass at Little Big Horn.  The Sioux and Cheyenne were perpetually weak and sick from a lack of dairy, grains, and other mainstays of the modern diet.

The paleo diet, by the way, was ranked 35th out of 35 – you know, because it lacks those mainstays of the modern diet.  The Slim-Fast diet – which requires consuming shakes that contain all those ingredients I listed above, including hydrogenated soybean oil –was ranked 13th.

Meanwhile, a  vegetarian diet was ranked 11th … because while we shouldn’t give up grains and other mainstays of the modern diet, giving up a mainstay of the modern diet is fine and dandy if the mainstay is meat.  And while the paleo diet was ranked last largely because it’s “too difficult to follow in modern times,” apparently switching to a vegetarian diet isn’t difficult at all.

Here’s what the U.S. News article said about the vegetarian diet:

As a health diet, vegetarianism is solid. It’s decent at producing rapid weight loss, according to experts, and is strong in other areas, such as heart health and nutritional completeness, that arguably are more important.

But if you take a vegetarian diet and remove the grains while adding meat, it’s no longer nutritionally complete, according to the (ahem) experts.

As for heart health, well geez, that must explain why vegetarians don’t die of heart disease.  No, wait … I seem to recall that they do.  As I recounted in a previous post, Bill Clinton’s own vegan-promoting doctor warned him against eating bread:

When Caldwell Esselstyn spotted a picture of him on the Internet, eating a dinner roll at a banquet, the renowned doctor dispatched a sharply worded email message: “I’ll remind you one more time, I’ve treated a lot of vegans for heart disease.”

And in another post, I quoted from a study titled Mortality Among British Vegetarians:

The mortality of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study is low compared with national rates. Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters.

Hmmm, kind of makes you wonder if these diet rankings are a bunch of poppycock.

The U.S. News article included a link to the panel of experts who ranked the diets.  I’ve never heard of most of them, but I have heard of Dr. David Katz.  He created something called the NuVal system, which is supposed to help shoppers choose healthier foods at the grocery store.  Foods are ranked from 100 (excellent) to zero (might just kill you.)  I wrote about NuVal in a previous post.  Here are how some foods rank on Dr. Katz’s NuVal scale:

Post Shredded Wheat ‘N Bran – 91
Silk Soymilk Light – 82
Silk Soy Milk Chocolate – 68
Chicken Breast (boneless) – 39
Turkey Breast – 31
Ham – 27
Coconuts (husked) – 24

So according to Dr. Katz, a big bowl of wheat is an excellent choice.  A cup of chocolate soy milk containing 17 grams of sugar is a good choice.  But a chicken breast, a turkey breast, a slice of ham or a coconut is a bad choice.  No wonder he thinks Slim-Fast is better for you than a paleo diet.

The #1 ranked diet was the DASH diet.  Here’s what U.S. News has to say about it:

DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health.

The theory: Nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber are crucial to fending off or fighting high blood pressure. You don’t have to track each one, though. Just emphasize the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), while shunning those we’ve grown to love (calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat). Top it all off by cutting back on salt, and voilà!

But if you take way the whole grains and low-fat dairy and add in some red meat, it’s now a paleo diet and the ranking drops from first to last — 22 spots lower than the Slim-Fast diet.  Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  And the extremely low level of salt allowed on the DASH diet is not only unnecessary for most people, it might actually be bad for your health, according to a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

So here’s what we’ve got with the U.S. News diet rankings:  the same group of idiots who’ve been pushing low-fat, low-salt, low-meat diets for decades were asked to rank diets and – surprise! – they chose the low-fat, low-salt, low-meat diets as the best … which means ordinary folks looking for advice to help them fulfill that New Year’s resolution to lose weight will read that a diet of meats and vegetables isn’t good for them.  Nope, a decent diet is based on meal-replacement shakes that include FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, FRUCTOSE, GUM ARABIC, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

And that’s why the same people will be making the same weight-loss resolution next year.  And the year after that.  And the year after that.


08 Jan 15:20

Cartoon: GOP Resolution

by NetRight Daily

gop resolution

The post Cartoon: GOP Resolution appeared first on NetRight Daily.

07 Jan 19:39

State Spending Machine Keeps on Rolling during Recession

by David Boaz

David Boaz

While other matters dominate the headlines, American governments continue to spend more money, despite the presumed effects of the Great Recession. Washington Post reporter Abha Bhattarai lays out the latest details:

State and local governments in Maryland, Virginia and the District spent $7.82 billion more than they collected in revenue between 2007 and 2012, during the throes of the economic downturn, according to data released from the U.S. Census Bureau last month….

State and local governments in Virginia spent $1.03 billion more than they took in between 2007 and 2012, while expenditures in Maryland outpaced earnings by $6.07 billion….

Nationally, state and local governments spent $118.15 billion more than they collected between 2007 and 2012. Total expenditures during that period increased by 18.2 percent, from $2.7 trillion to $3.2 trillion, while total revenue declined 3.2 percent over the same five-year period, from $3.1 trillion to $3.0 trillion.

Over that five-year period, plenty of businesses, families, and nonprofits found their revenue declining by more than three percent, and most responded by spending less.

Of course, it’s often said that governments spend when times are good and the tax revenue is rolling in, then find themselves over-extended and facing painful cuts when growth slows down. But the evidence above suggests that governments just keep spending even as the money stops rolling in. It’s exceedingly difficult to get governments to spend less, especially when every government dollar helps to create pro-spending constituencies who will resist cuts. Spending interests never rest; taxpayer groups have to work twice as hard just to hold the line.

One side note: The online headline for this article is

State, local governments continue to spend more than they earn

Actually, I don’t think governments “earn” money. Merriam-Webster defines “earn” as “to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered.” Governments don’t earn, they take. Just try saying “I don’t find your services worth the money, and I won’t be renewing my contract.”

For more on state government spending, see Cato’s latest “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors.”


07 Jan 16:00

7 Common Calorie Myths We Should All Stop Believing

by Mark Sisson

Uncover The FactsMany people think weight loss is simply about cutting calories. They believe that to lose weight, you must reduce calories (either eat less or burn more), to gain weight you must add calories, and to maintain weight you keep calories constant. To these folks, calories in, calories out is the only thing that matters. They usually oppose the Primal Blueprint because they assume that we “deny” the importance of calories in weight loss.

Well, they’re wrong. I don’t deny the importance of calories. Calories absolutely count. And if someone has lost weight, they have necessarily expended more calories than they consumed. That said, there are some major misconceptions about calories, body weight, fat loss, and health. These calorie myths are often rooted in truth but presented in black-or-white terms that are useless at best, harmful at worst, and do little to help the average person lose body fat.

Let’s dig right in.

Calories in, calories out is all you need to know.

Simple is nice. Simple is good. But overly simple is dangerously inaccurate, so let’s break this statement down.

What does “calories in” refer to?

Calories in — what we eat. We can’t metabolize sunlight or oxygen. We can’t feast on the souls of the damned. The food we eat determines “calories in” entirely. Simple.

“Calories out” is where it gets confusing. There are several components to “calories out”:

  1. Resting energy expenditure — the energy used to handle basic, day-to-day physiological functions and maintenance
  2. Thermic effect of food — the energy used to digest food and process nutrients
  3. Active energy expenditure — the energy used during movement (both deliberate activity like lifting weights, jogging, and walking, plus spontaneous activity like shivering and fidgeting)

Not so simple, is it? There are a lot more variables to consider.

Oh, and about those variables…

Calories in and calories out are independent variables.

That would be nice. You could drop energy intake and maintain your resting metabolic rate while burning the same amount of energy digesting food (even though you’re eating less of it) and working out. The fat would melt off at a predictable, constant rate. Anyone with basic arithmetic skills (or a calculator) could become a successful weight loss coach and very few people would be overweight.

In reality, the amount and type of calories we eat affect the amount of energy we expend:

  • During calorie restriction, the body “defends” its body weight by lowering resting metabolic rate and reducing spontaneous physical activity. To keep weight loss going, you often have to lower food intake even more (to counteract the reduced metabolic rate) and remind yourself to fidget, tap your feet, twiddle your thumbs, and shiver (to recreate the missing spontaneous movement). And you have to do it again when the body readjusts.
  • Whole foods take more energy to process and digest than processed foods. In one example, subjects either ate a “whole food” sandwich (multigrain bread with cheddar cheese) or a “processed food” sandwich (white bread with cheese product). Both meals were isocaloric (same number of calories) and featured roughly identical macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) ratios. Those eating the multigrain sandwiches expended 137 calories postprandially (after their meal). The white bread group expended only 73 calories, a 50% reduction in the thermic effect of food.
  • Protein takes more energy to process and digest than other macronutrients. Compared to a low-fat, high-carb diet, a high-protein diet increased postprandial energy expenditure by 100% in healthy young women. And in both obese and lean adults, eating a high-protein meal was far more energetically costly (by almost 3-fold) than eating a high-fat meal.

Calories in affects calories out. The two variables are anything but independent of each other.

Weight gain is caused by eating more calories than you expend.

Calorie fetishists love pointing out that weight gain requires overeating. That is, everyone who gains weight necessarily ate more calories than they expended. Okay. We’ve established that everyone agrees on this. But it’s just restating the issue. It doesn’t tell us anything new or useful. It’s merely descriptive, not explanatory.

To show you what I mean, let’s do the same thing with other phenomena.

Why was Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated? Because someone pointed a sniper rifle at him and fired it.

Why did Usain Bolt win the 100 m final in the Beijing Olympics? Because he crossed the finish line first.

Why is the restaurant so crowded? Because more people entered than left.

These are technically true, but they ignore the ultimate causes. In King’s case, they fail to discuss racism, the civil rights movement, or the motivation of the shooter. They don’t mention Bolt’s training, genetics, or his childhood. They don’t discuss why the restaurant has attracted so many customers — new menu, Valentine’s Day, graduation? They simply restate the original statement using different words. They just describe what happened.

I’m interested in what truly causes us to eat more than we expend and/or expend less than we eat. I don’t care to merely describe weight gain because that doesn’t help anyone.

A calorie is a calorie.

Look. I loved Carl Sagan. Like everyone else, I got chills when he’d wax poetic about our place in the universe and our shared origins as “star-stuff.” But just because steak comes from the same star-stuff as a baked potato, isocaloric amounts of each do not have identical metabolic fates in our bodies when consumed.

We even have a study that examined this. For two weeks, participants either supplemented their diets with isocaloric amounts of candy (mostly sugar) or roasted peanuts (mostly fat and protein). This was added to their regular diet. After two weeks, researchers found that body weight, waist circumference, LDL, and ApoB (a rough measure of LDL particle number) were highest in the candy group, indicating increased fat mass and worsening metabolic health. In the peanut group, basal metabolic rate shot up and neither body weight nor waist size saw any significant increases.

Does this invalidate the relevance of energy balance? Of course not. Since the peanut group’s metabolic rate increased, they expended more calories in response to added calories, thus remaining in balance. But it does elegantly and definitively invalidate the simplistic notion that all calories, especially added calories, are treated equally by the body.

Weight loss and fat loss are the same thing.

People don’t want to lose weight. “Losing weight” is common parlance, but we really want to lose body fat and retain, or gain, muscle. And studies indicate that the macronutrient composition can differentially affect whether the weight lost is fat. It’s not just about total calories.

Take the 2004 study from Volek that placed overweight men and women on one of two diets: a very low-carb ketogenic diet or a low-fat diet. The low-carb group ate more calories but lost more weight and more body fat, especially dangerous abdominal fat.

Or the study from 1989 that placed healthy adult men on high-carb or high-fat diets. Even though the high-carb group lost slightly more body weight, the high-fat group lost slightly more body fat and retained more lean mass.

Just “weight” doesn’t tell us much. What kind of weight? Are we losing/gaining fat or muscle, bone, sinew, organ? Are we increasing the robustness of our colons and the number of bacterial residents (who, though small, carry weight and occupy space) from added prebiotic fiber intake? These factors matter for health. I’d argue that they’re the only factors that actually matter when losing or gaining weight because they offer insight into our health and body composition.

Exercise helps you lose weight only by burning calories.

Most people think of exercise as a way to mechanically combust calories. And that’s true, to a point. Exercise does “burn” calories, and this is a factor in weight loss. But it does lots of other cool things to our physiology that can assist with improving body composition, too.

Compared to something high intensity like burpees or something aerobic like running a 10k, lifting free weights doesn’t burn many calories when you’re lifting them. But it does improve insulin sensitivity, which reduces the amount of insulin we secrete for a given amount of carbohydrate and increases our ability to burn body fat. It increases muscle mass, which uses calories (protein). It strengthens connective tissue, which also uses calories. It even preserves metabolic rate during weight loss and boosts it for up to 72 hours post-workout. All these changes affect the fate of the calories we ingest.

If calories burnt were the most important factor, then the best way to lose weight would be to hammer it out with as much endurance exercise as you can withstand because that’s the most calorie intensive. But studies show that combination training — aerobic and resistance training — leads to greater reductions in body fat than either modality alone.

Even aerobic exercise isn’t just about mechanically burning calories. It also preferentially targets the reward regions of our brains, reducing the allure and spontaneously lowering our intake of junk food.

Counting calories allows us to accurately monitor food intake.

You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Most foods at the grocery store have labels. Even restaurants are beginning to emblazon menus with calorie counts for each item. As humans, we implicitly trust the printed word. It looks so official and authoritative, and it spells out with great specificity exactly how many calories we’re about to eat.

Except studies show that’s not the case. Whether it’s the nutritional information provided by restaurants, the calorie counts on supposedly “low-calorie” foods, or the nutritional labels on packaged foods, calorie counts are rarely accurate. Food manufacturers can even underreport calories by 20% and pass inspection by the FDA.

Maybe that’s why people have so much trouble sticking to their allotted number of calories. If only reality would bend to the will of the label!

You may roll your eyes at some of these ideas because they’re so preposterous, but consider where you’re coming from, where you’re reading this. This is how the general public – and, often, the experts and physicians advising their patients and writing policy — approaches the question of fat loss. Sure, not everyone immersed in conventional wisdom holds every one of these myths to be true. And when they’re actually faced with the statement, few will claim that a calorie of steak is metabolically identical to a calorie of white sugar or that weight loss is the same as fat loss. But when calories in, calories out is the first line of attack against excess body fat, these are the kind of myths that become entrenched.

It’s important to take them head-on.

No one wants to be fat. The obese know they’re obese. They’ve had “calories in, calories out” drummed into their heads for years. If it were really as simple as eating less and moving more, they wouldn’t be obese. And yet here we are. That might be the biggest danger of the continued propagation of these myths — they convince people that they’ve failed at something simple, basic, and central to being a healthy, moral human being.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be sure to let me know what you think of these calorie myths in the comment section. And check back soon. I’ve got more calorie myths on the way.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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07 Jan 12:56

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 328 of Bjorn Lomborg’s still-indispensable data-rich 2001 volume, The Skeptical Environmentalist:

[Al] Gore’s Litany about “a dysfunctional civilization” and the loss of a “direct experience with real life” reveals both a scary idealization of our past and an abysmal arrogance towards the developing countries of the world.

The fact is, as we have seen, that this [industrial] civilization has over the last 400 years brought us fantastic and continued progress.  Through most of the couple of million years we have been on the planet we had a life expectancy of about 20-30 years.  During the course of the past century we have more than doubled our life expectancy, to 67 years.

Infants no longer die like flies – it is no longer every other child that dies but one in twenty, and the mortality rate is still falling.  We are no longer almost chronically ill, our breath stinking of rotting teeth, with festering sores, eczema, scabs, and supperating boils.  We have far more to eat – despite the fact that the Earth is home to far more people: the average inhabitant in the Third World now has 38 percent more calories.

07 Jan 14:07

Extremist British Islamist Makes Excellent Case for an Unadulterated First Amendment, Free of Exceptions for "Hate Speech"

by Ed Krayewski

Anjem ChoudaryAnjem Choudary, cable news’ favorite radical Islamist booking, spared no time to use the deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, France, to push for more restrictions on freedom of expression in the United Kingdom. From Twitter:

If freedom of expression can be sacrificed for criminalising incitement & hatred, Why not for insulting the Prophet of Allah? #ParisShooting

— Anjem Choudary (@anjemchoudary) January 7, 2015

That’s probably the most succinct and solid argument I’ve seen in favor of America’s First Amendment and against attempts to carve out “hate speech” exceptions to it.

06 Jan 05:00

9 Reasons Libertarians Should Love Switzerland

  1. Switzerland has the fourth-freest economy in the entire world and is only surpassed by Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Zealand.
  2. Considering that Switzerland has one of the most free-market economies on the planet, it’s no wonder the country has the ninth-highest per capita income in the world. Indeed, research suggests that the freer a market economy is, the faster it grows.
  3. The Swiss have the third-highest median household income in the world, which means the median Swiss household is slightly richer than the median American household.
  4. Switzerland has the fourth-lowest level of government spending as a share of the economy among the 34 OECD countries. (OECD refers to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of developed countries.)
  5. The Swiss have genuine federalism and decentralized government. Their central government is responsible for around 15 percent of total government spending, which is lower than that of any other OECD country.
  6. The Swiss have a long history of armed neutrality and haven’t been involved in war since 1815. Switzerland is like a porcupine: it won’t bother you, but it would be a huge mistake to mess with it.
  7. Switzerland has the fourth-highest gun ownership rate in the world. It also has the 11th-lowest homicide rate in the world (out of 195 countries).
  8. Marijuana is decriminalized.
  9. Switzerland is the third-happiest country in the world.

The Swiss are rich, happy, gun-owning, peace-loving people. The country has one of the freest market economies in the world and a relatively small and very decentralized government that hasn’t waged war since the early 19th century. Switzerland just might be one of the most libertarian countries in the world.

An earlier version of this article appeared on
31 Dec 15:26

Uber's Guide To Tonight's Peak "Surge" Pricing

by Tyler Durden

Via Uber,

With more than two million rides tonight, we expect New Year's Eve to be our busiest night ever! Busy nights require surge pricing to get enough cars on the road and ensure you always have a reliable ride.


*  *  *

Always good to manage expectations. So The Bottom Line appears to be - get home by midnight to avoid being surge-priced...

*  *  *

Apart from in Spain...

29 Dec 22:05

Ancient Trees: Beth Moon’s 14-Year Quest to Photograph the World’s Most Majestic Trees

by Christopher Jobson

Heart of the Dragon

Criss-crossing the world with stops on almost every continent, San Francisco-based photographer Beth Moon spent the last 14 years seeking out some of the largest, rarest, and oldest trees on Earth to capture with her camera. Moon develops her exhibition prints with a platinum/palladium process, an extremely labor-intensive and rare practice resulting in prints with tremendous tonal range that are durable enough to rival the longitivity of her subjects, potentially lasting thousands of years. Moon’s collected work of 60 duotone prints were recently published in a new book titled Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time. From Abbeville Press:

This handsome volume presents sixty of Moon’s finest tree portraits as full-page duotone plates. The pictured trees include the tangled, hollow-trunked yews—some more than a thousand years old—that grow in English churchyards; the baobabs of Madagascar, called “upside-down trees” because of the curious disproportion of their giant trunks and modest branches; and the fantastical dragon’s-blood trees, red-sapped and umbrella-shaped, that grow only on the island of Socotra, off the Horn of Africa.

Moon is currently working on a new series of trees photographed by starlight called Diamond Nights. (via Huffington Post)

Avenue of the Baobabs

Bowthorpe Oak copy

Bufflesdrift Baobab 2-2 copy

Croft Chestnut 1 copy

Desert Rose (Wadi Fa Lang) copy


Sentinels Neg 2014

Wakehurst Yews

30 Dec 16:40

NYPD Punishes City by Not Citing, Arresting Citizens as Much. Oh, No!

by Scott Shackford

The citizens rejoiced. Then came the crippling donut shortage.Right now in New York City, guys selling black market cigarettes are much, much less likely to be harassed and arrested (or worse) by the New York Police Department. Apparently, or at least in the eyes of the New York Post, we’re supposed to see this as a bad thing (people not getting arrested is certainly a bad thing for the New York Post's reporting, anyway):

It’s not a slowdown — it’s a virtual work stoppage.

NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops — as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned.

The dramatic drop comes as Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio plan to hold an emergency summit on Tuesday with the heads of the five police unions to try to close the widening rift between cops and the administration.

They provide an info box showing, in addition to the huge drop in minor offense summonses, a 94 percent drop in citations for traffic violations, a 92 percent drop in parking violation citations, and a 66 percent drop in overall arrests.

And there’s this paragraph:

The Post obtained the numbers hours after revealing that cops were turning a blind eye to some minor crimes and making arrests only "when they have to" since the execution-style shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

Well, we can only hope the NYPD unions and de Blasio settle their differences soon so that the police can go back to arresting people for reasons other than "when they have to."

The NYPD’s failure to arrest and cite people will also end up costing the city huge amounts of money that it won’t be able to seize from its citizens, which is likely the real point. That’s the "punishment" for the de Blasio administration for not supporting them. One has to wonder if they even understand, or care, that their "work stoppage" is giving police state critics exactly what they want—less harsh enforcement of the city’s laws.

No doubt police are hoping that citizens will be furious when police don’t do anything about the hobo pissing on the wall in the alley or won't make the guy in apartment 3b turn down the racket at four in the morning. And they’re probably right to a certain degree. But if they think the city is going to turn into sheer anarchy over the failure to enforce petty regulations, they’re probably going to be disappointed. Over at the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney challenged the assumption that police are all that stand between us and mayhem. He used the Washington, D.C., chief of police’s complaints that pulling officers away to deal with protesters kept police from preventing "homicides and shootings and violent crimes and robberies and burglaries right before the holidays." Carney noted:

In the week of Dec. 13 through Dec. 20 — the week when most of these protests happened, dragging MPD away from the neighborhoods — no homicides were reported. Not a single one. Only one homicide happened in D.C. in the two weeks following the grand jury decision to not indict the New York City police officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold — police say it happened on a Tuesday morning.

As a NYC cop pointed out to me, on Sept. 11, 2001, there was no upswing in crime. Nor immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

We obviously need police. But if anyone believes that our police, in their large numbers, their liberty to engage, and their military-style arsenals, are the only guards against bedlam, they might be misguided.

Presumably, next year, after this all dies down, the NYPD may note a big drop of crime in December entirely because they stopped finding reasons to charge people with crimes.

Police unions could use the experience to decry all the petty, unnecessary reasons they’re ordered to cite and arrest people in the first place, but that’s not going to happen because they love the drug war and the money that comes into the departments from fighting it.

30 Dec 15:14

New Study Finds More Evidence of Poverty Traps in the Welfare System

by Charles Hughes

Charles Hughes

A new study from the Illinois Policy Institute analyzes the welfare benefits package available at different levels of earnings in that state. The authors find that low-income workers have limited economic incentive to increase their earnings from the minimum wage, and at some higher levels of earnings these workers actually see a reduction in net income. America’s complex welfare system can too often create these perverse situations where beneficiaries are financially worse off as they increase work effort and earned income. In these poverty traps, lost benefits and increased taxes outweigh any additional earnings, making it harder for beneficiaries to escape from poverty and reach the middle class

Author Erik Randolph finds that a single mother with two children who increases her hourly earnings from the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 to $12 only sees her net income increase by less than $400. For many low-income workers striving to climb the ladder of prosperity, our welfare system takes away almost all of their incentive to move up from an entry-level job as they do not get to realize almost any of these gains. Even worse, someone in this scenario who works hard and increases her earnings all the way to $18 an hour, a wage level which would place her in the middle class, would actually see her net income decrease by more than $24,800 due to benefit reductions and tax increases. Instead of making it easier for beneficiaries to become independent and achieve a level of prosperity, the welfare system traps them into low levels of earnings. This parent would have to increase her earnings all the way to $38 an hour in order to replace the lost benefits and achieve the same standard of living.

These findings echo some of the insights from our Work versus Welfare Trade-off paper, in which we compared the benefits available to a similar family in each state to the equivalent wage that family would have to earn to obtain the same level of net income. Our study found that the high level of benefits available combined with benefit cliffs created situations that would deter work. In 34 states, the parent would have to earn well above the minimum wage to achieve the same standard of living she had when not working.

This new report from the Illinois Policy Institute illustrates some of the biggest problems with our current welfare system and corroborates many of the findings of our past work. Work versus Welfare looked at two situations, one where the parent worked and one where she had no earned income. This new study from the Illinois Policy Institute provides valuable additional insight, as it looks at this tradeoff at different levels of earned income to analyze the poverty traps in place as beneficiaries move to higher levels of earned income. Instead of encouraging work, the current welfare system often takes away much of the incentive for low-income workers to increase work effort and earnings. As Randolph puts it, “[r]ather than providing a hand up, Illinois’ welfare system can become a trap,” and this is unfortunately the case throughout the country. This study shows yet another reason why our welfare system needs fundamental reform.  

Cato will host a conference in New York January 29th to further explore poverty and the welfare system. The conference agenda and registration information can be found here

30 Dec 13:02

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 236 of the 1997 Johns Hopkins University Press edition of H.L. Mencken’s indispensable 1956 collection, Minority Report:

Democracy in the United States wars violently against the one real value that it offers, to wit, the enhancement of the dignity of the individual.  It is always trying to reduce him to dependence and subservience.  The more resolutely he tries to be his own man, the greater are his difficulties.

Yes.  ”Progressives” fancy themselves to be progressive because they assume that their habit of supporting government programs with titles that announce good intentions to help others somehow makes them more advanced, intellectually and ethically, than are those who oppose such programs.  For “Progressives,” other people exist to be helped with gaudy, big ‘programs’ so that “Progressives” who design and support these gaudy, big programs can congratulate themselves on their imagined humanity for helping others.  ”Progressives” do not understand that no individual can be truly dignified if he or she is unfree and not responsible for his or her own successes and failures.

30 Dec 13:15

It Wasn't North Korea Or Russia: Sony Hack "Perpetrator" Said To Be Laid-Off, Disgruntled Employee

by Tyler Durden

First it was, with "absolute certainly", North Korea. Then, out of the blue, an even more ridiculous theory emerged about the origin of the Sony hackers: Russia. Now, we finally get the truth, and as it turns out it was neither of the abovementioned sovereign actors who had nothing better to do than to hack movie scripts and racist emails: it was Sony's own disgruntled worker who was the source of the hack. According to Politico, FBI agents investigating the Sony Pictures hack were briefed Monday by a security firm that says its research points to laid-off Sony staff, not North Korea, as the perpetrator."

Researchers from the cyber intelligence company Norse have said their own investigation into the data on the Sony attack doesn’t point to North Korea at all and instead indicates some combination of a disgruntled employee and hackers for piracy groups is at fault.

But... but just a week ago the FBI was so absolutely certain it was North Korea it released the following statement:

Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data. A group calling itself the "Guardians of Peace" claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.


The FBI has determined that the intrusion into SPE's network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees' personally identifiable information and confidential communications. The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE's computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company's business operations.


After discovering the intrusion into its network, SPE requested the FBI's assistance. Since then, the FBI has been working closely with the company throughout the investigation. Sony has been a great partner in the investigation, and continues to work closely with the FBI. Sony reported this incident within hours, which is what the FBI hopes all companies will do when facing a cyber attack. Sony's quick reporting facilitated the investigators' ability to do their jobs, and ultimately to identify the source of these attacks.


As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions.

So will the humiliation ever end? Or does Obama have to launch a "preemptive" nuclear first in addition to taking down North Korea's internet and cell phone service before he too admits his false flag-based foreign policy is an epic disaster?

To be sure, the FBI says it is standing by its conclusions, "but the security community says they’ve been open and receptive to help from the private sector throughout the Sony investigation."

Norse’s senior vice president of market development said that just the quickness of the FBI’s conclusion that North Korea was responsible was a red flag.

“When the FBI made the announcement so soon after the initial hack was unveiled, everyone in the [cyber] intelligence community kind of raised their eyebrows at it, because it’s really hard to pin this on anyone within days of the attack,” Kurt Stammberger said in an interview as his company briefed FBI investigators Monday afternoon.


He said the briefing was set up after his company approached the agency with its findings.


Stammberger said after the meeting the FBI was “very open and grateful for our data and assistance” but didn’t share any of its data with Norse, although that was what the company expected.


The FBI said Monday it is standing behind its assessment, adding that evidence doesn’t support any other explanations.

Of course it is: otherwise it would look like a total idiot. It still will, but in time the FBI hopes nobody will remember this entire unfortunate embarrassing incident, and can just back away quietly with a small footnote explanation on page 18.

“When the FBI made the announcement so soon after the initial hack was unveiled, everyone in the [cyber] intelligence community kind of raised their eyebrows at it, because it’s really hard to pin this on anyone within days of the attack,” Kurt Stammberger said in an interview as his company briefed FBI investigators Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Norse is pretty adamant the FBI are a bunch of clowns:

"Whenever we see some indicators or leads that North Korea may be involved, when we follow those leads, they turn out to be dead ends,” Stammberger said. “Do I think it’s likely that [officials] have a smoking gun? … We think that we would have seen key indicators by now in our investigation that would point to the North Koreans: We don’t see those data points. So if they’ve got them, they should share some of them at least with the community and make a more convincing case.”

Bottom line: the hacker was a disgruntled employee, and the leaked email situation was promptly used by studio execs to dupe the idiot public into believing it was their sworn patriotic duty to watch a failed comedic flop, generating revenues of over $20 million for what would have been a total dud. Which is why expect none of this to get any media coverage.

In the meantime, Obama almost launched another war over yet another video. So generally par for the course, bad pun intended.

The humiliation, however, is that not only did North Korea troll Obama, it officially got the upper hand. End result, at least someone is having a laugh.

23 Dec 19:09

Amanda Marcotte Is Confused

by Jesse Walker

Amanda Marcotte has a history of misrepresenting the views of the people she criticizes. Today her strawman shares a name with me:

Every post deserves a soundtrack.It was entirely predictable that those in the "police can do no wrong" camp would blame the tragic murder of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, at the hands of Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, on the recent protests against police violence. But it was just as predictable that other, more clever rightwing sorts would use liberals denying that linkage as cover to excuse any and all rightwing terrorism, past or present, by blurring the distinctions between what Brinsley did and what other, more clearly ideological killers do.

The award for that move goes to Jesse Walker at Reason, who draws a false equivalence between Brinsley's actions and those of rightwing terrorist Scott Roeder, who killed abortion provider George Tiller in 2009. "Responsibility for a crime lies with the criminal," he says, suggesting that people who point to incendiary rhetoric that precedes a bout of violence will create a situation where "we aren't supposed to criticize anyone at all."

Here's the passage she's quoting:

Responsibility for a crime lies with the criminal. It was Ismaaiyl Brinsley who decided to pull that trigger two days ago, not anyone else. If Mayor de Blasio had gone on TV Friday night and urged the world to "go cop-hunting tomorrow," I could understand why someone would assign him partial blame for Liu and Ramos' deaths. But of course he did nothing of the sort, and neither did any of the other politicians being accused of inciting the crime, from Holder to Obama to Rand Paul.

When Scott Roeder killed the Kansas abortionist George Tiller in 2009, several commentators tried to blame the assassination on Tiller's many critics in the media and the anti-abortion movement. The maverick Marxist Brendan O'Neill then pointed out what this criticism implied: that "public debate should be watered down to the level of polite tea-party disagreements, lest any borderline cranks be agitated or inflamed by it." The same objection applies in Brinsley's case, except that this time most of the alleged inciters are already speaking in watered-down terms. (De Blasio's great crime, in his opponents' eyes, are some public remarks about telling his biracial son "to take special care" around "the police officers who are there to protect him." Not exactly fighting words.) By this standard, we aren't supposed to criticize anyone at all.

There is a lot more to her argument, and there is a lot more to mine. Curious readers can click through to our respective posts and decide how much they agree with her or with me. I just want to note that her core claim here—that I drew a "false equivalence" between Brinsley and Roeder—isn't accurate. For one thing, I wasn't actually comparing Brinsley and Roeder; I was comparing the rhetoric that supposedly inspired them. (Later in the post, I expressed doubt about whether the rhetoric in question inspired Brinsley at all.) More importantly, I didn't say they were equivalent. I explicitly said that the rhetoric coming from de Blasio, Holder, Obama, and Paul is watered-down in a way that the rhetoric of Tiller's critics was not.

The point is that if you don't think we should blame the anti-abortion movement writ large for Roeder's crime (and unlike Marcotte, I don't think we should), then it's even harder to make that kind of argument about Brinsley. Or as I put it in the post, "The same objection applies in Brinsley's case, except that this time most of the alleged inciters are already speaking in watered-down terms." The words are all there, Ms. Marcotte; you just have to pay attention to what they mean.

While I'm at it, I don't consider myself "rightwing." And no, the secret agenda of my post was not to "excuse any and all rightwing terrorism." It was nice of her to say I'm clever, though.

23 Dec 17:24

Weights: Better for your waistline than running...

Weights: Better for your waistline than running...

(Third column, 21st story, link)
Related stories:
23 Dec 13:00

Gun control PSA urges children to bring guns to school...

Gun control PSA urges children to bring guns to school...

(Third column, 4th story, link)

21 Dec 21:00

Forget Lost Decade, Japan Has Been 'Losing' Since WWII

by Tyler Durden

Forget lost decade (or two), Japan's economic growth trajectory has fallen, almost unbroken, since the end of World War II... just one more decade, we are sure is all it will take to revive this Keynesian catastrophe... (one way or another)...


Source: Goldman Sachs

Keep trying it though... Abenomics - FTMFW!!!


Any month, quarter, year, decade now...

21 Dec 19:50

Worst Congress Ever? You Must Be Kidding

by David Boaz

David Boaz

The Establishment media really love laws and government. NPR, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Pew Research, NBC, Politico – they’re all lamenting the “least productive Congress” ever. Or more precisely noting that the just-concluded 113th Congress was the second least productive Congress ever, second only to the 2011-12 112th Congress. But what’s the definition of a “productive Congress”? One that passes laws, of course, lots of laws. Congress passed only 286 laws in the past two years, exceeded in slackerdom only by the 283 passed in the previous two years of divided government.

Now journalists may well believe that passing laws is a good thing, and passing more laws is a better thing. But they would do well to mark that as an opinion. Many of us think that passing more laws – that is more mandates, bans, regulations, taxes, subsidies, boondoggles, transfer programs, and proclamations – is a bad thing. In fact, given that the American people pondered the “least productive Congress ever” twice, and twice kept the government divided between the two parties, it just might be that most Americans are fine with a Congress that passes fewer laws. 

Is a judge “less productive” if he imprisons fewer people? Is a policeman less productive if he arrests fewer people? Government involves force, and I would argue that less force in human relationships is a good thing. Indeed I would argue that a society that uses less force is a more civilized society. So maybe we should call the 112th and 113th Congresses the most civilized Congresses since World War II (the period of time actually covered by the claim “least productive ever”).

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post ups the ante from “least productive” to “by just about every measure, the worst Congress ever.” Seriously? Since I am confident that Mr. Milbank is not historically ignorant, I assume he’s just being rhetorically provocative. But just in case any of his readers might actually believe that claim, let me suggest a few other nominees for “worst Congress ever”:

The 31st Congress, which passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850

The 5th Congress, which passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798

The 21st Congress, which passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830

The 77th Congress, which passed Public Law 503, codifying President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 authorizing the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans, in 1942

The 65th Congress, which passed the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition), the Espionage Act, and the Selective Service Act, and entered World War I, all in 1917

Worst Congress ever? The 113th isn’t even in the running. 

19 Dec 20:18

Not just tolls: E-Z Pass keeping eye on speeders...


I've always wondered if they were doing something like this.

Not just tolls: E-Z Pass keeping eye on speeders...

(Second column, 2nd story, link)