Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 53

Hey, here’s a place I can toss this week’s stupid.


First we discover that California’s voters have woken up to reality before it managed to smother them in their sleep.  Well, sort of.  It seems that they’ve begun to recognize that asking their state government to “give us everything we want, but don’t ask us to pay for it” is, um, slightly less than sustainable.  Of course, as I suggested here their first reaction is to punish one of their most successful industries with the heavy thumbscrews of taxation:

California has a [proposed*] ballot initiative to raise taxes on wine, perhaps the state’s highest profile export after movies, by 12,600%.

* This has yet to make it to the ballot; commenter Ken points out that they need a half-million signatures to get it onto the ballot.

This proposed tax will in theory generate well over a billion dollars a year.  Naturally, since the California state government has slashed postsecondary education funding and is “paying” its tax returns with IOUs, the state government proposes to address critical issues of state with the much-needed tax revenue.  Right?

[A]pparently 15% of this tax increase or over  a billion dollars a year will be directed to naturopathy programs.

Naturopathy.  Good ol’ anti-vax naturopathy.  Good ol’ “let’s let kids die of whooping cough because all mercury compounds look the same to us” naturopathy.  Awesome.

Strap on your vests and stack up outside the door, folks; this calls for a

Holy shit, drjim, how do you put up with this nonsense?


Moving on, it’s been a while since I’ve had occasion to complain about surveillance cameras.  Not because they’ve gotten any less irrelevant lately, but mostly because Bloglines borked my Bruce Schneier feed and I haven’t been reading his blog as a consequence.  Well, I’ve switched to Google Reader now, and I came across this gem the other day:

This reads like something I’d write.  Looks like Dr. Schneier’s losing his patience:

The New York Times has an article about cameras in the subways. The article is all about how horrible it is that the cameras don’t work:

Moreover, nearly half of the subway system’s 4,313 security cameras that have been installed — in stations and tunnels throughout the system — do not work, because of either shoddy software or construction problems, say officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s bus, subway and train system.

Shock, horror, &c. But that’s okay: “security” cameras don’t work even when they’re installed properly.

No data on how many crimes were solved by cameras, but we know from other studies that their effect on crime is minimal.

Surveillance cameras are sort of like victim-disarmament policies: they’re what managers do about violent crime instead of something useful.


All y’all might recall the kerfuffle around Manitoba’s “Peak of the Market” potato monopsony, its shameless self-prostitution to a trio of large corporate growers, and its promise to “come up with new regulations next year to formalize the way small producers sell to farmers’ markets”.  Well, that quoted “next year” is this year, and those regulations include even more regulatory capture than before:

Without a permit, a small potato producer in Manitoba is no longer allowed to sell their produce anywhere, including independent vegetable stands. Even with a permit, these producers will not be able to sell their potatoes to year-round vegetable stands, restaurant owners, or vegetable wholesalers. Under the new legislation, the only potatoes that can be supplied to these places have to come from Peak of the Market and their 13 growers.

But don’t worry: government’s here to protect the little guy from teh ebil corpuh-ayshuns.  That’s what our fine upstanding representatives tell us every election, and they wouldn’t lie to us, would they?


And while we’re on the subject of egregious regulatory capture by avaricious agricorps, let’s consider the following:

The definition diet, like most good things, is simple.  It’s tasty, nutritious, easy to figure, easy to follow, and ideally suited for the weight trainee.  The only thing you could say against it is that it’s slightly more expensive than normal eating.

The secret of the diet is this—eliminate carbohydrates.  Not reduce them.  Eliminate them.  Eliminate them completely.

That’s John McCallum writing about a fat-loss diet in (I think) 1967.  Let’s all give Slate Magazine a hearty welcome to 1967!  Here’s your bell-bottoms; they look groovy, baby!

Thirty years ago, America declared war against fat. The inaugural edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in 1980 and subsequently updated every five years, advised people to steer clear of “too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol,” because of purported ties between fat intake and heart disease. The message has remained essentially the same ever since, with current guidelines recommending that Americans consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat.

But heart disease continues to devastate the country, and, as you may have noticed, we certainly haven’t gotten any thinner. Ultimately, that’s because fat should never have been our enemy. The big question is whether the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, due out at the end of the year, will finally announce retreat.

There are a lot of good reasons why the crusade against dietary fat is bullshit.  Perhaps the easiest to grasp is that adipose tissue (that’s fat on you, the human) doesn’t come from any particular sort of macronutrient: it comes from blood glucose and other simple sugars that are the products of metabolism.  Dietary fat turns into blood glucose; so do dietary carbohydrates, dietary alcohols, and any-fucking-thing else you eat.  If that glucose doesn’t get used up by, say, muscle tissue out to repair itself, it’ll get turned into adipose tissue (body fat) on the off-chance that you suddenly can’t find anything to eat for the next three days.

The key is that it’s mostly surplus blood glucose getting turned into adipose tissue.  Simple carbs — like potato chips or breakfast candy cold cereal — metabolise quickly, flood your system with blood sugar, and inevitably trigger a lipogenetic response.  Complex carbs metabolise more slowly and are less likely to turn into fat on your (belly|ass).  Add fibre to the mix and you slow metabolism further; this is why eating an orange is particularly salubrious while drinking orange juice is merely dubious.

Fat, as you might’ve guessed by now, metabolizes pretty slowly.  It also has the benefit of requiring more energy to metabolise into blood sugar, so trying to digest fat actually cranks up your metabolism a bit.  It is, for the most part, much more benign than it’s been made out to be.  Processed, simple carbohydrates are rather the opposite, being easily digested and spiking blood sugar (with obvious negative effects).

So why, as the Slate article dutifully notes, do the Dietary Guidelines for Americans pillory fat and laud carbs?  It might have something to do with the fact that large agricorps like ADM grow a fuck-ton of corn under Farm Bill subsidies, and throw a fuck-ton of money at federal politicians.  Let’s go back to Slate:

According to Meir Stampfer, a Harvard professor of nutrition and epidemiology who worked on the 2000 guidelines, scientists on this year’s committee know perfectly well what the evidence says. But few researchers want to shake the status quo or risk confusing the public. Robert Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, admits that when it comes to nutritional recommendations, “simple messages, few messages, targeted messages, are very important.” Ultimately, then, policymakers have to choose between keeping the message consistent and actually getting it right.

Risk confusing the public with correct information?

It’ll never happen.


Update: Missed one.

Ladies and Gentleman: Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) articulating his concern that the island of Guam will “actually tip-over and capsize.”


“My– my fear is that, uh, the whole island will, uh, become so overly populated that it will tip over and, uh, and capsize.”

Key Riced All My Tea.

3 Responses to “Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 53”

  1. 1 aczarnowski
    April 2, 2010 at 07:26

    The tactical facepalm is right up there with the economummy.

    Maybe we’ll get lucky and the big one will slid CA into the ocean before the dumb worms colonize all the other states. Without the hive mind, I’m hoping the western states suffering flare ups would be able to put down the colonies.

  2. August 8, 2013 at 22:14

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anarchocapitalist agitprop

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