William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Some more reasons why I should be in charge

I want to mourn, too

The man who can rightly be called the Father of Statistics, Ronald Aylmer Fisher, while an incredibly bright man, showed that all of us are imperfect when he repeatedly touted a ridiculously dull idea. Eugenics. He figured that you could breed the idiocy out of people by selectively culling the less desirable. Since Fisher also has strong claim on the title Father of Modern Genetics, others—all with advanced degrees and high education—agreed with him. We now recognize that his musing was stupid. But we can sympathize with him, can we not? For example, Fisher might have had in mind people like those in the video below, sent to us by the folks at The Chilling Effect.

Star Trek Food

Have you ever seen Star Trek, the original series I mean? Every now and then Kirk would hunger (not for flesh) and he would eat—little bright cubes of what could only be called nutrition. Food would be far too strong a word. The cubes looked like packages of solidified, neon-colored Jello. No doubt Fleet Academy scientists worked very hard at creating the optimal balanced diet to preserve health and vigor. They even gave you the choice of Soylent Green, or Soylent Orange…….no, wait, that’s another movie where scientists created nutrition for the rest of us.

Even out of television and movies, the scientists and physicians are at it. They are, even now, constantly looking out for our health. Elizabeth M. Whelan, over at the New York Post, yesterday wrote an article describing a plea from two New York City Busybody Physicians that the government regulate food consumption. The plea came in the form of a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of American Medical Association. The zealous authors Lynn Silver, MD, MPH ,and Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH (to instill awe, note the letters after their names) open their manifesto with

[T]he most rapidly growing food-related threat to health today is not microbes, but overconsumption of calories, sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat.

According to Whelan (who runs the site HealthFactsAndFears.com)

Specifically, the doctors call on government to take immediate emergency action to force the food industry to make “healthier” food, including placing hefty taxes on fare they deem unhealthy – thus contributing to the already soaring price of food.

They reject government guidelines and education as “relatively weak interventions” and argue that “stronger actions are needed immediately to reduce obesity, hypertension, heart disease and other chronic ills.”

…They strictly divide “healthy” from “unhealthy” foods and suggest we follow Britain’s lead by placing green symbols on healthy food and red ones on the “bad” stuff….They argue that “the ubiquity of food [has become] treacherous” and that food should be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, “putting reasonable limits on where and how [food] can be sold . . . amending zoning [to] limit the number or density of locations selling unhealthy foods in restaurants, vending machines and other outlets.” (emphasis on “treacherous” mine)

I really don’t know what Whelan is carping about. Scientists have MDs and PhDs, they have more education than you do, their peers regularly review each other’s work so they make no mistakes, they are smarter than you and they know more than you possibly could. This is all the reason we need, is it not, for them to exercise authority over us? Since I am one of these eminences, I can see no good reason why I should not be placed in charge immediately.

24 Comments

  1. I always thought health was a personal condition, not a comodity or service that could be purchased. You can buy medicine at the drugstore or medical care from a doctor, but I don’t know how you can buy health.

    I recommend a look at the http://www.junkfoodscience.com website. They debunk studies like this.

  2. There will always be people who try to sell human conditions to those in need.
    Because if they’re trying to sell something that can’t be bought, chances are, they’re trying to themselves buy happiness, or win votes, which amounts to the same. I love it that McCaine says he wants to do something not be someone. Call me naive but I believe the man.

    First, the peddler (in this case the spin doctors with the red and green stickers) must convince someone that they are in need. Let’s hope the patient is non-compliant. It works for thick an creamy yoghurt. Thick and creamy every time.
    A better idea might be to put green things on one side of the store and red on the other. That way old people could save their legs and shopping could be a competitive sport and another opportunity to laugh at the silly ones on the other side of the store. They’d have the tomatoes, but we’d have the eggs and the custard pies. I might suggest it for 2012.

  3. The “Earth First” clip is clearly (part of?) a mockumentary/spoof documentary , viz. for example the opening shot of the painting of the North Carolina tropical forest. 😉
    But it is still a valid distillation of the Eco mindset …

  4. That’s a rather stupid position for Whelen to take. But then, again, these are the same people who believed the tobacco company bullshit about smoking not being bad for you; believe religious gibberish rather than the science of evolution; and are conspiracy nuts like James Inhofe, who believe that climate change isn’t caused by humans.

    Silver and Bassett are correct in their diagnosis and their prescription is a reasonable one. Look at all the people around you struggling with this issue. Their human weaknesses are preyed upon by these people pushing unhealthy foods. They’re no better than drug dealers or the people who scam old people out of their pension checks. Worse, actually, because they get fools to actually advocate that the precious freedoms and liberty we enjoy in this country have any bearing on the question of whether they should be limited in preying upon the people.

    We as a society have the right to put reasonable restrictions on the money-grubbing bastards who are selling this shit to people and thereby burdening our health resources and ruining lives.

    Someone once said that there are two kinds of Republicans: millionaires and suckers. I hope, at least, that Whelen, and all who… well “think” isn’t the right word… regurgitate the nonsense their corporate masters spew are at least getting a piece of the $$ pie. If you’re going to be a corporate whore, better to be a high-priced one.

  5. Briggs

    September 9, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    You’re quite right Woody. People are too stupid to think for themselves. They are too easily manipulated—not by you, of course, nor by anybody else holding leftist beliefs. The people can never be held responsible for their own actions, and are too easily led.

    When I am in charge, nobody will be allowed to have any thoughts that are not proven to be scientifically valid by me. Then we will finally usher in the utopia we both so earnestly desire and would already have if it were not for people that sell things.

  6. Briggs,

    I did not and would not say that people are too stupid to think for themselves. That’s a line that the greed interests pull out when someone starts to point out that the crap that they provide is unnecessarily dangerous to people’s heath in EXACTLY the manner best equipt to bypass their intellectual gifts. These people aren’t stupid or unthinking or easily led or any of the other slurs that you might attack them with; they’re merely human. They are subject to the demands of their biology; something that these fast food pushers know and exploit.

    Notice that this crap they sell is never too high in things like vitamins and fiber and necessary nutrients? That’s because our biology evolved to unreasonably (at least for our current modern environment) desire fats, sugars, salt and calories. It’s like how the crack dealer gives the innocent kid “one free hit” in order to hook ’em on the junk; the shit-food dealers don’t even have to do that, because they know that biology’s aready got their victims hooked.

    Further, I’m glad you call for holding people responsible for their own actions. I agree, but of course, your average conservative doesn’t. Start by talking about how manufacturers and sellers of things which they know will cause damage to people should be responsible for the damages they cause and you can’t count to ten before the cries of “tort reform” start streaming out. Meaning “people should be responsible, unless it’s my conservative overlords who we’re talking about, in which case, how dare you ask that THEY be responsible…”

    Further, you talk about telling people what they’re “allowed” to do. No one’s suggesting that; we’re talking about simple, limited labeling and other reasonable restrictions. Hyperbole doesn’t make an argument stronger.

  7. Woody,

    I don’t know where you got the idea that Dr. Whelan thinks smoking isn’t harmful. She is an antismoking zealot.

    I notice liberals (so called) often believe they are intellectually and morally superior people, so anyone they disagree with must be stupid or evil.

  8. Ray,

    I was being unclear. I didn’t mean to attribute all those views to Whelen specifically (although after reading her “One could say that Big Macs are good food and OJ and fresh fruit are bad” article, you’d kinda have to be an idiot not to at least wonder whether Food Manufacturer money just happened to end up in her back pocket.) I was merely pointing out different situations where the spokespeople for the business interests pushed unmitigated crap for dubious ends.

    As for your opinion about liberals, I would suggest that you actually get to know some. While the world is full of people who think those who disagree with them are “stupid or evil” — for example, both Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter made million upon millions upon million doing nothing but calling people who disagree with them stupid or evil — I think that you’ll find that most liberals are nice enough people. They may have different values and perhaps a different outlook on life than you, but it’s been my experience that they are generally nice people who want only the best for themselves, their families, their communities and their country.

    As an aside, I find your use of “so-called” to be rather odd. Unless you’re one of those people who believe that the elitist, rapacious, ossified, theo-reactionary beliefs that pass for “conservatism” these days should be called “classical liberalism.”

  9. This is classic liberal thinking. I am smarter than you therefore you should turn your exisitance over to me. I will take good care of you.
    Sounds more like a pet than another individual.
    When will these people figure out that it is not the food that causes weight gain but the personal choice for people to eat it. It is personal responsibility. This is not something to regulated by the Government. What will be next? Telling you how many pieces of bread you may have during the day – or if you can eat meat. Will you be force fed if you fail to follow regulations?
    The elitist notion that the left has taken has nothing to do with “good will” but with power. Liberals want to control your eating, thinking, speaking, faith,reproduction, etc, etc etc…..it is power and nothing else.
    Sorry but this is one conservative who does not need a wet nurse for life.

  10. Sharon,
    No one is talking about turning over your existence to someone. We are talking about simple labelling and other reasonable steps to help improve the food situation in this country, where obesity and weight are huge issues.

    And while you can feel comfortable in your ignorant conservatism calling people lazy, weak and irresponsible because they’ve fallen prey to greedy, immoral shit-food pushers who take advantage of their natural human biology, it is rather dispicable for you to do so.

    Finally, untill such time as your conservative compatriots are through trying to ram religious nonsense down innocent children’s throats and prevent rape and incest victims from exercising their freedom to choose, I’ll take your assertion that liberals are all about wanting to have the power to control ther people’s lives as just a case of projection.

  11. Briggs

    September 9, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    But Woody, old boy, I wasn’t being hyperbolic. I was serious. When it’s Emperor William I life will be optimal. By mandate.

  12. Woodie:

    Beware of believing that all conservatives are prostitutes It could be construed as a generalisation.
    Most people know a bad argument when they see one. Do not insult the intelligence of your fellow countrymen by implying that they are only one red or green label away from a healthier life. It’s not even remotely reasonable to claim that this is the answer to obesity and heart disease. It might help companies defend themselves against people who try and claim that they became fat through no fault of their own.

    “Silver and Bassett are correct in their diagnosis and their prescription is a reasonable one.”
    Only from an individual that believes that people do not understand which foods are good and which foods are bad. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t grasped this yet. Maybe Americans are not clever? I don’t think you want to defend that.

    “Look at all the people around you struggling with this issue. Their human weaknesses are preyed upon by these people pushing unhealthy foods.”
    The need came first. If the food manufacturers stopped processing food, what do you think would happen? The manufacturers would be wise to start selling the ingredients and the people would buy them because they like cakes and chips and I don’t blame them. I sense that you have a romantic view of “the poor person” who has been kept in the dark and suppressed in some way.

    “They’re no better than drug dealers or the people who scam old people out of their pension checks.”

    You might hate them the same, but they are not the same.

    “Worse, actually, because they get fools to actually advocate that the precious freedoms and liberty we enjoy in this country have any bearing on the question of whether they should be limited in preying upon the people ….”
    So you are comparing the government to organised criminals? Or are you just calling businessmen and rich people gangsters because you hate them? I’m not quite clear.

    “We as a society have the right to put reasonable restrictions on the money-grubbing bastards who are selling this shit to people and thereby burdening our health resources and ruining lives….”
    Oh no you don’t! And there’s no need to swear. We all have the “right” to act as we choose. We face the consequences. Illegal drugs are toxic, food is not. If you don’t like large companies don’t buy from them. If a man is grabbing money that is not his then lock him up.

    “Someone once said that there are two kinds of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.”
    People say a lot of stupid things. I expect that individual probably meant to say that there are ONLY two kinds, but forgot to say it.

    “I hope, at least, that Whelen, and all who… well “think” isn’t the right word… regurgitate the nonsense their corporate masters spew are at least getting a piece of the $$ pie.”
    Did it occur to you why so many ‘regurgitate’ do so if there’s nothing in it for them? Maybe they just agree? Maybe there’s nothing in it for them at all? Could you actually be wrong?

    “If you’re going to be a corporate whore, better to be a high-priced one.”
    You seem angry that someone else is richer than you. I suggest that you go and live in a poorer neighbourhood or country, then you might feel more fortunate.

    “but, O! how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes” (As you like it.)

  13. Overheard at the Saturday farmers market last weekend, while purchasing fresh, organic corn-on-the-cob:

    “When I was pregnant with my first, I couldn’t eat enough fresh corn. One day I ate twelve ears at a sitting, and my husband came in and said don’t you know, that’s what they fatten pigs with.”

    Or as my pal Ken used to say, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

    PS – re the wailing hippies: bring me a bucket.

    PPS – re rich conservatives, what’s Algore worth these days?

    PPPS – You be the emperor; I’ll be the Sheik of Dubai.

  14. Woody you are doing an excellent job of trolling. You’ve got stereotypical liberal speak nailed. You also have the smugness and self righteousness tuned to perfection.

  15. You must first find yourself an empire, and then try and keep your clothes on.

  16. I’m sorry I’ve come to the party late…

    Woody,

    I’ve noted that in your first two posts that you say you don’t want to control people – that you are only prescribing “reasonable restrictions.” Also in those posts, you compare people who make certain kinds of food to drug pushers, etc…

    I suggest that the next you time that you want people to believe you have “reasonable” solutions – or even sane solutions – you avoid sputtering foam.

    BTW

    “Notice that this crap they sell is never too high in things like vitamins and fiber and necessary nutrients? ”

    You can overdose on vitamins A, D, E and K but the last time someone confronted Big Carrot, he was never seen again.

  17. The Earth First! wailers are clearly in need of a good ecopsychologist:
    http://eco-anxiety.blogspot.com/2008/04/eco-anxiety-why-eco-therapy.html

    Harold: The clip looks authentic to me. I don’t know about the opening shot but the interview was apparently done in a laurel thicket like those found in the mountains of western NC. The area is somewhat of a mecca for tree huggers. I spent five years in Boone, NC, and I can tell you that the mournful nuts in the video are entirely within character.

  18. “No one is talking about turning over your existence to someone. We are talking about simple labelling and other reasonable steps to help improve the food situation in this country, where obesity and weight are huge issues.”
    ——————————————-

    When the statists want to control others’ life, there is always a “huge issue”. If obesity is such a “huge” issue, why on earth American’s life expectancy keeps increasing every year ?

    Woody, you start by compelled food labelling then when all this will stop ? Next will be cars, fridges, Chinese imported goods, alcohol (all labelled red of course, since the great false idea of Prohibition went bust), restaurants, nightclubs, concerts (christian boys band = red, Madona= green) ?

    That’s crazy, just when thinking about the army of bureaucrats and lobbyists who will take care of this unproductive endeavor and automatically the amount of government corruption it would generate, just because some are convinced adult people don’t know what’s good and what’s bad!

  19. @MDM: I agree that it could be authentic and the thought that it is makes me cringe. When I first saw the clip it made me laugh, because I thought it was a hoax. The woman behind the first verbal mourner not keeping a straight face, the hat on the first mourner looking Australian to me, the openiing with a painting depicting Paradise and the memorable quote “Bring me to this rock .. that has the most incredible life”all enforced my idea that it was a very good … sketch.
    I simply cannot understand why this group of people would let someone film a very intimate ritual, but if they did then they were betrayed by the filmmakers, the final product is a knife stab to the Earth First! movement.
    I was unable to find further footage from this newsitem/documentary, and until I do I will remain a Lukewarm Denier.

    Test your skills with this clip (6:17)
    http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=kXf3wx5nPXU

  20. @MDM: I agree that it could be authentic and the thought that it is makes me cringe. When I first saw the clip it made me laugh, because I thought it was a hoax. The woman behind the first verbal mourner not keeping a straight face, the hat on the first mourner looking Australian to me, the openiing with a painting depicting Paradise and the memorable quote “Bring me to this rock .. that has the most incredible life”all enforced my idea that it was a very good … sketch.
    I simply cannot understand why this group of people would let someone film a very intimate ritual, but if they did then they were betrayed by the filmmakers, the final product is a knife stab to the Earth First! movement.
    I was unable to find further footage from this newsitem/documentary, and until I do I will remain a Lukewarm Denier.

    Test your skills with this clip (6:17)
    http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=kXf3wx5nPXU

  21. And how will this whole utopian idea of red and green food labels work for people with serious food allergies? I assume that a package of “healthy” whole wheat bread would get a green label, but that bread would literally be poison for someone with a wheat allergy or Celiac disease. Darn. Some people would still end up having to think about their food.

    Food is already labeled. It’s there for people to read if they want. No amount of government hand-holding is going to make people pay attention to what they eat if they simply choose not to.

  22. Briggs

    September 11, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Tyria,

    You’re still not getting it, are you. The fact is that people can never be as smart as scientists, that is, people like me. How can they possibly argue against us when we say that “This is good for you, that is bad”? Answer: they can’t.

    We just know better. Therefore, they must accept any limits we put on their behavior.

    (Oh, no, to my many readers from certain sites, you poor sweet things. I am only kidding.)

  23. I for one welcome our new PhD overlords!

    While you’re at it, mix up some more LSD. I feel like hugging a tree right now.

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