Friday, June 22, 2012

Found Art

This glass shop down the street has been out of business for a few years, but their mirrored placard is still standing strong, if somewhat worse for wear. It makes for an interesting photo..

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do People Want To Be Governed?

Boris Johnson, mayor of London and self-described libertarian thinks maybe they do. From NY Magazine:

Bloomberg is another of Johnson’s heroes, and he keeps saying that he can’t understand why he isn’t running for president. Even after the soda ban? “I think he had a great success with the smoking-campaign thing. Philosophically, I’m against it. But in practice, I might be in favor of it. I think one of the mysteries of politics is: ‘There’s a reciprocal pleasure in governing and being governed,’ as Dr. Johnson put it. Which is disappointing for a libertarian anarcho-Tory like me. People really do need and want to be governed. And I think Mike Bloomberg is sort of on to that. The question is where do you draw the line.” His answer? “Obesity is a new problem. It’s a problem of affluence and acrasia, moral weakness. You know, it’s associated with debt—there’s a strong connection between the fattest societies and the most indebted societies. Or the most emotionally incontinent societies and the most improvident and the weakest wills.” He pauses. “I’m not sure if that’s totally true, actually, but there’s an argument in there somewhere.” Bloomberg blurbed his book.

First off, Johnson gets bonus points for using akrasia, I had to look that one up. Why can't America have politicians who use five-dollar words like that? I'd blame the downfall of the classical education, except I don't actually believe in a classical education, oh well, I'll blame it anyway.

I am, of course, totally against regulating sugar, as a minarchist libertarian. BUT, I'm also a minarchist because I don't see anarcho-capitalism as a realistic goal. So an ancap like Richard Nikoley considers me to be half-assing the thing. My feeling on the subject, let's move to minarchism and take it from there.

[Note: this all leads to an long rambling post about why I don't buy the first principles arguments of philosophy and politics (as opposed to science), even though I use them all the time, that I've yet to write]

I guess what I like most about these quotes from Boris Johnson is his willingness to openly state that he has conflicted views about things like taxing soda. I like people who are conflicted because they are open to new ideas and not stuck in a dogmatic rut.

Does this mean I'm in favor of hypocrisy or the cognitive dissonance that most people on the left or right mindlessly incorporate into their world views? Example, I believe that a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body (abortion), unless that whatever involves taking illegal drugs or taking money in exchange for sex. But the people who engage in this sort of thinking almost never suffer from cognitive dissonance or are aware of their hypocrisy. I prefer people who are willing to admit internal conflicts and acknowledge the nuances of the real world.

Put into the context of diet (is this a political blog or what?) What is the optimal diet? Fuck if I know. I really have no idea. The more I read the less sure I am. I'm not sure if the carb-insulin hypothesis is valid, if food reward is valid (or useful), what are healthy carbs, etc.

What I do have are a bunch of weighted hypotheses juggling for position in my optimal health paradigm. I'm pretty sure that high intensity exercise such as pumping iron or running sprints give a person a metabolic advantage that assists weight loss and general health. I'm pretty sure that processed carbs ought to be avoided. I'm pretty sure that n-6 vegetable oils ought to be avoided. Etc.

Most people are drawn to follow people who seem sure of themselves and their world view. This might be the biggest inherent problem with human politics (including corporate politics, I've been there). Does this mean I am a fan of the wishy-washy navel gazing wimp? Not at all. I have strong opinions and I'm obviously quite willing to express them. But I am also willing to admit. like Boris Johnson, that I hold conflicting views and that, at the age of 46, I haven't got reality all sorted out and wrapped up in a bow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Show Me On The Doll Where The Evul Corporashun Touched You

A popular theme by statists who think more government intervention is the answer to the obesity epidemic is the 'yes, but' argument.

"I believe in free speech, but not for corporations, unless those corporations happen to be unions or some other collection of individuals that I agree with."

This is a common mindset: that corporations wield too much power over our puny little brains. This argument is always made by someone who is enlightened enough not to succumb to the siren song of high fructose corn syrup, cigarettes, saturated fat, or whatever else happens to be the bête noire of the moment, but is convinced that the proles need to be protected from the free market from said thing.

If you want to waste some time check out this long and rather pointless debate I had with Nigel on this subject.

People who believe that the government should fix the problems it created by even more intervention mostly fall into these categories:

-Yes the government fucked things up by telling us to eat the wrong thing and now it needs to fix that.

-Yes the government fucked things up, but not as much as the evil corporations.

-I don't know much about politics but I think the government should fix this stuff, because it has such an amazing track record of solving problems.

-The government didn't create this problem but, it sure as hell needs to fix it.

-The government will do the right thing when we manage to put Top Men in charge.

So for all those who think that more government intervention is the solution, please show me on the doll where the evul corporashuns made you feel funny. Was it the government who touched you there or the terrible advertisements? Perhaps the nice government can make up for those awful ads by taxing those mean old brainwashers to hell and back. There, is that better?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gene Therapy Seems To Be Right Around The Corner

I had my first inkling of gene therapy way back when I saw Blade Runner in the theater (yes I'm that old). Warning: just play the first part of the clip if people having their eyeballs popped out offends you:

And yet despite the fact that artificial humans (how artificial are they when the have their own DNA-oh wait that's sort of the point) couldn't be saved by the genius Tyrell with gene therapy, in the real world scientists have already started implementing gene therapy to some extent. This is pretty amazing stuff. This is flying cars and fusion energy and lunar colonies scale cool.

Researchers have actually used retroviruses to alter DNA and cure diseases in the eye which is much more immune tolerant than the rest of the body. Awesome. Why am I just finding out about this now?
In a recent, 3-year follow up on 15 patients with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a degenerative retinal disease that causes childhood blindness, Hauswirth and his colleagues found that within the area of the retina they are targeting for treatment, “patients have gained light sensitivity from as little as to 200-fold to as much as 60,000-fold,” he says. Twelve of the patients have also demonstrated significant improvement in visual acuity, reading an extra three lines lower on an eye chart, and in 13 of the patients, their pupils constricted when exposed to light as much as 100-fold dimmer, a more objective measure of light sensitivity.
This is still in the realm of sci-fi, but just barely. And it reminds me of an interesting story I recently read in Analog. A woman is unable to have children, she gets gene therapy to fix the problem but the resultant therapy has a knock-on effect and she has lost the desire to have kids and ends up divorcing her husband. The story was rather wooden but the very real fact of the extremely complicated nature of genetics, epigenetics and such a mind-bogglingly complicated system as the human body rang true.

Monday, June 04, 2012

City of New York Bureau of Food Discipline

I hate to give the game away because it's difficult to tell if this is an actual spoof or not, but it is:

My favorite part is when the City of New York Bureau of Food Discipline tells us that hot dog size will be decreased but buns will be allowed to stay the same.

This is the problem, of course, with such nannyist intervention. Michael Tomasky applauds Bloomberg and thinks this ought to lead to the obvious limiting of the size of bacon cheeseburgers.
Are bacon-cheeseburgers next? As a practical matter, no. Sodas are an easy target because there is nothing, nothing, nutritionally redeeming about them. But might there come a day when the New York City Department of Health mandates that burgers be limited to, say, four ounces? Indeed there might. And why not? Eight- and ten-ounce burgers are sick things.
Nothing nutritionally redeeming about bacon cheeseburgers? As opposed to 'heart-healthy' whole grains?

Weapons grade stupid.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that Tomasky is a vegan.

The problem with Top Men interventionists like Lustig, Guyenet and Eenfeldt, who otherwise have some quite intelligent things to say, is that they believe it's simply about having the right people intervene with the right ideas. Never mind that the record of government diet intervention is abysmal, this time it will work.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Andreas Eenfeldt, Nice Guy, Socialist Asshole

I've never met Dr Eenfeldt and likely never will. However, I did have the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Dr Annika Dahlqvist who took the brave step of putting her career on the line because she felt that carbs were bad for diabetics.

Dr Eenfeldt has gone a different route. He's quite the triumphalist about the Scandinavian LCHF revolution and loves to post articles about how stupid, fat, etc, Americans are, while ignoring the fact that Americans started this ridiculous lipophobia and yet Americans were also the first to react against it. I'm sorry Sweden, I love you like a brother, but you are fooling yourself if you think you invented any of this shit.

Andreas has recently come out in strong support of draconian state intervention, government intervention is great as long as the right people are in charge, right?