Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Given all the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! headlines we’ve seen over the years, I have to admit this headline made me chuckle:

Low-fat diet could kill you, major study shows.

That’s from an article in The Telegraph, and I’d say it’s wee bit overblown. We are, as usual, talking about an observational study. Here are some quotes from the article:

Low-fat diets could raise the risk of early death by almost one quarter, a major study has found.

The Lancet study of 135,000 adults found those who cut back on fats had far shorter lives than those enjoying plenty of butter, cheese and meats.

Researchers said the study was at odds with repeated health advice to cut down on fats. Those doing so tended to eat far too much stodgy food like bread, pasta and rice, the experts said, while missing out on vital nutrients.

Yeah, yeah, okay. So the real risk (again, in an observational study) is consuming too many processed carbs.

An article in Science Daily provided less-dramatic quotes:

Contrary to popular belief, consuming a higher amount of fat (about 35 per cent of energy) is associated with a lower risk of death compared to lower intakes. However, a diet high in carbohydrates (of more than 60 per cent of energy) is related to higher mortality, although not with the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The data are from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study which followed more than 135,000 people from 18 low-income, middle-income and high-income countries. The study asked people about their diet and followed them for an average of seven and half years.

The research on dietary fats found that they are not associated with major cardiovascular disease, but higher fat consumption was associated with lower mortality; this was seen for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats), with saturated fats being associated with lower stroke risk.

We’re talking about food questionnaires and all the usual problems with observational studies on diet and health. I wouldn’t make too much of this one. But since observational studies were the source of arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria in the first place, I suppose it’s nice to have one to wave in the faces of the anti-fat warriors. Fair is fair.

A man-tax for vegans?

A vegan restaurant in Australia has started charging men extra for the same meals. An article in The Sun explains why:

A cafe is making waves after it began charging blokes more money in a bid to close the gender pay gap. The feminist vegan owner of Handsome Her eatery in Melbourne, Australia, is making them pay an 18 per cent “man tax” as well as giving women priority over seating.

A feminist vegan owner. Sounds like a fun person to be around. I’m thinking of a joke …

Q: How many feminist vegans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Your aggressive humor is NOT FUNNY, you ciscentric ANIMAL MURDERER!!

Anyway …

Owner Alex O’Brien told Broadsheet website: “I do want people to think about it, because we’ve had this (pay discrepancy) for decades and decades and we’re bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds.

“I like that it is making men stop and question their privilege a little bit.”

I don’t know the breakdown in Australia, but in the United States, 79 percent of vegans are women. So I wonder if the “man tax” might make a few men stop, question their privilege, then go order a hamburger at another restaurant.

This may ignite a new debate about the costs of obesity.

WCPO in Cincinnati reported on an unusual fire:

A “freak accident” started an unscheduled fire Wednesday night at the Hillside Chapel Crematory in Cincinnati, owner Don Catchen said.

“My operator was in the process of cremating remains and (the body) was overly obese and apparently it got a little hotter than the unit is supposed to get,” Catchen said. “One of the cremation containers that we had close got caught on fire and that’s what burnt.”

I’m not overly obese, but I like to think I could start a similar fire just because so much of my body mass began as sausage and bacon.

The danger of fires when cremating obese bodies isn’t an entirely unknown issue for the funeral service profession: “As you may realize, when a morbidly obese person is cremated, there’s a danger of what can only be called (in layman’s terms) a ‘grease fire,'” according to Caleb Wilde, a licensed professional who runs the blog Confessions of a Funeral Director.

In October 2014, a Virginia facility caught fire while cremating a 500-pound body. Fire investigators there said excessive heat ignited rubber roofing near the crematorium’s smoke stack. Another fire, two years earlier in Austria, left firefighters “covered with a layer of sooty grease.”

Good grief. If this keeps up, Meme Roth will be demanding higher funeral costs for obese people.

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part one.

Some perfesser I saw interviewed years ago explained the politics of how to get a study funded in today’s academic environment: if you title your proposed paper something like The Migratory Patterns of Squirrels, you probably won’t get funding. But if you title it something like How Gobal Warming Is Affecting The Migratory Patterns of Squirrels, you will get funding. Then you can study those migratory patterns.

I thought about that while reading this article in Science News:

A dinner plate piled high with food from plants might not deliver the same nutrition toward the end of this century as it does today. Climate change could shrink the mineral and protein content of wheat, rice and other staple crops, mounting evidence suggests.

Selenium, a trace element essential for human health, already falls short in diets of one in seven people worldwide. Studies link low selenium with such troubles as weak immune systems and cognitive decline. And in severely selenium-starved spots in China, children’s bones don’t grow to normal size or shape. This vital element could become sparser in soils of major agricultural regions as the climate changes, an international research group announced online February 21 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That global warmi—er, climate-change thing sounds awful. If only we could identify the major causes.

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part two.

Thank goodness, an article in the U.K. Daily Mail tells us what’s driving climate change:

Feeding our beloved cats and dogs plays a ‘significant role in causing global warming’, a shocking study has revealed.

My, that is shocking … the shocking part being that anyone believes this hysterical nonsense.

Pets have heavily meat-based diets which requires more energy, land and water to produce.

Rascal, our family cat, is a sweet little dude. In fact, he’s lying at my feet as I write.  But I’m pretty sure if I stopped feeding him a meat-based diet, he’d sneak into the bedroom some night and rip chunks of flesh from my face.

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, found pets are having a big impact on environmental issues such as climate change.

You mean there are other environmental issues pets are affecting? Are they causing acid rain too?

Feeding cats and dogs is creating the equivalent of 64 millions tons of carbon dioxide a year in the US alone, according to shocking new research.

That’s twice the reporter was shocked. She should probably find somewhere to calm down … say, in a vegan restaurant that charges men extra. She’ll get priority seating.

The paper found pets are responsible for 25 to 30 per cent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the US.

So it’s not the pets themselves; it’s the MEAT that’s causing all that climate change. Maybe we should all become vegetarians to save the planet. But then we’d have to deal with …

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part three.

Perhaps ordering a salad instead of a burger won’t save the planet after all, according to an article in Scientific American:

Bacon lovers of the world, rejoice! Or at the least take solace that your beloved pork belly may be better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than the lettuce that accompanies it on the classic BLT.

This is according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who found that if Americans were to switch their diets to fall in line with the Agriculture Department’s 2010 dietary recommendations, it would result in a 38 percent increase in energy use, 10 percent bump in water use and a 6 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

And here I thought I was ignoring the USDA dietary guidelines because they’re full of @#$%. Turns out I was also saving the planet. Pass the bacon.

The reason for this is because on a per-calorie basis, many fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood—the foods the USDA pushes in the guidelines over sugary processed food and fats—are relatively resource-intensive, the study finds. Lettuce, for example, produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than bacon.

Chareva grew some lettuce this year. I didn’t think to go out to the garden with some equipment and measure the gases they were emitting. An opportunity lost.

“You cannot just jump and assume that any vegetarian diet is going to have a low impact on the environment,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy and one of the authors of the study. “There are many that do, but not all. You can’t treat all fruits and veggies as good for the environment.”

Fischbeck said that even though it seems counterintuitive, the best diet for the environment would be terrible for a person’s health. “If you totally forget health, which diet would have best impact on the environment?” Fischbeck asked. “You’d eat a lot more fats and sugars.”

Hmmm, in that case, here’s how I suggest we handle all this conflicting data: eat the diet that’s best for your health, period. If you feel guilty about including climate-damaging meat in your meals, do your part for the planet by getting rid of your meat-eating dog.

Or maybe not …

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part four.

Here are some quotes from a PBS article online:

If you’ve decided to go vegan because you think it’s better for the planet, that might be true—but only to an extent.

A group of researchers has published a study in the journal Elementa in which they describe various biophysical simulation models that compare 10 eating patterns: the vegan diet, two vegetarian diets (one that includes dairy, the other dairy and eggs), four omnivorous diets (with varying degrees of vegetarian influence), one low in fats and sugars, and one similar to modern American dietary patterns.

What they found was that the carrying capacity—the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely by the resources of an ecosystem—of the vegan diet is actually less substantial than two of the vegetarian diets and two out of the four omnivorous diets they studied.

Lower carrying capacity? Must be all that lettuce in the vegan diet …

If modern agriculture in the U.S. were adjusted to the vegan diet, according to the study in Elementa, we’d be able to feed 735 million people—and that’s from a purely land-use perspective. Compare that to the dairy-friendly vegetarian diet, which could feed 807 million people. Even partially omnivorous diets rank above veganism in terms of sustainability; incorporating about 20 to 40% meat in your diet is actually better for the long-term course of humanity than being completely meat-free.

Well, that is a relief. Especially in light of …

Americans eating more beef.

Here are some quotes from an article in USA Today:

As backyard grills fire up this summer, one thing is clear: Americans no longer have a beef with beef.

Thanks to lower prices, more disposable income and a guarded thumbs-up from the wellness community, the once-maligned meat is now seen by many shoppers and diners as an ingredient in a well-balanced and even trendy diet.

Americans ate an average 55.6 pounds of beef in 2016, up from 54 pounds in 2015, according to the Department of Agriculture. This comes after a decade during which U.S. beef consumption plummeted 15%.

The article attributes much of the rise in beef consumption to falling prices, but then adds this:

The increase of meat-intense diets, such as paleo and keto, has also jump-started America’s rekindled love affair with all things cow. Gone are the days of dismissing meat as a heart attack inducer or the unsophisticated grub of Middle America. Now, there’s a premium segment that’s lighting up diners, thanks to their increased demand for organic and grass-fed beef.

As an unsophisticated inhabitant of Middle America, I’m happy to include beef in my grub. But I may have Chareva start charging me a man-tax.


Comments 76 Comments »

I was recently a guest on the Cellular Healing TV Podcast with Dr. Daniel Pompa. We talked about the Fat Head Kids book, of course. You can watch below or visit Dr. Pompa’s site — which I suggest you do, because there are many excellent interviews to watch.

I enjoyed this interview very much. Dr. Pompa and producer Meredith Dykstra had obviously read the book and thought quite a bit about it before having me on. Their questions were great.

Sorry about the looking-down angle. I thought it was an audio podcast until right before we started.  The camera on my Mac refused to cooperate, so I had to step over to my Surface Pro pad, which was sitting on another desk.


Comments 5 Comments »

Well, this is embarrassing.  I was a guest on the 2 Keto Dudes podcast back in May and completely forgot to post about it.  We talked about a few subjects, but mostly about the Fat Head Kids book.

It’s doubly embarrassing I forgot about the podcast, because hosts Carl Franklin and Richard Morris are two of my favorite interviewers.  They’re smart, they’re funny, they do their research before tackling a topic, and they ask great questions.  Sorry, gentlemen.  I can only plead distraction, since I was going a little nutty at the time trying to finish a version of the Fat Head Kids film.

In case you don’t already know, the 2 Keto Dudes are putting on the first annual Keto Fest in New London, Connecticut, starting July 14.  I’d like to be there in person, but I used up most of my vacation days for the low-carb cruise.  However, I’ll be there in spirit.  They’re showing Fat Head in a theater during the festival.


Comments 15 Comments »

First, a big thanks to The Older Brother for putting up three thought-provoking posts that generated a lot of good discussion.  Those three posts match my output for … what, maybe the last two months?  I was, of course, going a little nutty trying to finish the film version of Fat Head Kids in time to premiere it on the cruise.

I didn’t quite finish, so premiere became preview.  We’re still working on some of the animations, and I want to add a lot more sound effects and some original music.  I had to settle for a quick-and-dirty sound mix, with the careful mix to come later.  But it was certainly close enough to final for a good preview.  I’ll put up some clips from the film on YouTube in the upcoming weeks.  I’ll also return to regular posting now that I’m not facing a hard deadline.

Anyway, on to the cruise report …

Wow, what a cruise.  After nine years of Caribbean cruises, the Low Carb Cruise committee decided to mix it up for the 10th anniversary and head to Alaska.  I was delighted.  Even before I started giving presentations for the low-carb cruises, I’d been on several Caribbean cruises during my standup days.  I’m kind of over the Caribbean.  I don’t even bother going ashore on port days.  Rather than see Cozumel or whatever for the sixth time, I stay on the ship and sleep late, catch up on my reading, etc.

Alaska is another story.  Sure, I did two Alaskan cruises during my standup days (and it was great to have the cruise line paying me instead of the other way around) but I could visit Alaska a dozen times and still not take all the excursions that strike my fancy.

So while I was still aboard last year’s cruise in the Caribbean, I signed the four of us up for Alaska to take advantage of the on-ship discount.  Then I called home from the airport to see if the Chareva and the girls actually wanted to go.  I was a bit surprised when Sara said she wasn’t sure.  Going on the Alaska cruise would mean missing the last few days of school, and thus missing her eight-grade graduation.

It’s not a good idea to try to push Sara into a making a decision she doesn’t want to make, so I offered a fatherly observation instead: I don’t even remember my eighth-grade graduation.  It’s really not a thing.  In fact, most adults I know can’t remember their eighth-grade graduation.  But I’ll remember Alaska forever.  The scenery is stunning, and pictures just can’t capture it.

She mulled it over and said, “You’re right, Dad.  I should go to Alaska.”  Now that she’s been there, she has no doubt she made the right decision.

We flew from Nashville to Seattle on Thursday.  Even though my work was more or less done – meaning I had a copy of the film on my laptop, another on a thumb drive, and a third burned as a blu-ray disc – I was still in go-go-go mode during the flight.  I’d had that internal engine cranking for 18 hours or so per day for so long, it didn’t want to shut off.  Plus I’d been up late the night before rendering the film, and up early to burn the disc, then back up all 300 gigs of data to a drive we could leave with Chareva’s parents in case the house decided to burn down.  We dropped it off at their house on our way to the airport.

Go-go-go mode continued when we landed in Seattle, because the pre-cruise dinner was scheduled to begin 30 minutes later.  We caught a shuttle to the hotel, checked in, dumped our bags in the room, and went downstairs just in time to join the line at the buffet.

Consequently, I didn’t start to feel truly relaxed until we were boarding the ship the next day.  In the photo below, I’m the one with the shiny head.

In the ginormous dining room later, we met our dinner companions for the week.  If you’ve never been on a cruise, let me describe the food options at dinner:  Name it.  With all the appetizer, soup, salad and main course options, you can easily eat low-carb, vegetarian, gluten-free, whatever.  The waiters quickly learn your preferences.  Our waiter, in fact, brought me an extra lobster on lobster-dinner night, even though I’d already eaten a lobster and a small steak.

On cruises, there are port days and at-sea days.  The at-sea days are when we all pile into a conference room for the presentations.  I won’t try to describe all the lectures – that would require a book.  If you want to see the list of presenters and the topics, Jimmy has them listed on this page.  He’ll also post the lectures online at some point.

I will, however, briefly mention three that stuck with me.  Dr. Lucia Aronica of Stanford works with Dr. Chris Gardner, the lead investigator on the now-famous A-Z study.  That’s the one that compared people on four diets and found that people on the Atkins diet lost the most weight and showed the greatest overall improvement in health markers.  (The low-fat Ornish diet didn’t fare so well, by the way.)  But those results were the average.  What fascinated Gardner was the variability among subjects.  Some people seemed to do better by cutting fat, while others did much better by cutting carbs.  So Gardner’s team, including Dr. Aronica, has been looking into the reasons some people do so much better on one diet vs. another.

One of the factors, as it turns out, is genetics.  Actually, as we learned during her lecture, it’s a combination of genetics and epigenetics.  In other words, different diets turn different genes on and off in different people.  She mentioned a specific gene (sorry, I don’t remember what it’s called) that affects how much or how little insulin is required to slam the door shut on fat cells, which of course makes it difficult to burn away body fat.  People who do particularly well on low-carb diets are those whose fat cells are locked up by small concentrations of insulin.

Another lecture I enjoyed was delivered by Erynn Kay, a physician’s assistant who works with Dr. Jeffrey Gerber.  She spoke about the importance of feeding our good gut bacteria – a topic I don’t believe gets enough attention in low-carb circles.  Our hunter-gatherer ancestors weren’t gathering bacon, after all.  They were gathering plants with fibers that feed the gut microbiome.

I also enjoyed Dr. Adam Nally’s lecture on diet and testosterone … partly because the information was interesting, and partly because Dr. Nally is a gifted speaker who fairly crackles with energy and works a lot of humor into his speeches.

Chareva and I sat in the back of the room at a table, where we sold and autographed copies of the book.

Dr. Eric Westman, gracious man that he is, brought his copy by our dinner table later in the week and asked the girls to autograph it as well.

Speaking of the girls, they didn’t attend most of the lectures, but managed to keep themselves occupied during at-sea days.  The pool was heated, in case you’re wondering.

Saturday was the first formal night.  In the picture below, I’m the one with the shiny head.

We also previewed the film that night after dinner.  I gave a brief talk beforehand to explain that it’s not done, but close.  Chareva and I both answered questions at a Q & A afterwards.

Given that I was working feverishly on each section for several weeks, it was actually the first time Chareva and I saw the thing beginning to end.  I was already trimming little bits here and there in my mind while watching.  Chareva was already re-drawing a few sections in her mind.  We don’t need to return to pedal-to-the-metal mode, but we’ve definitely got some work to do before calling it done.

Our first port day was in Juneau. For our excursion, we visited a salmon hatchery and then the Mendenhall Glacier.  One photo of that excursion is at the top of the post.  Here’s another:

I saw this sign at the visitor center:

Yup, the glacier has been receding for more than 200 years … that is, since the end of the Little Ice Age.  So clearly, it’s all caused by humans driving cars and using light bulbs.

One of the biggest pleasures of the low-carb cruises for me is meeting people I only know from emails, comments and podcasts.  The guy with me in the picture below is Brian Williamson.  I was a guest on his podcast show last November and again in April.  I’m pretty sure I spent more time hanging out with him on this cruise than anyone else, largely because he has a wicked sense of humor that caused me to label him a “bad, bad man.”

Two of the women who work with Brian have lost an astounding amount of weight: 109 pounds for one, 199 for another.  This was after years of failed diets.   (So according to the internet cowboys, what happened was that by pure coincidence, they finally accepted the physics of calories-in vs. calories-out around the same time they switched to ketogenic diets and stopped eating too much.  Or something like that.  I’m pretty sure Dr. Aronica would disagree.)

Of course, I also spent time in the karaoke bar with Jimmy, who generated his own karaoke fan club during the course of the week.  I also did some duets with Dr. Westman, who enjoys singing almost as much as Jimmy.

The second port day was in Skagway.  It was the big excursion for us.  We started by watching a presentation on the sled dogs who compete in the Iditarod.  The presenter has taken teams of dogs along the 1,000-mile race six times.  He was great, very informative and quite funny.

The dogs were amazing.  When the presenter brought out a sled for a quick demo run around a training area, the dogs went nuts, jumping up and down in their cages and howling, as if to say “Pick me!  Pick me!”  When six of the dogs were hooked to the sled, they could barely contain themselves.  One kept attempting to leap forward and get things moving before the driver was ready.  At that point, the presenter told us that people from PETA somehow manage to show up at points along the race and hold up signs protesting the “torture” of the dogs.

“Now, I’m asking you,” he said, gesturing toward the dogs, “does it look like these dogs want to run or not?”  Uh, yeah, they want to run.  They’re athletes and don’t like sitting on the bench.

After the sled-dog demonstration, it was time to pan for gold.  I believe the girls scored nearly $11 worth of gold between them, so I can probably cancel that college-savings program.

The last part of the excursion was a train ride 24 miles into the wilderness.  I’ve said many times that pictures can’t capture the scenery in Alaska.  That’s true, but here are some pictures anyway:

Chareva did a bit of shopping afterwards.  Remember what I said about our bag being confiscated because someone thought it contained scissors?  So scissors aren’t allowed.  But Chareva was allowed to bring this souvenir onto the ship:

Now, I’m asking you:  if you wanted to cause serious damage to a guest, would you rather have a pair of scissors, or a big, sharp, curved blade with a handle?  Go figure.

For the second formal night, some formal-looking Vikings showed up.  That’s Debbie Hubbs, one the Low-Carb Cruise organizers, with her husband Don.

I slept in the next day, but the ship made a morning stop near another glacier.  No problem.  I saw it twice during my standup days.

Same goes for Victoria in British Columbia.  It’s a beautiful city, but I’ve been there twice, so I elected to stay on board and just chill.  Chareva and the girls walked around to see the sights.

If you haven’t been on a low-carb cruise yet, I’d encourage you to join us one of these years.  It’s a great group of people (more than 300 this year), the lectures are excellent, and there’s always a lot of after-dinner fun on the ship.

And if you’re not into after-dinner fun, you can just enjoy some quiet reading time in your room.


Comments 28 Comments »

Hi Fatheads,

I told Tom I thought I felt another blog coming on, and he was happy to have the chance to spend the rest of the week putting the finishing touches on the final version of the Fat Head Kids DVD. So I get to stay in The Big Chair this week, too!

Think of it like this — your loss is his gain!

Feel better?

As always, I appreciated the comments people took time to write on my last couple of posts. Also, as always, I especially tend to appreciate the ones from people who don’t necessarily share my perspective. Everyone seems thoughtful and articulate. The international group we get showing up here still amazes me – this time while in The Big Chair, I got comments from Germany, Singapore, and New Zealand! The comment from our Kiwi friend, “S,” accidentally hit one of my triggers (hey, I’m a sensitive guy, ok?):

“…I’m not saying I support Obamacare… But perhaps the US should start thinking about *evidence based* health-care policies. There’s plenty of evidence out there if one is willing to look…”


Yeah, Obamacare doesn’t rattle me much, but I tend to have a visceral reaction whenever I hear the phrase “evidence-based.”

First of all, it gets some contempt just because it’s soooo overused. It’s one of those phrases that everyone seems to feel sounded cool when they first heard it, then started sneaking in anywhere they can.

Like right after Newt Gingrich lead the Republicans to take control of the House. You couldn’t have a conversation with a lobbyist without them saying “I would submit that….(blah, blah, blah).”

Another was as IT was sweeping the economy in the late 90’s as everyone decided they needed to computerize and network all of their systems at once, and the Project Management field got flooded with sharp, young, eager, confident consultants who probably still had to have their parents drop them off at work. If you were in a meeting and asked a question the consultant deemed not relevant to the whole group (meaning they had no idea what the answer was), they’d say “let’s take that off-line.” I heard a corporate type use it three times in a one hour presentation. To cob one of Tom’s lines — Head. Bang. On. Desk.

But those kinds of affectations are just irritating. Then there are the kind of things you hear all the time that are designed to mislead, usually repeated incessantly by people who have no idea what they’re saying.

One example Fat Head types have probably heard often (usually by some 10% body fat “expert” in Spandex) is “you need carbs because they’re your body’s main source of fuel!”

I always considered this a trifecta — it’s a misstatement of an intentionally misleading fact that’s also false. Tom and others have covered this one over the years, but it still comes up. The misstatement is that the correct term is “primary,” which denotes order (primary, secondary, tertiary, etc) – not “main,” as in quality. The correct statement is designed to mislead the uninformed to interpret it as the misstated version. And it’s false – your body will burn alcohol preferentially over carbs, because too much blood alcohol will kill you faster than too much blood sugar.

“Evidence-based” is all the way in this category, and then some.

It sounds appealing. It sounds like science, only with maybe a bit more rigor built in, doesn’t it? Like hey, this isn’t just theory – we’ve also got evidence! It also is cursed with an origin in good intentions. “Evidence-based medicine” is the root, which proposed that physicians incorporate clinical results in their decisions instead of just going by their particular beliefs and experience.

We all know how the “clinical studies” thing worked out, now that Big Pharma owns the medical schools, clinical study industry, and most of the professional journals, right? “Hey, statins reduce heart attacks by a third! Don’t take our word for it – here’s a clinical study — it’s ‘evidence-based!’ 

That kind of success was duly noted by the rest of the groups that regularly line up at the trough. You can’t read a letter to the editor these days without whoever is begging for more of other people’s money citing “evidence-based” research. There’s evidence-based school funding, evidence-based juvenile justice reform, evidence-based climate science, evidence-based management, etc., etc.

Makes one wonder, for example, what they’ve been going by in Illinois for the last decade or so, where we keep pouring $35-40 billion dollars a year into the public schools. “Spitballing it-based” funding, perhaps?

There’s more, of course. I kind of think the icing on the cake is — wait for it…

“Evidence-Based Dietetics Practice” (!)

…brought to you by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Yeah, the same turds who’ve been pushing the Soda-, Grain-, Candy-, and Pharma-sponsored “arterycloggingsaturatedfat, hearthealthywholegrains, calories-in/calories-out” program for decades. That’s “evidence-based” now, too.

What all these advocates seem to have in common is that people are catching on to them. As I replied when another commenter (Brandon), while finding the plethora of “evidence-based education” initiatives laughable, thought perhaps it was a hopeful improvement:

“Evidence-based” is strictly a rhetorical (or perhaps more accurately — “marketing”) device. It’s used by people who’ve already been wrong so many times that even they realize people are onto them. It’s a term invented to give the impression there is something like science involved … when it’s the exact opposite of science. 

Collecting evidence (even done objectively, with no intention of isolating results that support a preferred outcome) and then developing recommendations based on interpretations of that data is not science. Its old (discredited) name was Observational Study.

Science is when you take that collected data, form a question, design a disprovable hypothesis, test the bejeesus out of it, then if you can’t disprove it, send it out to see if other people can replicate the results. No one using the term “evidence-based” has any interest in that kind of activity, although they desperately want whoever they’re lobbying to think of it as scientific.

Teachers’ unions use “evidence-based.”  Bureaucrats use “evidence-based.” Lobbyists use “evidence-based.”  Politicians use “evidence-based.”

Galileo didn’t use “evidence-based.” Newton didn’t use “evidence-based.” Einstein didn’t use “evidence-based.” They used “science.”

My suggestion is to adopt a mental habit of whenever you hear or see the phrase “evidence-based,” you automatically substitute “circumstantial evidence-based,” “cherry-picked evidence-based,” or “evidence- instead of science-based” before processing the rest of whatever statement a person has issued.

I believe you’ll find that the reconfigured statement will be much more understandable, both in integrity and intent.

Tell all your friends.


The Older Brother


Comments 29 Comments »

Hey Fat Heads! Long time.

Tom’s still off on the Low Carb Cruise, so I get to staff the Big Chair for a bit. Folks on the cruise are going to get to see the almost final cut of the Fat Head Kids DVD. Tom, being Tom, in order to avoid disaster (long time Fat Heads may recall there was an audio issue on one of the first cruises), took a copy on his laptop, a DVD, a backup drive, an extra laptop, and an extra projector. Just in case. He’s also left copies at home, and at the in-laws, just in case the ship sinks and his house burns down at the same time. I asked him if the odds weren’t pretty astronomical on that kind of coincidence, and all he said was

“Three words: President. Donald. Trump.”

That pretty much took care of that argument.

I meant to post last week, but, in addition to a flooded basement (again) and a mouse-infested camper to deal with, I also officially passed into old age last Tuesday. The Big Six-Oh. Doesn’t actually feel any worse than the day before, to tell you the truth. Tom called to rub it in a bit under pretense of “Happy Birthday” wishes, and we agreed that hitting a calendar date really never had much psychological impact.

Over the years, I’ve only had a couple of those “OMG, I’m getting OLD” moments. The first was a couple of months past forty — which I’d pretty much shrugged off – when the friend who’d been cutting my hair for the previous ten years or so was finishing up and nonchalantly went for my face with the scissors, explaining “I’m just going to trim those eyebrows up.” I was thunderstruck – “holy crap, my eyebrows have forgotten which direction to grow!”

The next time was a few years later. The same friend had just finished my hair (okay, and eyebrows) and then — just as casual as can be — shifted to my side and said “let’s get those ear hairs taken care of.” Fortunately for my self esteem, she retired shortly thereafter, and I was able to find a new barber with bad eyesight.

Anyway, on account of the milestone, I thought I’d give myself a present and commandeer the Big Chair and talk a little about health care and piss everyone off.

You were warned.

The source of my most current irritation wasn’t at the health care system, per se, but at some really good news. The good news being the amazing story of Jimmy Kimmel’s son. The boy was born late last month (April), and Kimmel did an emotional monologue on returning to his show on how the baby was rushed into surgery immediately after birth with the deadliest version of a rare heart condition. During the monologue, as he described the procedure he said the surgeon “did some kind of magic I can’t even begin to explain…”

And then kind of turned the whole experience into a morality tale on why we need to keep Obamacare, only bigger.

I don’t have a problem with Kimmel projecting his personal experience onto a larger issue that I’m sure he’s not particularly well-informed on. I do have a problem with how the media instantly elevated Jimmy to the status of Economic Savant, and I find it sadly not surprising that politicians on both (wrong) sides of the issue felt compelled to rush for a camera and pontificate as if this was some new large issue that hadn’t been debated.

As it turns out, I’m actually familiar with the condition and can also explain the “magic” to Mr. Kimmel.  The condition is called a Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, where there’s a blocked valve with a hole in the baby’s heart. It requires immediate surgery, with a couple of more “upgrade” heart surgeries as the child grows, because the replacement valves don’t grow along with the child.

See, the Oldest Grandson — the one we lucked into when the Middle Son got married last year – was born with the exact same thing. He’s nine now, so it turns out that treatment was available before Obamacare. Within a couple of hours of being born, he was whisked via helicopter from Springfield — where we have pretty damned good neonatal hospital departments – to Saint Louis, MO, ninety miles away where they had specialized facilities and pediatric cardiologists.

The actual Magic — the reason Jimmy Kimmel’s son and my grandson are alive – is called “the Market.” You see, if Jimmy and his wife, despite the blessings of wealth his talent and hard work have brought him, had been in Canada (the current darling of the “free” health care advocates) I suspect it would’ve been a much darker monologue.

Not necessarily, of course. They might’ve been lucky enough to have their baby in a city with one of the seven pediatric cardiology units within Canada’s 3.8 million square miles of land mass. There are 122 in the continental U.S., despite having 20% less area (3.1M). Caring, forward-thinking Canada has 81 Pediatric Cardiologists. Here in health care’s evil empire, we’ve got 2087 on tap.

And I do mean in a city. Ninety miles away doesn’t get it in Canada, like it works here. If you don’t believe me, ask Liam Neeson. In case you don’t recall, his wife died because it took over three hours to transport her 77 miles by ambulance as helicopters weren’t available where she was injured. But hey, what are the odds of needing an airlift for emergency medical care at a ski resort, right?

[Another helicopter story – several years ago, my brother-in-law’s niece was critically injured in an early morning slippery roads/tree vs. car accident on her way to school. This was in very rural North Carolina. They got a helicopter shortly after the accident was discovered. She flat-lined three times in the air, but she pulled through.]

It’s not like we don’t have major issues with the health care system in the good old U.S. of A. But the issues are with the availability of dollars, not doctors, and Obamacare makes both worse, not better. And Jimmy Kimmel is a terrific entertainer and wonderful human being and I am truly overjoyed at his good fortune, but he’s not a very good economist. Better than Paul Krugman. But not very good.

I’m going to address those dollars next, and my thoughts on that happen to dovetail nicely with Dr. William Davis’ book that Tom just reviewed. If you haven’t got your own copy yet, you’re missing a really good read that can do more to improve your health than any elected official can possibly do for you.


The Older Brother


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