Junk Science Primers

Excellent piece by Dick Puddlecote on junk science:

Does anyone remember secondhand smoke, aka passive smoking?.

For those with short memories, this was a ruse imagined in 1975 by Sir George Godber to promote a policy of “fostering the perception that secondhand smoke is unhealthy for nonsmokers”, after which the tobacco control industry set about creating the junk science to go with it. The first studies – by rabid professional anti-smoking cranks, natch – started to filter through at the start of the 1980s and eventually in 1993 and 2004 respectively, two politically-driven meta-analyses tortured cherry-picked tobacco control ‘science’ in the US and the UK in order to convince us all that secondhand smoke was dangerous. It mattered little that their conclusions amounted to a tiny and inconsequential relative risk (1.19 & 1.24) which would be dismissed as irrelevant in any other field of research, it was only required to manipulate politicians into passing illiberal and unnecessary bans.

Of course, the charlatans were just chasing headlines so by the time legislation was proposed – the only goal of the whole crusade – many people believed a wisp of smoke was as deadly as napalm…

And a great explanation of how to do junk science from Chris Snowdon:

This has been doing the rounds on Twitter and deservedly so. It’s an excellent demonstration of how quack science is conducted, published and reported.

John Bohannon got sixteen volunteers, a statistician and some chocolate with the hope of finding an association with something – anything – for an epidemiological study.

One group followed a low-carbohydrate diet. Another followed the same low-carb diet plus a daily 1.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate. And the rest, a control group, were instructed to make no changes to their current diet. They weighed themselves each morning for 21 days, and the study finished with a final round of questionnaires and blood tests.

It turned out that the chocolate-eating group lost ten per cent more weight than the other two groups….

I’m not going to re-blog them both. Go read them there.

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The Coming EU Referendum Stitch-up

With Cameron set to call a referendum on Europe, it looks like it’s going to be a stitch-up:

UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s warnings over a “stitch up” referendum have started to become reality, as it emerged today that Prime Minister David Cameron intends to hand the ‘Yes’ answer in a British referendum on EU membership to the ‘In’ or ‘Europhile’ camp.

The BBC reports that while the final wording of the question has not been revealed, it is widely expected that Mr Cameron will give the upper hand – the ‘Yes’ box on the ballot papers – to those who want Britain’s relationship with the EU to remain unchanged.

The move is likely to anger Eurosceptic campaigners, who have previously warned that Mr Cameron’s Conservative government would seek to give undue influence to the Europhiles, given his close links with big corporates who benefit from open door immigration and low-waged, low-skilled workers from the continent.

And there’ll be a high power campaign for a Yes vote:

Make no mistake, the Europhiles will get down and dirty in this campaign as never before. The forces ranged against UKIP and all other Eurosceptic elements will be massive, on a quite unprecedented scale. The sums of money available to the pro-Brussels camp will be virtually unlimited, from the EU itself, the United States liberal establishment, the over-mighty international banks, and all the multifarious sources that routinely fund campaigns promoting the agenda of the global liberal consensus.

It’ll be a bit like the Irish gay marriage vote:

Eurosceptics must realise that the bombardment they are about to undergo will be beyond anything in previous political experience. A small-scale foretaste was provided by the recent Irish referendum on homosexual marriage. The No camp found itself attacked by every political party, every newspaper and media outlet, the vile Twitter mob, international loudmouths, celebrities and even stabbed in the back by Vichy Catholic bishops. That experience could be viewed as a mini-rehearsal for Britain’s EU referendum.

The progressive consensus will throw everything it has at this. Europhiles know that if they can defeat this last British bid for freedom the result will be irreversible. Thereafter, intensified demographic reconfiguration of the electorate and relentless propaganda in schools and everywhere else can be relied on to extinguish the British identity. There will not be another referendum, at least not one with the slightest prospect of liberating Britain from Brussels.

Personally, I think that the referendum is probably already lost. There’s still considerable support for the EU in Britain.

But I don’t think the referendum really matters. I think what really matters is whether the EU can hold together given the mounting centrifugal forces now acting to tear it apart. If the EU disintegrates, the likely outcome will be the return of the sovereign nation states with their own currencies, regardless of any referendums there may have been.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if, in an attempt to forge a common European identity, EU leaders embark on a war with Russia over Ukraine. After all, it won’t be the first time that states have embarked on foreign wars to divert attention from problems closer to home. And President Jean-Claude Juncker is now calling for an EU army.

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Drink And Smoke As Much As You Like

It’s not often that the experts come up with some good news:

What is the secret to being more productive at work? As long as you get seven hours’ sleep a night you can drink and smoke as much as you like, researchers have claimed.

The amount workers smoke, eat or drink alcohol does not affect their productivity in the office. However, those who had six hours or less a night were significantly less productive than those who got seven or eight hours’ sleep.

The study, carried out by researchers from Cambridge University and Rand Europe, looked at large data sets for more than 21,000 UK employees.

The findings suggested that lack of sleep, financial concerns and being an unpaid carer for family members or relatives all had a strong negative impact on how staff performed.

Researchers looked at ‘presenteeism’, which is defined by being at work but not functioning at a normal level, and ‘absenteeism’. The academics said the aim was “to understand the relation between a broad set of health and lifestyle risk factors and workplace productivity”.

The report concluded mental health problems also cause “significant productivity loss”, particularly in the form of presenteeism.

I can certainly believe that lack of sleep affects productivity adversely. If I get less than about 5 hours at night, I’m a zombie the next day.

Not sure about food and alcohol. If I eat fairly sparingly at lunchtime, and drink alcohol fairly sparingly as well, I’m usually unaffected. In fact, I’d say my performance improves. But if I have a lot to eat and drink, it’s a guaranteed recipe for falling asleep in the afternoon, and remaining semi-comatose most of the evening as well. Which doesn’t exactly enhance productivity.

But maybe that’s just me.

Smoking is the only thing that always improves my performance, whatever I’m doing. Along with tea or coffee. Klaus K has an article about it (which I  helped translate, incidentally): Tobacco increases work capacity. He had another one somewhere, which was about how productivity in Denmark had fallen since their smoking ban.

It’s rather refreshing to have health experts giving food, alcohol, and tobacco a break for a change, and considering productivity rather than “health” (or longevity). Perhaps they aren’t all singing from the same hymn sheet after all?

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Cigarette Pack Shouting Matches

H/T Magnetic, I thought this was a joke when I first read it:

Talking cigarette packs are here. Will they make smokers butt out?

Are smokers more likely to quit if their own pack of cigarettes tells them to?

That’s the belief of researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland who have come up with cigarette packages that play a recorded message each time they’re opened. The message warns smokers about fertility risks and gives a help-line phone number for further information on quitting.

The invention connects directly to the Scottish government’s efforts to help people stop smoking. Scottish Publish Health Minister Michael Matheson recently set a target to reduce the number of smokers in Scotland from 23 per cent to 5 per cent by 2034.

Funding for the talking cigarette box came from Cancer Research U.K., which supported the Stirling study “to see if the marketing tools of the tobacco industry can be used to help smokers quit instead,” according to spokesperson Alison Cox.

It’s a strange thing about Tobacco Control, that they seem to think that if people are told something enough times, they’ll come to believe it.

And perhaps they’ve got good reason to think this, given that the only reason that most people believe that smoking causes lung cancer, etc, etc, is that they’ve been repeatedly told so over the past 50 years, and the message has sunk in. They’ve been conditioned.

But maybe it’ll work on me yet. Perhaps I just haven’t reached the tipping point where the conditioning finally takes a grip. Maybe one day I’ll write in my blog something like, “You know, folks, I woke up this morning and I realise that smoking causes lung cancer, and I can’t deny it any longer, and I’m going to phone one of those quit lines …after I finish my cigarette.”

And here’s the really weird part about the talking cigarette packs: Smokers are listening.

The prerecorded messages are said to have worked well during tests conducted on a group of women aged 16 to 34. The university will now expand the study with tests on larger groups of males and females aged 16 and over.

I suppose it’s not surprising that people listen to talking cigarette packets. They’re a bit of a novelty. I’ve never come across one. Is it one of the marketing tools of the tobacco industry?

You know what they’ll do, don’t you, when this doesn’t work either? It’s the entirely predictable application of the same failed approach: the cigarette packs won’t just start talking when they’re opened: they’ll never stop talking. They’ll just keep burbling away endlessly about cancer and heart disease and infertility and chiiiildren.

You’ll be able to tell who the smokers are on the bus or train, because there’ll be little tinny voices coming out of their jacket pockets.

Maybe when illegal tobacco packs show up, they’ll also start talking when they’re opened, but saying something different – like “Shut the fuck up, you little bastard!” And then tobacco packs could have shouting matches with each other:

“Smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease and varicose veins! Phone 0172…”

“Shut the fuck up, you little bastard!”

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Uglifying Cigarettes

Via Chris Snowdon and Simon Clark, this story:

Cigarettes could soon be produced in unpleasant colours, with health warnings emblazoned across the stick, under new proposals to make smoking unglamorous.

Experts believe the white papers which traditionally encase tobacco have connotations of purity and cleanliness.

They have conducted research which suggests producing cigarettes in unappealing browns and greens, to represent yellowing teeth or even phlegm, will make them look distasteful, particularly to style-conscious young women.

Government officials are understood to be looking closely at the study, which is based on the observations of 120 men and women who regularly light up…

The UK is already preparing for next year’s introduction of standardised cigarette packets, which will be stripped of branding and produced in a bland colour with large picture warnings.

Now the standardised packaging revolution could target the contents of the packs.

I had foreseen this.

I don’t think that it’ll make an iota of difference. Because I don’t think there’s such a thing as an ugly or unappealing colour. A lot of cigarettes are brown already. And some are yellow.

The cigarettes I smoke already aren’t very appealing. My roll-ups are usually a bit lumpy. And sometimes they’re bent as well. Not that I give a damn.

What I want to know is: if they can play around with the packaging outside, what’s to stop them playing around with the product inside, and introducing toxic chemicals into the tobacco or paper?

I can see how they might justify it. They’d probably say that smoking cigarettes kills most smokers anyway, so the addition of further toxins (e.g. arsenic) won’t make any difference to something that’s highly toxic already.

And also, if they can’t persuade smokers to stop smoking, then killing smokers will be the only path left. The Final Solution. All “for their own good”, of course.

And do they start doing the same with alcohol, sugar, etc? Are these also going to be laced with arsenic in the name of Public Health?

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The New Niggers

In a referendum, it seems the Irish have voted to legalise gay marriage. Frankly, I’m astonished. But then I’m not Irish (even though I have Irish ancestry).

But Grandad‘s Irish:

So while the 5% homosexual crowd are now rejoicing, I would ask about the new Niggers of Ireland?  They constitute well over a quarter of the population and are now classed as the underdogs, with open encouragement to sneer and vilify them.  Not only do they have no laws to protect them, but it is the law itself that has classed them as the underdog, to be refused welcome, to be ostracised and to be cast in the street at every opportunity.  Millions are spent each year with the specific aim of persecuting this underclass with the stated and specific aim of forcing them to change.

One possible explanation:

Obeara pointed out what defenders of traditional marriage were up against: “all the political parties, about 160 out of 166 members of parliament, all the media, all the major US multinationals, 90% of the funding was on the Yes side, it is extraordinary, and something approaching a miracle, that 40% of the voters had the courage to vote No.”

And H/T Rose for this Reuters report:

(Reuters Health) – Smokers have more pessimistic attitudes about cancer and may be more likely to delay getting screened, according to a new survey from the UK.

Smokers are less likely to engage in cancer screening programs and are less engaged with health services overall, senior author Jane Wardle told Reuters Health in an email.

“We wanted to investigate why, by exploring whether this could be partly due to excessively negative beliefs about cancer,” said Wardle, the director of the Health Behavior Research Center at University College London…

It continues:

“In the case of smokers, the greater their perception of risk for smoking, the greater their psychological aversion to having their worries confirmed by a doctor,” said Omid Fotuhi, a psychology researcher at Stanford University in California.

Fotuhi, who was not involved with the new study, told Reuters Health by email that this may be especially true for the older sample of smokers in this study, as they may be less likely to believe that they can quit.

What about those smokers who don’t believe in the risks of smoking, and who have no wish whatever to stop smoking? Why might they avoid screening?

There’s another explanation why smokers may not wish to be screened for cancer (or anything else), and that is that they want to have as little as possible to do with a medical profession that has orchestrated the current, obscene, global persecution of smokers.

But I doubt that this will ever occur to them.

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Out Of Control

Yesterday, Edgar wrote:

“I’d rephrase that, “Smokers will have to stand outside like naughty children until they learn to obey.”” A lot of people see things this way – the ‘nanny’ state, supported by finger-wagging, busybody, fake charities. Perhaps, it is that way, and, perhaps, it is something more sinister. What is missing from this explanation is the rationale for this behaviour. Many people have claimed ‘It’s not about health, … never was.’ Then, what is it about? A problem might be more easily solved if it is properly understood. To me, there seems to be a clear division between two types of human being: one type has a psychological need to know of a faction that can be persecuted without interference from the law (even better, with the approval of the law); the other type does not have that need. The concept could be called ‘legitimised prejudice’. It provides a licence to hate an identified group (it probably doesn’t matter which group as long as there is someone you’re allowed to hate). Well, that’s my shot at an underlying explanation to this apparent nannyism.

This “two types of human being” notion has kept coming back to mind, if only because there do actually seem to be two types of human beings.

Only I had two rather different types than Edgar in mind: Controllers and Non-controllers. The world seems to be made up of people who want to bring everything under control, and those who are happy to let things just happen.

Outfits like “Tobacco Control” are quite open about their controlling ambitions. And one complaint that antismokers have about smokers is that they have “no self-control”. For such people, more or less everything is “out of control”, and badly needs to be brought “under control”. And it seems patently obvious to them that this needs to be done, and that “under control” is always better than “out of control”.

And they have a point, I think. Human life has progressed by bringing more and more stuff under human control. Like lakes, waterways, plants, animals, etc. It also extends to economics, trade, industry, science. Humans are very, very controlling. Even wars are all about taking control of other people. There’s nothing new about it.

That said, I’m not one of the Controllers. Throughout my life, I’ve never been someone who wanted to change or control anyone. I generally liked people the way they were. And liked places the way they were. I didn’t want to change everything. And on this blog, I’m not trying to change the way my readers think. I’m pretty laissez-faire (although there are limits).

These days I spend a lot of time on my computer simulation model of the solar system. I’ve been a bit puzzled at my interest in this, but recently I realised that what I liked about the solar system is that it’s completely out of control. I find it rather delightful that we’re all sitting on a damp, mossy rock spinning around a star in the little whirlpool of planets we call the Solar System, and there’s nothing we can do about it. And there never will be anything that we can do about it. We just have to live with it.

But I suspect that this is precisely the sort of vision that fills the Controllers with panic, and causes them to re-double their efforts to bring everything under control. And I think part of that panic may come from one of the most compelling images of modern times: the never-before-seen view of the planet Earth from outer space (this one from Apollo 17):

Earth-from-Apollo-17

And this is the image of a little, fragile, blue droplet of water suspended alone in space. It’s probably the most iconic image of our time. It’s Gaia, the Great Mother goddess of Greek mythology. Isn’t she adorable? And isn’t she in such mortal peril in a universe filled with exploding stars, black holes, and (my favourite) huge wandering asteroids with thousands of companion rocks in tow? Isn’t this image enough to get you to join Friends of the Earth (as opposed to the Enemies of the Earth)? And can’t you see the  dire necessity of preserving that thin film of air that veils the planet, and the need for Climate Control? And don’t you think that this fragile little planet should have a UN World Government to carefully manage it? Yes, I thought you did.

The loneliness and fragility of this image is the loneliness and fragility of all terrestrial life, and it induces not only wonder, but also terror at circumstances that are beyond our control, and which need to be brought under control as soon as possible. And if our present times are characterised by the demand for top-down control of more or less everything, it is probably in no small part due the panic invoked by iconic images like this. So now, in our modern pandemonium, we see threats everywhere, and we have armies of controllers trying to control everything.

They’ll never succeed, of course. But that won’t stop them trying. The need to Take Control is a constant in human life, and never more so than now.

And the enemies of the Controllers are Non-controllers like me, who like to let things happen and see where they go, and don’t have grand plans for everything and everyone.

Which brings me back to Edgar’s nannyism. Little Gaia obviously needs a nanny to look after her, to shepherd her and make sure she is kept safe. And anyone who disagrees is an Enemy of the Earth, and most likely a rapist of Gaia. Such people need to be silenced, excluded, reduced to second class citizenship. They need to brought under control, along with everything else. And this is the origin of the “legitimized prejudice”.

I don’t see it as growing from any need to hate people, any need to hate an identified social group. I think it grows out of the need to Take Control, in a world that’s out of control.

All my current principal matters of concern are about attempts to Take Control in one way or other: smoking bans, global warming alarmism, and the EU are all attempts at top-down control by elitist planners.

The future will see all these attempts fail. The attempt to take control of what is beyond control will only produce even greater chaos and disorder.

 

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