Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Night Links

  • Agency is the capacity to act. More subtly: An individual’s life can continue, with a certain inertia, that will lead them on to the next year or decade. Most people today more-or-less know what they are going to be doing for the first twenty-or-more years of their life—being in some kind of school (the “doing” is almost more “being told what to do”). Beyond that age there is of course the proverbial worker, in modern stories usually an office worker, who is often so inert that he becomes blindsided by a sudden yank of reality (that forces him out of his inertia, and in doing so the story begins). Gaining agency is gaining the capacity to do something differently from, or in addition to, the events that simply happen to you. Most famous people go off-script early, usually in more than one way. [Simon Sarris]
  • In the nineteenth century, American writers began to distance themselves from the influence of England to create a truly American literary identity. One attempt was literary realism, a philosophy that tried to represent contemporary society as it truly was. In the journalistic sphere, this experiment grew largely through the efforts of newspapermen Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain in the 1870s and 1880s. It reached full bloom under the cynical editorial reign of H. L. Mencken in the early 1900s. Undergirding the writings of these three men was a fervent desire to puncture the myth of culture and to expose stupidity, vanity, and corruption through scorn and ridicule. All three, in their way, belonged to what one critic has termed “the cantankerous school” of American writing, an institution that offers master classes in sardonic satire, acidic invective, and merciless truth. [link]
  • The late Michael Russell said decades ago that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar. This powerful insight remains extremely relevant today and should drive much of our ‘endgame’ thinking. But whereas tobacco product regulation was virtually nonexistent when Dr Russell offered up his observation in the 1970s, today, science-based regulation of all tobacco products is possible in the USA and globally either through enacted legislation or under the relevant provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. [BMJ]
  • Measurements of blood nicotine levels in smokers opened new windows on tobacco dependence. It rapidly became apparent that smokers regulate the way they inhale so as to maintain nicotine levels. Reductions in nicotine from changing to "low-tar" cigarettes resulted in increased inhalation in order to maintain nicotine intake. Russell realised the devastating implications of this for the then officially approved policy of tar (and nicotine) reduction, but it took another 20 years before it was widely accepted that low-tar cigarettes were not safer. Comparisons of nicotine concentrations in dependent users of dry nasal snuff, moist oral snuff and cigarette smokers showed remarkably similar levels, pointing to the controlling influence of nicotine. This led Russell to become an early advocate of harm reduction, since it was apparent that it was the tar, not the nicotine, that killed smokers, and it was possible to satisfy users' desire to take nicotine with non-combustible tar-free products. [link]
  • Both PM and MO are trying to shape the future regulatory environment around ENDS. This battle will be fought first and foremost in the U.S., which will influence the regulatory environment worldwide. The strategy is already taking shape: 1) Raise cigarette buying age to 21--this is window dressing to placate Congress and buy other concessions, like those below. This is exactly what both companies are lobbying on now. 2) Build a regulatory moat around ENDS: (a) Push legislation which will require FDA submission and ingredient disclosure for e-liquid based ENDS (consumer safety regulations, labeling, etc.). (b) Regulate nicotine levels. (c) Keep chasing MRTP for IQOS. The U.S. regulatory environment would then be the model for the rest of the world. This would effectively cede the ENTIRE electronic cigarette space to the big players. Only the big players can afford to comply with a complex approvals/disclosure process--it would put all the small importers of various Chinese-made products out of business in the U.S. because they will not be able to afford this kind of testing/QC. The more burdensome/labyrinthine the regulatory process becomes, the better it is for PM/MO with their armies of lawyers and quality engineers. This will be the same play in the cannabis space if and when the big players are ready: bury the small competition in regulatory bureaucracy. This is what worked in the cigarette space for decades. This is why there are now only a handful of giant companies selling a commodity product with in developed markets. No one else can afford to. PM and MO, or future NewCo, are selling razor blades, not razor handles. The strategy is to have good enough technology, best-in-class distribution, but most importantly: giant regulatory barriers to prevent new entrants. [CBS
  • Modified nicotine - initially in the form of nic salts, the first step on the road - is the route by which cigarette corporations who buy vape businesses will gradually introduce their addiction model into the vaping market. The last point is the most important. They need you to become dependent, as ‘brand loyalty’ is everything in the cigarette business. Modified nicotine looks like a great way to do it. [Chris Price]
  • In 1942, when flour enrichment with nicotinic acid began, a headline in the popular press said "Tobacco in Your Bread." In response, the Council on Foods and Nutrition of the American Medical Association approved of the Food and Nutrition Board's new names niacin and niacin amide for use primarily by non-scientists. It was thought appropriate to choose a name to dissociate nicotinic acid from nicotine, to avoid the perception that vitamins or niacin-rich food contains nicotine, or that cigarettes contain vitamins. The resulting name niacin was derived from nicotinic acid + vitamin. [Niacin]
  • If you want some insurance against future Europe-US travel restrictions, want your children to have the flexibility to study/work/live in the EU, or just want to be like Eric Schmidt (support Biden and the Democrats’ plan to re-make U.S. society and the U.S. economy, but have the Gulfstream fueled and that second passport handy just in case!), the Portuguese Golden Visa program is an inexpensive path to an EU passport (less than $100,000 in fees and travel expenses). One requirement of the program is investing in real estate, which the Portuguese love and which I personally hate, or stocks, which the Portuguese hate and I love. [Phil G
  • A bulk carrier operation is an office with an assistant and a Greek owner at boozy lunches making charter deals. A large crude oil tanker fleet is a Norwegian doing snus and a tiny back office. Running a liner fleet is much more management intensive than owning bulk carriers. The liner companies have at least an order of magnitude more employees per ship on shore than the bulk carrier owners. Bulk carriers are autocratic, perfect for a Greek (the real profit is made buying or selling ships) and the liner companies are bureaucratic. [CBS]
  • It has been unexpectedly discovered herein that certain nicotine salt formulations provide satisfaction in an individual superior to that of free base nicotine, and more comparable to the satisfaction in an individual smoking a traditional cigarette. The satisfaction effect is consistent with an efficient transfer of nicotine to the lungs of an individual and a rapid rise of nicotine absorption in the plasma as shown, for non-limiting example, in Example 8, at least. It has also been unexpectedly discovered herein that certain nicotine salt formulations provide greater satisfaction than other nicotine salt formulations, and such effect has been shown in blood plasma levels of example nicotine salt formulations herein, for non-limiting example, in Example 8, at least. These results show a difference in rate of nicotine uptake in the blood that is higher for some nicotine salt formulations aerosolized by an electronic cigarette than for other nicotine salt formulations, and likewise higher than nicotine freebase formulations, while the peak concentration of the nicotine in the blood and total amount of nicotine delivered appears comparable to a traditional cigarette, and do not appear to vary significantly between the various nicotine formulations. Therefore, described herein are nicotine salt formulations for use in an electronic cigarette, or the like, that provide a general satisfaction effect consistent with an efficient transfer of nicotine to the lungs of an individual and a rapid rise of nicotine absorption in the plasma. [Nicotine salt formulations for aerosol devices and methods thereof]

Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday Night Links

  • Starting with some of the larger names in the S&P 500 Energy Sector ETF (NYSE:XLE), we can see that capex currently is at around 2004-2005 levels of $8-$10 bn per quarter in aggregate, quite far from the peak of $25 bn+ per quarter in the 2014-2015 period. For this chart, we took the 20-year capex history for Exxon, Chevron, EOG, Pioneer, ConocoPhillips, and Williams. [Sentieo]
  • "If this capital discipline remains, you are talking about $12/MMBtu, $14/MMBtu gas to incentivize either curtailing LNG exports or curtailing exports to Mexico." [S&P]
  • Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it has authorized the marketing of three new tobacco products, marking the first set of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products ever to be authorized by the FDA through the Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) pathway. The FDA issued marketing granted orders to R.J. Reynolds (RJR) Vapor Company for its Vuse Solo closed ENDS device and accompanying tobacco-flavored e-liquid pods, specifically, Vuse Solo Power Unit, Vuse Replacement Cartridge Original 4.8% G1, and Vuse Replacement Cartridge Original 4.8% G2. As the RJR Vapor Company submitted data to the FDA that demonstrated that marketing of these products is appropriate for the protection of public health, today’s authorization allows these products to be legally sold in the U.S. [FDA]
  • On Friday, Turning Point Brands, which late last month petitioned a federal court to review a marketing denial order (MDO) for many of its vapor products, is withdrawing its appeal. The company is doing so because, on Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration informed TPB the products that had been denied are now back under review. “Upon further review of the administrative record, FDA found relevant information that was not adequately assessed,” reads a letter addressed to Brittani Cushman, TPB’s senior vice president of external affairs, and signed by Matthew Holman, the director of the office of science at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “Specifically your applications did contain randomized controlled trials comparing tobacco-flavored ENDS to flavored ENDS as well as several cross-sectional surveys evaluating patterns of use, likelihood of use, and perceptions in current smokers, current ENDS users, former tobacco users, and never users, which require further review.” “Accordingly,” it goes on, “this letter rescinds the September 14, 2021, marketing denial orders for your tobacco products.” [No Smoking Section]
  • I had previously tweeted that the government showing that youth vaping rates dropped doesn’t matter — that the data is purposely misinterpreted or abused by prohibitionists, and the battle remains cultural and ideological. I believe that: We stigmatized smoking so much in this country that reintroducing nicotine into “polite” society is no easy feat. I was a boy when Big Tobacco came under fire, so I admittedly do not have the same perspective as these dinosaurs who have litigated their way onto pedestals. I recognize the foe here is public perception, and one day people will have to come around to the idea that there are much safer ways to use nicotine. [No Smoking Section]
  • If living well is one of Brunello’s fixations (he lists "the five c’s"—cashmere, cognac, chocolate, cigars, and champagne—as the essence of the good life), he also considers it a responsibility. And that responsibility extends to how you dress and the philosophy of dressing well. [GQ]
  • Wait a minute! Could they really be saying that, rather than being on a path to oblivion, all major fossil fuel categories (petroleum, natural gas and coal) will continue to see increased usage right on through 2050, and with no indication that any decline will have begun even then? Yes, that is exactly what they are saying. Indeed the projected increases in consumption of two of those fuels are quite dramatic — up in the range of 50% for natural gas and 40% for petroleum. Yes, so-called “renewables” are projected to increase dramatically; but after thirty years of this, they will still, according to EIA, provide only about 25% of “primary energy consumption,” which is less than petroleum alone, and barely a third of the combined contribution of petroleum, natural gas and coal. [Manhattan Contrarian]
  • The bureaucrats of the world, particularly in the UN and developed countries, have the idea that they are going to eliminate all use of fossil fuels by somewhere around 2040-50.  They have no conception of how to accomplish that, other than to order from on high that it shall occur and assume that somebody else will figure out the details.  This gives the rest of us the opportunity to sit on the sidelines and observe how bureaucratic fantasy gradually runs into the brick wall of physical reality. [Manhattan Contrarian]
  • To my knowledge, no one has examined heirloom strains of cacao for their content of anandamide, which might potentially have been much greater than in currently cultivated strains. More importantly, it is well known that the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs drank their cacao mixed with chili peppers and/or vanilla pods, but it has generally been assumed that these were added for flavoring or as folk medicine remedies. To my knowledge, no one has pointed out a possible connection between the indigenous cacao ritual drinks and the synergy of cacao with capsaicin (from peppers) and vanillin (from vanilla): Namely, capsaicin and vanillin (and anandamide itself) are all agonists of the TRPV1 receptor, which stimulates production and release of endogenous anandamide. When mixed with N-linoleoylethanolamide and N-oleoylethanolamide from cacao, which inhibit anandamide breakdown, the levels of endogenous anandamide are augmented further. When breakdown of anandamide is inhibited pharmacologically or genetically, anandamide is able to produce a state of intoxication similar to tetrahydrocannabinol in rodents and nonhuman primates. Thus, I suggest that chili peppers and vanilla were not chosen coincidentally or haphazardly as flavorings but precisely because, together, they were able to achieve high levels of anandamide. [Neil R. Smalheiser]

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tuesday Night Links

  • At today's WTI futures curve, CVE will generate close to C$9 billion in free cash flow in 2022. On a market cap of C$31 billion, that's a free cash flow yield of ~29%. [Cenovus]
  • Given that the COVID-19 vaccines do not appear to stop the spread of the virus, there is simply no medical or moral justification for vaccine mandates and passports. Those comfortable with these policies should ask themselves how they would feel if a fourth jab is soon required to buy groceries, take a domestic flight, rent an apartment, access a bank account, be admitted to an ER, or receive unemployment benefits after being fired for noncompliance. The emerging bio-authoritarianism that began as “two weeks to flatten the curve” will metastasize into something even more repellent and dangerous unless it is forthrightly opposed now, through boycotts, protests, lawsuits, labor action, and civil disobedience. [Tablet]
  • Several times since August 30, 2021, Southwest Airlines has taken new unilateral actions which violate the status quo between the parties in further violation of the Railway Labor Act. Most recently, on October 4, 2021, Southwest Airlines unilaterally rolled out a new and non- negotiated COVID vaccine mandate for all employees, including SWAPA pilots. The new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021. Southwest Airlines’ additional new and unilateral modification of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA. Because of Southwest Airlines’ continued unilateral actions, and its continued violations of the RLA which harm SWAPA and its members, this motion is necessary and SWAPA respectfully seeks an immediate hearing. Counsel for SWAPA has conferred with counsel for Southwest Airlines in a good-faith attempt to resolve this dispute by agreement. [pdf]
  • Governor Lucius Hubbard of Minnesota lamented that “the ingenuity of depraved human genius has culminated in the production of oleomargarine and its kindred abominations.” [link]
  • I completed my tobacco book research in mid-2017, as British American Tobacco was buying Reynolds American.  This was a high-water mark for tobacco stocks.  They have since suffered a steep decline. This chart shows financials for the five largest cigarette companies. Four years ago, these companies had a combined market value of $664 billion with a dividend yield of 3.3% and a Price/Earnings ratio of 21. Today, those numbers are $393 billion market value, yield 6.9%, and a P/E of 15.5. At the same time, dividend dollars paid rose 25%. [Gene Hoots]
  • Readers may think that Juul was killing kids after lung illnesses emerged in 2019. Credit to Ms. Ducharme for reporting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “fairly clear-cut data” that bootleg cannabis products, not Juul, were making kids ill. But the CDC for many weeks “refused to draw firm conclusions,” content to let the public stay confused. (Sound familiar?) Savor the irony that marijuana attracts none of the scrutiny into long-term harm and teen addiction that has doomed vaping. Juul is waiting for the FDA to decide whether it can stay on the market. Ms. Etter faults Juul for seeking “monster growth” rather than a “diligent, plodding path that might have earned” the company “buy-in from regulators and permission from society.” That’s a conveniently unfalsifiable thesis that is contradicted by the evidence in her book: Removing its popular flavored products and killing its social-media accounts are odd things to do for a company that wants “monster growth.” Marlboros are still on the shelves, and many Americans now think vaping is more dangerous than lighting up a cigarette. Investors won’t be eager to make another big bet on trying to save the lives of smokers. No one should call this sad state of affairs a victory for public health. [WSJ]
  • The Ziegler family owns Swisher International, an $800 million (estimated sales) manufacturer of cigars based in Darien, Conn. It's best known for the brand bearing its name: Swisher Sweets, a line of cigarillos, a cross between a cigar and a cigarette. The history of Swisher is a fractious one. In the 1990s, William Ziegler and his sister, Helen Steinkraus, were the controlling shareholders of American Maize-Products, which made corn syrup and cornstarch; it also contained a small tobacco business. The siblings' grandfather had gotten a hold of the company in 1907, and it had passed down to Ziegler and Steinkraus. Harvard-educated Ziegler was running the business--not well enough for Steinkraus' liking. She and her children tried to force out Ziegler through a number of lawsuits. No luck there. Ziegler won in the courtroom--and outside of it, arranging for a French agrifood company, Eridania Beghin-Say, to buy American Maize in 1995. After the acquisition, Eridania sold the tobacco business to Ziegler, who then quickly took the company public. He privatized it in 1999 amid a tough time for tobacco companies and ran it until his death in 2008, four years before his sister's. While Ziegler's heirs still own Swisher, it's unclear whether any of them are actively running the business. [Forbes]
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that, for the first time, it has authorized the marketing of products through the modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) pathway. The authorizations are for eight Swedish Match USA, Inc. snus smokeless tobacco products sold under the “General” brand name. These products had previously been authorized for U.S. sale without modified risk claims by the FDA in 2015 in response to filings of premarket tobacco applications (PMTAs). Today’s action further authorizes the manufacturer to market these specific products with the claim “Using General Snus instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.” The FDA made this authorization after reviewing scientific evidence submitted by the company that supports this claim. [FDA]
  • In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after having expressly disavowed any such authority since its inception, asserted jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. See 61 Fed. Reg. 44619—45318. The FDA concluded that nicotine is a “drug” within the meaning of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA or Act), 52 Stat. 1040, as amended, 21 U.S.C. § 301 et seq., and that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are “combination products” that deliver nicotine to the body. 61 Fed. Reg. 44397 (1996). Pursuant to this authority, it promulgated regulations intended to reduce tobacco consumption among children and adolescents. Id., at 44615—44618. The agency believed that, because most tobacco consumers begin their use before reaching the age of 18, curbing tobacco use by minors could substantially reduce the prevalence of addiction in future generations and thus the incidence of tobacco-related death and disease. Id., at 44398—44399. Regardless of how serious the problem an administrative agency seeks to address, however, it may not exercise its authority “in a manner that is inconsistent with the administrative structure that Congress enacted into law.” ETSI Pipeline Project v. Missouri, 484 U.S. 495, 517 (1988). And although agencies are generally entitled to deference in the interpretation of statutes that they administer, a reviewing “court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Chevron U.S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842—843 (1984). In this case, we believe that Congress has clearly precluded the FDA from asserting jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. Such authority is inconsistent with the intent that Congress has expressed in the FDCA’s overall regulatory scheme and in the tobacco-specific legislation that it has enacted subsequent to the FDCA. In light of this clear intent, the FDA’s assertion of jurisdiction is impermissible. [FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.]
  • As can be seen in NASA’s photos, the egress side of the lunar modules (the side with the ladder and hatch) was usually in the shade (though almost always well lit). What that means is that, after traipsing around in the sun for a spell, the astronauts would have had to step into the shadows to reenter the spacecraft. And when they did so, those spacesuits were apparently smart enough to react instantly and switch over from turbo-charged air conditioning to blast-furnace heating in the blink of an eye. Awesome! [link]
  • The recent Tesla court case established that the latest going rate for paying off a black plaintiff for having to endure the agony of living in a multicultural society in which Hispanic, black, and perhaps white co-workers like hip-hop and thus use its vocabulary in your presence is $137 million. But is the dingy-looking Duluth charter school district as deep-pocketed as Elon Musk? [Sailer]

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sunday Night Links

  • In the six decades since the dam was built, the living memory of Glen Canyon has mostly been lost. Relatively few people visited the canyon when it could still be run by raft, and all but a handful of them are now dead. In the meantime, the place has acquired an almost mythical status. It was a kind of Eden, more spectacular than the Grand Canyon and, at the same time, more peaceful. It was a fairy-tale maze of side canyons, and side canyons with their own side canyons, each one offering a different marvel. Edward Abbey, who was one of several writers and artists to float through Glen Canyon shortly before its inundation, called the closing of the dam’s gates a “crime.” To grasp the nature of this crime, he wrote, “imagine the Taj Mahal or Chartres Cathedral buried in mud until only the spires remain visible.” [New Yorker]
  • At current EV of $38 billion, we end up with an FCF/EV yield of 20% and a target share price of $25/share using an 8x FCF to EV multiple. Additional $225MM of free cash flow per $1 USD/bbl increase in WTI pricing gives Cenovus major torque to pricing increases and at a $100 WTI strip, free cash flow to EV yield would almost double to 35% leading to a $48/share price at 8x FCF to EV. [link
  • Coming off its legendary year in the natural gas market, Amaranth returned in 2006 with more heavy betting that prices would rise sharply in the fall & winter, similar to 2005. They took massive long positions in natural gas futures & swaps on both NYMEX and ICE, brushing up & ultimately blowing way past normal fund risk limits. At one point Hunter’s trading desk held more than 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas futures, representing nearly 1/4th of annual US residential gas consumption. [frontmonth]
  • Here, an unambiguous promise does not exist. As set forth above, the Human Resources Policies handbook provides that "[d]ecisions on Total Compensation are at the complete discretion of the Bank. There is no guarantee of cash or equity bonuses, merit increases, or any other pay items unless the employee has a written agreement with the Bank that states otherwise." In addition, Hunter and Race each signed Offer Letters with Deutsche Bank further specifying the terms of their respective bonuses. Plaintiffs therefore cannot rely on any alleged oral promises, and their claims for promissory estoppel fail. [Hunter v. Deutsche Bank AG]
  • Back in the 1950s, smoking a pipe was as much the fashion at Yale as button-down Gant shirts and scuffed white bucks. I wasn’t a smoker, but when I received my acceptance to Yale, my mother bought me a Dr. Grabow Yellow Bowl pipe and a can of Prince Albert tobacco. She thought smoking a pipe would have a calming influence on me. Her father smoked a pipe for over 60 years and was rarely, if ever, stressed out. [link]
  • Nicotine polacrilex: Nicotine is bound to what’s called an ion exchange resin. This method of delivery ensures 2 things - that 80-90% of the nicotine bound to the polacrilex is absorbed by the oral mucosa, and that it’s absorbed slowly. This ensures you won’t get an addictive buzz, but that you will get the amount of nicotine promised on the package to hopefully curb cravings and stave off nicotine withdrawal. So it’s designed to not be as satisfying as normal nicotine delivery methods on purpose. It’s designed to be good enough. In other words, it’s designed to suck. Nicotine salts (in Zyn specifically, hydrated nicotine bitartrate): Nicotine salts absorb pretty easily in the mouth, so you get a harder hit than with nicotine polacrilex. And the absorption is more rapid and less predictable than with nicotine polacrilex, so you can’t say for certain that you’re getting x amount of nicotine in x minutes. So more buzz, less ability to control your intake. And less likelihood to quit. Freebase nicotine: Many freebase alkaloids, like freebase nicotine or crack cocaine, have melting points higher than their combustion points, and thus better volatility/heat stability/vaporizability than their conjugate acids (“salts”). This means they enable more effective respiratory delivery through a device like a vape. You get more nicotine and a harder (and harsher) hit than you would with a salt. Not all vapes use freebase nicotine though; Juul, for example, uses a nicotine salt (I think nicotine benzoate). [r/snus]
  • I spent the last two weeks using only nicotine pouches. I read most of Chad’s reviews of the various Zyn products (I’m in the US and Zyn is the only pouch I’ll buy that’s easily available here). Everyone has different reactions so mine might not be typical but Chad is mostly right. The nic hit from the pouches isn’t as mellow and doesn’t really develop nicely like snus does. It just hits initially, then goes away, then randomly comes back. I initially bought a 6mg can based on Chad’s reviews but I felt it to be stronger than what I was used to (General OP/Mint). So I bought another can of 3mg. That was weaker but more manageable. It didn’t fully satisfy my nicotine needs for the first day or so, but then I got used to it. I wouldn’t say it was nice, but it was fine. My order came in yesterday (Harvest, Onyx, Xrange slim OP) and it was like the warm embrace of a missed friend. I’ll definitely buy more pouches if they’re my only option but I greatly prefer the real deal. On a side note, we are so lucky to have Chad as a resource both through his normal channels and here directly in the sub. Our tastes differ on some things but he’s never steered me wrong since I got into snus 7 years ago. I can’t thank him enough for his time, effort, and passion [r/snus]
  • “Poor Jacob and Donna were dealing with such undulating invite stuff, because people kept falling out,” says Dunham, adding that a few people on her already truncated guest list could not attend because they caught the virus. “Hearing from a wedding guest that they can’t make it because they have COVID is a great reminder that this is still going on, and to take all of the precautions seriously.” And Dunham and Felber made that a priority: All guests were required to take two lateral flow tests as well as present proof of vaccination. “I’m immune compromised, so I take COVID restrictions really seriously,” explains Dunham, “but it’s important to both of us. Lu wants to keep me safe, and he wants live music to come back, and he is also just thoughtful about human safety in general!” Masks were also made available at the venue, which was set up to allow for sufficient spacing between guests and between the ceremony, reception, and dancing. [Vogue]
  • Just as the NIH was delighted to serve as the CIA’s lapdog, the same goes with the FDA and big pharma. The scheme works like this: the FDA sets Kabuki theater rules for drug development and testing. Big pharma makes the drug and supplies it. The NIH and universities spend taxpayer dollars performing the FDA-required clinical trials. The trial data then goes back to big pharma’s statisticians for analysis, which the FDA reviews, and approves. Rinse and repeat. This cycle has been a constant source of heartburn for the small number of true research ethicists left and resulted in multiple declarations of highly effective drugs that were, in fact, not effective at all. Between 2000-2011, 102 drug trials were retracted, 73 for scientific misconduct and 29 for statistical or other reporting errors. Beyond drug approval, the FDA is supposed to be engaged in post-marketing surveillance of drug quality and efficacy. Yet as detailed in the page-turner Bottle of Lies, the FDA fails time and time again to prevent carcinogens from appearing in blood pressure and heartburn medications, pieces of stainless steel in Moderna vaccines, and bacteria in insulin. [im1776]
  • Yes, we’ve heard all about Joe Biden’s alleged vaccine mandate for private companies employing 100 or more people. It was all over the news even before he announced it on September 9. His announcement has jeopardized the employment of millions of Americans and increased worker shortages in critical domains such as health care. There’s only one problem. It’s all a mirage. Biden’s so-called vaccine mandate doesn’t exist — at least, not yet. So far, all we have is his press conference and other such made-for-media huff-puffing. No such rule even claiming to be legally binding has been issued yet. [link]
  • The northwest corner of Arkansas has been booming with trail development for the last decade. The result: It’s now a MTB hotspot with more trails than you could ride in a lifetime. This presents visitors with a very real (but very good) problem—what should you ride first? To help answer that question, we turned to four locals for their best advice. “Bentonville is unique because you can ride out of your house and onto a trail,” says Dave Neal, a longtime resident of nearby Bella Vista and co-owner of Bentonville’s Mojo Cycling bike shop. “And most trails are connected, so you can spend the day riding and you don’t have to get on the road at all.” Whether you’re looking for expert-level or beginner terrain, Bentonville has it all. [Outside]

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Thursday Night Links

  • During the last weeks of her life, however, the world turned dark with heavy-handed vaccine mandates. Local and state governments were determined to strip away her right to consult her wisdom and enjoy her freedom. She had been vehemently opposed to taking the vaccine, knowing she was in good health and of a young age and thus not at risk for serious illness. In her mind, the known and unknown risks of the unproven vaccine were more of a threat. But, slowly, day by day, her freedom to choose was stripped away. Her passion to be actively involved in her children's education—which included being a Room Mom—was, once again, blocked by government mandate. Ultimately, those who closed doors and separated mothers from their children prevailed. It cost Jessica her life. It cost her children the loving embrace of their caring mother. And it cost her husband the sacred love of his devoted wife. [Jessica Wilson]
  • Just want to share my annoying experience after vaccination and perhaps have some testimonials from similar stories amount Freedivers. Did you get better? After my 2nd dose I noticed that my heart rate was way higher than normal and my breath hold capacities went down significantly. During sleep I’m at 65-70bpm instead of 37-45bpm. During the day I’m now always over 100bpm instead of 65bpm, even when I sit down and relax. Once I even reach 177bpm while having dinner with friends !!!! 10 days after my 2nd jab, I went to see a cardiologist and he told me it’s a commun side effect of Pfizer vaccin, nothing to worry about, just rest it will pass. 40days after 2nd jab, I had no progress so I went to see an other cardiologist and got diagnosed with Myocarditis, Pericarditis and Trivial Mitral regurgitation! Which is basically an inflammation of the heart muscles cause by the immune system and some tiny leaks of blood from the valves that no longer close properly. I’m now struggling to reach 8min breath hold, 150m dyn and I even have a strong urge to breath doing 40m dives. 30% decrease on my diving performance roughly. My first thought and recommendation to Freedivers around the world is to chose a vaccin which is done the old fashion way like Sputnik, Sinovac, Sinopharm etc…instead of those new mRNA vaccins. [link]
  • Conspiratorial possibilities, of course, abound: Maybe mass vaccinations were undertaken secretly in the summer of 2020, perhaps via aerosolised adenovirus vector vaccines, or aerosolised spike proteins – the very same technology that EcoHealth Alliance, in partnernship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, proposed to use on bats in 2018. Maybe this is how China really beat SARS-2. Alternatively, you could imagine that whoever was behind the release of the virus in the first place began releasing updated variants to defeat the vaccines sometime around July. These scenarios are offered for your entertainment more than your serious consideration. The only really important point to take away from all of this, is that mass vaccinations targeting the SARS-2 spike protein were a tremendous strategic blunder. Even before these vaccines could be deployed, their protein target was running away from them. As early as Fall 2020, the Delta branch that would yield our current escape strains was already circulating. [eugyppius]
  • The practical outcome of vaccine passports and mandates will be that you’ll have to show a vaccine record every time you enter a restaurant, grocery store, movie theater, or any other public establishment for the rest of your life. A TSA experience at every coffee shop. Your HR department will have a foothold into your personal medical records. It will be yet another tool for bureaucrats to harass you. Worst of all, it will desensitize the public to the construction of a system of massive social control and coercion that will be like China’s social credit system, but somehow more fake and ridiculous.  The precedent is terrifying. If they can coerce you to take one pharma product, after all, they can coerce you to take any pharma product. From here it’s a quick jump to mandatory flu vaccines, then who knows what else? Is there a pandemic of toxic masculinity? Why not mandatory estrogen injections for those deemed to be suffering from it? [Benjamin Braddock]
  • Start at Megève, near Chamonix, and amble and eat your way 100 miles down to Sospel, a hillside village near Monaco. It takes ten days to complete the trek; on most of them you will log up to eight hours of hiking, with 1,500- to 4,000-foot climbs on dirt footpaths that have served shepherds, tradesmen, and armies for centuries. Come evening, you’ll arrive in picturesque villages where a hot meal and a warm bed await. If your legs get too tired—or your belly too full—a few cable car rides along the way will lessen the pain. “I am excited to experience the beauty of the French Alps with our readers, though secretly I’m coming along just for the food,” says Jeremy-Miles Rellosa, the Outside editor joining this trip. Yes, the gooey raclette cheese, delicious local red wine, and stunning mountain views will undoubtedly leave you in awe, but this trip is also designed to hit the nooks and crannies of the French Alps that remain unknown to many North Americans, like the 12,650-foot Grande Casse massif of Vanoise, the nation’s first national park. By the time you arrive at the coast, you may want to turn north and walk back to where it all began. Or stay put and soak in the Mediterranean Sea. [Outside]
  • Modern architecture is meant to remind you of your status as a fungible tax serf and cubicle dweller, not to put any ideas in your head about any ennobling status as a citizen in good standing of a self-ruled republic. I hope that clears things up. [MR]
  • Pages 144-235 of Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order Volume One: The Phenomenon of Life contain a theory of beauty as perceived by humans, conveyed in fifteen “fundamental properties.” Not every property occurs in every beautiful object, but in very beautiful buildings and objects, many of these properties are usually apparent, baked into the logic, structure, and detail. Here I will briefly explain the fifteen fundamental properties, with reference to an early 20th century ivory dog netsuke and a Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture. [Carcinisation]
  • In sum, iron satisfies many of the conditions we might look for in a universally pro-aging substance. It accumulates with age; it is associated with many age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease; it catalyzes the formation of cellular junk molecules and helps to prevent their turnover; removal of iron from plasma may be rejuvenating; and people with lower levels of body iron – blood donors – have a lower mortality rate. Iron is intimately associated with aging, and control of body iron stores may be an important way to extend human lifespan. [Dennis Mangan]
  • Brad had previously had some success with a keto-based approach to dieting, but he was particularly confused by the so-called “French paradox”: french people in the ’60s and ‘70s consumed a diet made up of primarily white flour, white sugar, meat, and full-fat dairy, and still managed to be rail thin. Inspired heavily by another even less approachable researcher named Petro Dobromylskyj writing over at the "Hyperlipid" blog, Brad identified a plausible working theory of specific metabolic pathways that would lead linoleic acid (aka omega-6 aka the main PUFA in seed oils) to induce obesity, and how increasing the ratio of saturated fat in your diet might lead to weight loss. This theory is called the "ROS/SCD1 theory" after some key players in the mechanism. (If you ask me this is not a very catchy name. Nor do I think that “The Croissant Diet” is ultimately a very good name because I think it makes it sound like one of those fad diets the nutrition experts always warned us about.) Now, crucially, there is no equivalent mechanism to the ROS/SCD1 theory for how saturated fats could induce obesity that is plausible. That perspective relied on entirely on flawed correlational studies. This theory also fits all of the existing data, resolving the many unexplained “paradoxes”. With this in mind, Brad reexamined historical diets and realized that there is no particular reason why consuming starch would be bad necessarily. Starch is basically directly converted to saturated fat in the body (through a process called de novo lipogenesis). There are some nuances to this but I really am not qualified or interested in summarizing this whole theory so if you're curious just go to Brad's blog (https://fireinabottle.net/). So to test this out, he decided to eat a stunt diet primarily of croissants (which are 40% white flour, 60% butter) with some additional saturated fat in the form of Stearic acid. He was able to confirm that it induced weight loss over the course of a month, with comparable if not better results than keto/carnivore. He expanded these general principles out to the so-called “Croissant Diet” (TCD), which is a shockingly loosey-goosey set of principles to avoid seed oils and consume relatively more saturated fats. [Drew Schorno]
  • The judge erred in applying a standard derived from Delaware law in determining whether the shareholder had a proper purpose. In Delaware, as in Massachusetts, a shareholder's desire to investigate corporate wrongdoing or mismanagement is a proper purpose. See Seinfeld v. Verizon Communications, Inc.; Varney v. Baker. But the scope of corporate records that potentially may be inspected to conduct such an investigation under the Delaware counterpart of § 16.02 is far greater than under § 16.02, because the Delaware statute permits inspection of a corporation's "books and records," without specifying which books and records. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 8, § 220(b)(1). Under Delaware law, a shareholder may identify the category of corporate records he or she seeks to inspect, and the scope of inspection is left to the sound discretion of the judge. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 8, § 220(c)(3) ("The Court may, in its discretion, prescribe any limitations or conditions with reference to the inspection, or award such other or further relief as the Court may deem just and proper"); United Techs. Corp. v. Treppel (court has broad discretion to determine scope of inspection and use of information gathered); Security First Corp. v. U.S. Die Casting & Dev. Co. (judge "has wide latitude in determining the proper scope of inspection"). [Chitwood v. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.]
  • Oil and gas producer Occidental (OXY) wants to raise margins and re-establish dividend payments with new businesses such as carbon capture rather than producing more oil and gas, Chief Executive Vicki A. Hollub said on Thursday. Head of one of the largest U.S. producers, with a daily output of 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe), Hollub said oil companies can best contribute to the energy transition by producing just enough oil to meet the world's demand in a way that generates more cash and fewer emissions. "We don't see that in 2022 and beyond that we need to grow (production) significantly," Hollub said at an online event by the Energy Intelligence Forum. [link]
  • To Kolanovic, the chief global markets strategist at JPMorgan, the current energy and supply chain issues do not jeopardize but reinforces its rotation thesis. He says green policies have contributed to the current crisis, as it’s diverted capital from fossil fuel development, though at a certain point higher energy prices will boost traditional energy capital expenditure. Oil at $130, or even $150, won’t derail the economy, given the health of consumer balance sheets and total oil expenditures, he argues. “Consumer balance sheets are now in a strong position and some reallocation of expenditures towards energy would not set back the economy and equity markets. At the low end of the income range, potential strain from high gas prices could be an issue, but it can easily be addressed with a small fraction of current stimulus plans,” says Kolanovic. Investors should consider hedging for higher oil prices. That could come from going long commodities and short bonds, going long energy stocks, or going long value and short growth. [link]
  • The breaking of the European energy markets is just a symptom of a greater disease. It reflects the demise of the just-in-time logistics philosophy at the heart of modern capitalism. Companies can no longer delegate their survival to the tight performance of their supplier base in the name of efficiency. This works until it dramatically and disasterously doesn’t. There will be a massive build out of raw material and work-in-progress inventory, which will likely further exacerbate ongoing inflationary pressures in the near term. There will be a staggering wave of onshoring. Businesses simply can’t rely on unreliable ports, a shortage of longshoremen and truck drivers, or a backup in rail car availability. So, they won’t. [Doomberg]

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tuesday Night Links

  • It is intriguing to recognize that bats, the natural reservoir of coronavirus, have exceptionally high levels of melatonin, which may protect these animals from developing symptomatic disease. The slow release (extended release) formulation of melatonin is preferred as it more closely replicates the normal circadian rhythm. There is marked inter-individual variation in the metabolism of melatonin (first pass metabolism) hence the dose must be individualized. High serum levels are associated with hyper-REM sleep and bad dreams. Rapid release melatonin (usual over the counter formulation) results in early high peaks that do not replicate the normal circadian pattern; hence it is important to take the slow release/extended-release formulation. [link]
  • In U.S. states other than South Dakota and Florida, Americans actually started and lost a second war in 2020, this time against coronavirus. We poured all of our money and effort into the fight. Governors suspended what had been considered Constitutional rights, e.g., to assemble. After 1.5 years sitting at home growing (more) obese and less educated/skilled, Americans managed to rack up a COVID-19 death rate higher than in give-the-finger-to-the-virus Sweden. [Phil G]
  • Focusing on the U.S. Federal Reserve System (the Fed), the Article outlines a series of structural reforms that would radically redefine the role of a central bank as the ultimate public platform for generating, modulating, and allocating financial resources in a democratic economy—the People’s Ledger. On the liability side of the ledger, the Article envisions the complete migration of demand deposit accounts to the Fed’s balance sheet and explores the full range of new, more direct and flexible, monetary policy tools enabled by this shift. On the asset side, it advocates a comprehensive qualitative restructuring of the Fed’s investment portfolio, which would maximize its capacity to channel credit to productive uses in the nation’s economy. [Saule T. Omarova]
  • They are all uncannily similar in that 1) there was a parabolic rise in share price, 2) the rise was not justified by fundamentals, and 3) they have failed to sustain any momentum to the upside for longer than 6-months. In addition to the momentum stock charts that appear to be breaking, the Nasdaq versus Energy chart is also breaking lower (implying energy to materially outperform tech going forward). [HFI Research]
  • I’ve talked to people who feel they know Bach very well, but they aren’t aware of the time he was imprisoned for a month. They never learned about Bach pulling a knife on a fellow musician during a street fight. They never heard about his drinking exploits—on one two-week trip he billed the church eighteen groschen for beer, enough to purchase eight gallons of it at retail prices—or that his contract with the Duke of Saxony included a provision for tax-free beer from the castle brewery; or that he was accused of consorting with an unknown, unmarried woman in the organ loft; or had a reputation for ignoring assigned duties without explanation or apology. They don’t know about Bach’s sex life: at best a matter of speculation, but what should we conclude from his twenty known children, more than any significant composer in history (a procreative career that has led some to joke with a knowing wink that “Bach’s organ had no stops”), or his second marriage to twenty-year-old singer Anna Magdalena Wilcke, when he was in his late thirties? They don’t know about the constant disciplinary problems Bach caused, or his insolence to students, or the many other ways he found to flout authority. This is the Bach branded as “incorrigible” by the councilors in Leipzig, who grimly documented offense after offense committed by their stubborn and irascible employee. But you hardly need to study these incidents in Bach’s life to gauge his subversive tendencies. Just listen to his music, which in its ostentatious display of technique and inventiveness must have disturbed many in the austere Lutheran community, and even fellow musicians. Not much music criticism of his performances has survived, but the few surviving reactions of his contemporaries leave no doubt about Bach’s disdain for the rules others played by. [Lapham's Quarterly]
  • There were too many Oswalds in view, with too many smuggled rifles, retelling a familiar story to too many witnesses. At least one curtain rods story, and the disposable witness who heard it, had to go. The obvious person to be jettisoned was the hapless Ralph Yates. The stubborn insistence on what he knew he had seen and heard, from the man he had given a ride, had to be squelched. [CBS]
  • The metal resource needed to make all cars and vans electric by 2050 and all sales to be purely battery electric by 2035. To replace all UK-based vehicles today with electric vehicles (not including the LGV and HGV fleets), assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation NMC 811 batteries, would take 207,900 tonnes cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE), at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, in addition to 2,362,500 tonnes copper. This represents, just under two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and 12% of the world’s copper production during 2018. Even ensuring the annual supply of electric vehicles only, from 2035 as pledged, will require the UK to annually import the equivalent of the entire annual cobalt needs of European industry. The worldwide impact: If this analysis is extrapolated to the currently projected estimate of two billion cars worldwide, based on 2018 figures, annual production would have to increase for neodymium and dysprosium by 70%, whilst cobalt output would need to increase at least three and a half times for the entire period from now until 2050 to satisfy the demand. Energy cost of metal production: This choice of vehicle comes with an energy cost too.  Energy costs for cobalt production are estimated at 7000-8000 kWh for every tonne of metal produced and for copper 9000 kWh/t.  The rare-earth energy costs are at least 3350 kWh/t, so for the target of all 31.5 million cars that requires 22.5 TWh of power to produce the new metals for the UK fleet, amounting to 6% of the UK’s current annual electrical usage.  Extrapolated to 2 billion cars worldwide, the energy demand for extracting and processing the metals is almost 4 times the total annual UK electrical output. Energy cost of charging electric cars: There are serious implications for the electrical power generation in the UK needed to recharge these vehicles. Using figures published for current EVs (Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe), driving 252.5 billion miles uses at least 63 TWh of power. This will demand a 20% increase in UK generated electricity. Challenges of using ‘green energy’ to power electric cars: If wind farms are chosen to generate the power for the projected two billion cars at UK average usage, this requires the equivalent of a further years’ worth of total global copper supply and 10 years’ worth of global neodymium and dysprosium production to build the windfarms. Solar power is also problematic – it is also resource hungry; all the photovoltaic systems currently on the market are reliant on one or more raw materials classed as “critical” or “near critical” by the EU and/ or US Department of Energy (high purity silicon, indium, tellurium, gallium) because of their natural scarcity or their recovery as minor-by-products of other commodities. With a capacity factor of only ~10%, the UK would require ~72GW of photovoltaic input to fuel the EV fleet; over five times the current installed capacity. If CdTe-type photovoltaic power is used, that would consume over thirty years of current annual tellurium supply. Both these wind turbine and solar generation options for the added electrical power generation capacity have substantial demands for steel, aluminium, cement and glass. [Richard Herrington]
  • That helps explain why the Biden administration has been pressing the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to produce more oil. “We continue to speak to international partners, including OPEC, on the importance of competitive markets and setting prices and doing more to support the recovery,” Jen Psaki, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, said last week. [NYT]
  • If a subordinate tells you that an asset on your balance sheet does not exist, you either write it off or you are a fraud. But Jens Peter Clausen wrote, "We properly want to go deep this quarter?" And Adithya Vijayakumar wrote that Mike was "working with the finance team to get the buy off on scrapping the modules for the second quarter." That makes it sound like actual ground truth is not the final arbiter of what appears in Tesla financial statements. This is not the first time there have been Tesla cost accounting irregularities. Remember that the government indicted someone in Tesla's accounts payable department for impersonating employees of one Tesla vendor (Hota Industrial Manufacturing of Taiwan) in order to substitute their payment information with the payment information of a different vendor, Schwabische Huttenwerke Automotive GmbH (SHW). [CBS]
  • The primary driver of quality returns is growth in assets. Profitability decreases, which makes sense as profits across the economy mean revert and high profits should get competed away. Valuation multiples improve, which is perhaps surprising, as they generally begin at elevated levels, but this improvement only just offsets the contraction in profitability. High quality companies mostly deliver returns by getting bigger. Contrast this with the drivers of top decile value returns shown below. The top decile of the value factor delivers returns through change in multiples. The companies have anemic asset growth, and profitability does not improve. But multiples do. This reflects our understanding of how value works. Low multiples often reflect poor earnings. But while earnings may continue to be poor, they are not as bad as was priced, so multiples improve. Value is the racecar, hard to beat, but prone to accidents around the curves. Quality loses to value much of the time but is much more consistent and performs better when growth slows. There is one final difference that matters to investors. Because value derives from market valuations, which are volatile, while quality derives from company profitability, which changes more slowly, companies in the quality portfolio tend stay in the quality portfolio with lower turnover than companies in the value portfolio. In our dataset, quality companies were likely to still be in the portfolio three years after being added, while value companies were likely to be out of the portfolio after two years. Value requires more frequent rebalancing than quality. [verdadcap]

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Books Read - Q3 2021

Previously: Q1 2021 book reviews, Q2 2021 book reviews, our 2020 Book Review Compendium, 2019 book compendium and 2018 book compendium, and pre-2018 book compendium.

  • Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food (3.5/5) Looking for a book to give to normies about the highest-impact steps to take to improve health. Author Cate Shanahan's two key points: avoiding sugar and avoiding seed oils. (Same as Mangan's key points.) She mentions that the president of the Culinary Institute of America challenged her in 2012 about her criticism of canola oil, saying that she was spreading misinformation (!). Charles Henning told her that "We have to feed the masses. There's just not enough olive oil for everyone." She has consulted on diet for NBA teams and found that "twenty-six of the twenty-nine five star hotels on the NBA tour use vegetable oils or blends in place of olive oil for pizza sauces, salad dressings, hollandaise, marinades, mashed potatoes, baked goods-you name it." This is the principal-agent problem in action. No one is going to give you expensive, wholesome ingredients if they can sneak inferior ones past you without you noticing. Mangan pointed out something alarming about seed oils the other day: "human adipose tissue linoleic acid has a half-life of 1-2 years"! She mentions Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price, a book which I have had on my list but have not read yet. She also mentions Fighting the Food Giants by Paul Stitt. Other highlights: "Reorienting our financial priorities around healthy eating rebuilds our family's genetic wealth and is the best investment we can make." "Find the best ingredients grown on the richest soil in the most wholesome, sustainable manner" "Pungent vegetables like celery, peppers, broccoli, arugula, and garlic contain more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals per bite than starchy vegetables..." "Traditional life seemed to revolve around collecting and concentrating nutrition." "Today at every stage in the process of producing food, we do things differently than our sturdy, self-sufficient ancestors did." "[T]he guy driving the Porsche Carerra to the surgical suite to thread another stent into another artery of another patient is almost guaranteed to be thirty years, or more, behind in his knowledge of nutrition and its role in the etiology of the arterial disease that, indirectly, paid for his house..." "There's no drug to raise HDL but there are drugs to lower LDL: the statins." "Processed foods made with vegetable oils are also the foods typically loaded with sugar, so cutting vegetable oil automatically helps you to cut sugar intake." Epigenetics: "DNA seems capable of collecting information-through the language of food-about changing conditions in the outside world, enacting alteration based on that information, and documenting both the collected data and its response for the benefit of subsequent generations." Margarine: "one molecule away from plastic". Omega 3 supplements: "Consuming purchased supplements entails risk of exposure to unacceptably oxidized oil. Get your omega-3 fix from real foods, like sushi, oysters, grass-fed butter, raw nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds, and lots of green leafy vegetables." "My preferred method of omega-3 supplementation is with flax seeds that you grind fresh before using."
  • The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence (3/5) Thinking about inflation lately, since we are living through another major inflation. Robert Samuelson thinks of 1960-2010 as a half century that was "one long economic cycle dominated by inflation's rise and fall". During the first half with constant inflation, "large price increases were the norm, like a rain that never stopped. Sometimes it was a pitter-patter, sometimes a downpour. But it was almost always raining. From week to week, people couldn't know the cost of their groceries, utility bills, appliances, dry cleaning, toothpaste, and pizza. People couldn't predict whether their wages and salaries would keep pace. People couldn't plan; their savings were at risk. And no one seemed capable of controlling inflation." Issues with inflation and accounting: "As inflation rose, companies' sales and profits grew rapidly. Managers believed they were doing better than they were; they paid less attention to the many small daily operational matters that improve efficiency. From 1964 to 1974, after tax profits jumped from $41 billion to $95 billion." Here's something funny: "Inconvenient bursts of inflation were blamed on onetime events: spending for the Vietnam War or global surges in oil prices." Crooked moron Lyndon Johnson tried to "persuade and bully" people not to raise prices: "When egg prices rose in the spring of 1966 and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman told him that not much could be done, Johnson had the Surgeon General issue alerts as to the hazards of cholesterol in eggs."
  • Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising (3/5) Picked up a used copy of this; the author Leland Baldwin (1897-1981) seems interesting. (He once observed that colonies were 'funhouse mirrors' of their mother countries' cultures.) Good description of the Whiskey Rebellion: "Washington sent an army of same size he used against the British during Revolutionary War to decimate the Appalachia Scotch-Irish who thought it was outrageous they were being forced to pay for the British colonies' war against England." Other books by LDB: The Story of The Americas; The Keelboat Age on Western Waters; Pittsburgh: The Story of a City, 1780-1865; Recent American History. Summary in his words: "The Revolution was over, and a federal government was already consolidating the fruits of victory in the hands of the Eastern moneyed classes. The West, perfectly aware of this fact, complained bitterly that it had been induced to pour out the blood of its men, women, and children simply to enrich speculators and manufacturers. The Indian Raids still continued against the outlying settlements; speculators had engrossed the best lands and demanded extravagant prices for them..." "The Whiskey Insurrection was one of the signposts that market the cleavage amidst the people, particularly between the agrarians and the rising industrial and mercantile class. Probably the thinking members of both sides did not fail to note this. The anger of the dominant elements against the West showed the hollowness of their tirades in favor of Liberty - at least from the equalitarian standpoint - and laid them open to the accusation of wanting independence so that they could rule without British interference." "The westerner of the seventeen-nineties saw more or less clearly that it was the economy of the frontier individualist that was being undermined. With the limited vision incident to any decade he thought he had his back to the wall making his last stand against plutocratic individualism. As a matter of fact Armageddon, that mythical struggle that is always coming but never arrives, was as far in the future as ever. There was too much cheap land farther west to make it worth while to stand and fight to the bitter end." Regarding the hunting-gathering Indians, Pittsburgh lawyer Hugh Brackenridge said, "I consider the earth as given to man in common, and each should use his share, so as not to exclude others, and should be restricted to that mode of using it, which is most favourable to the support of the greatest numbers, and consequently productive of the greatest sum of happiness; that is, the cultivation of the soil." Per LDB: "The cure for Indian troubles favored by the frontiersmen was extermination of the Indians, and from this policy they rarely deviated either in theory or practice. In their minds it was a simple problem of choosing which race should survive, and they did not hesitate to choose. There has never been a time in the westward advance when the pioneers ceased to echo the early cry of the Pennsylvania squatters that 'it was against laws of God and nature that so much land should lie idle while so many Christians wanted it to work on and to raise their bread.'" "For years the West had urged a land tax as the most equitable method of taxation. The purpose in this was twofold: first, the East would bear the greatest burden, since land there was more valuable on account of superior improvements and proximity to markets; and second, it was hoped that the taxing of the western land held by speculators would force them to sell it at reasonable rates and thus hasten the development of the West. Now it was perfectly apparent to the westerner... that the laying of the excise was a clever move on the part of the eastern plutocracy to escape a land tax..."
  • Oxygen: The molecule that made the world (4/5) Science writer author Nick Lane also wrote Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the meaning of life, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, and The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life. He is quite interested in mitochondria and aging. "If organic remains are buried rather than eaten, then the complete re-uptake of oxygen by consumers is prevented. The left-over oxygen accumulates in the atmosphere. Almost all our precious oxygen is derived from a 3-billion-year mismatch between the amount of oxygen generated by the primary producers and the amount used up by consumers. The vast amount of dead organic matter buried in the rocks dwarfs the total carbon content of the living world." The "unparalleled rate of coal formation in the Carboniferous and early Permian" (90% of world reserves) was caused by "an exceptionally high rate of lignin production, and exceptionally low rate of lignin breakdown, and nearly perfect conditions for preserving organic matter." As below, so above - this would have caused a significant increase in the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere. "Rising oxygen levels may therefore have favored confederations of cells, from which grew the most efficient energy system for powering life - numerous mitochondria per cell - and the first stirrings of cellular organization. If so, it is quite possible that a tendency to huddle together as clumps of cells, to alleviate the toxicity of oxygen, was an impetus to the evolution of multicellular life." "[O]xygen releases much more energy from food than do sulphur, nitrogen, or iron compounds acting as oxidants and is an order of magnitude better than fermentation. The consequences of this simple fact are startling. In particular, the length of any food chain is determined by the amount of energy lost from one level of the chain to the next. This, in turn, depends on the efficiency of energy metabolism. [...] food chains must be very short in the absence of oxygen. [But with oxygen powered respiration,] carnivorous food chains pay and the predator is born. The dominant position of predators in modern ecosystems is not possible without oxygen. It is no fluke that the Cambrian animals were the Earth's first real predators." Oxygen dissolves better in cold water and in fresh water: "giant amphipods will be among the first species to disappear if global temperatures rise, or if oxygen levels decline." Quotes something interesting from Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine: "plants and animals existing in the Carboniferous times must presumably have had enhanced antioxidant defenses." "An average adult... gets though nearly a quarter of a litre of oxygen every minute. If only 1 per cent of this leaks away to form superoxide radicals, we would still produce 1.7 kilograms of superoxide each year." A way to measure the damage caused by free radicals is the rate of excretion of oxidized DNA building blocks in the urine (e.g. 8-OHdG). So, "the damage done by breathing for one year is equivalent to a whole-body radiation dose of 1 sievert (or 1 joule energy per kilogram)." "The genes that protect against radiation are not only the same as those that protect against oxygen toxicity, but are also the same as many of those that protect against other types of physical stress such as heat, infection, heavy metals, or toxins. [...] The reason for this cross-protection is that many different physical stresses all funnel in to a single common damage process in the cell, so all can be withstood through common protective mechanisms. This shared pathology is a rise in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between free-radical production and antioxidant protection. However, it is not just a pathological state, but also acts as a signal to the cell that it is under threat." "The integration of protective mechanisms against oxidative stress raises the possibility that life might have evolved ways of dealing with oxygen toxicity long before there was any oxygen in the atmosphere - ionizing radiation alone might do the trick." His theory of aging: "The impression that ageing is programmed is strongest in animals that undergo 'catastrophic' senescence. The most famous example is the Pacific salmon, though there are several others..." "Some sort of oxidative stress is a necessary signal for cells to marshal their genetic response to physiological stress. If we block oxidative stress, we may make ourselves more vulnerable to infection. Seen in this light, it is quite conceivable that we are 'refractory' to large doses of dietary antioxidants because they interfere with our response to stress." He says: "I suggest that there is a trade-off between oxidative stress as a signalling pathway that musters our defences against infection, and oxidative stress as a cause of ageing. In effect, the diseases of old age are the price we pay for the way in which we are set up to handle infections and other forms of stress in our youth." "Infectious diseases cause a rise in oxidative stress, which is largely responsible for coordinating our genetic response to the infection. As we age, mitochondrial respiration also causes a rise in oxidative stress, which activates essentially the same genes through a common mechanism that involves transcription factors like NFkB. Unlike infections, however, ageing is not easily reversed: mitochondrial damage accumulated continuously. The stress response and inflammation therefore persist, and this creates a harsh environment for the expression of 'normal' genes. The expression of normal genes in an oxidized environment is the basis of their negative pleiotropic effects in old age." "As we have seen, antioxidants rarely cure diseases, let alone ageing. Of the many possible explanations for this - perhaps they are not potent enough, or do not get to the right place in the right amount at the right time - the most inherently believable is that free radicals are only part of the problem." Antioxidants "cannot halt mitochondrial leakage, and cells are refractory to overloading with antioxidants, lest they smother the powerful genetic response to injury."
  • The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection (4/5) We reviewed author Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef in Q2. This is volume 2 in his series on professional cooking, and he writes about a 10 day Certified Master Chef exam, plus profiles chefs Michael Symon and Thomas Keller (of French Laundry and Per Se). For literary nonfiction, I would put him right with Peter Hessler among the generation that followed John McPhee. It is interesting to piece together how he got his writing career off the ground. His first book was Boys Themselves, about his all-boys day school in Cleveland. Then he hit on cooking and attended the CIA for cooking school for the Making of a Chef, which has led to a bonanza of cooking related book opportunities, many as co-authorships with famous chefs. He got in touch with a woman in Cleveland who he had heard was "one of the best-connected people in the food world with regard to knowing great chefs." It turned out that she was helping Thomas Keller put together a book: "we were going to go with a cookbook writer, but Thomas wants a real story, so we were thinking about getting a real writer."A reviewer of his first book likened his manner to John McPhee, and she said, "Oh, John McPhee. That's who someone suggested we get to do the cookbook." His thought: "John McPhee, the nonfiction writer's nonfiction writer, the literary journalist's icon, hero, guru, unreachable deity toward whom one could only strive." He gets the job, and what is interesting about researching and writing that book is, "Less that a year earlier I was making brown sauce in the American Bounty restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, and now I was about to be given entree into the kitchen of the French Laundry, to interview its cooks and purveyors, taste anything I wanted, watch the cooking, try to get inside the mind of this unusual chef, and eat several times at this place, one of the best restaurants in America." When he was there 20 years ago, the tasting menu was $65 and now it's $350. Keller believed in butter: "butter, butter, butter, give me more butter." "After the reduction sauces of nouvelle arrived on the scene, and the country grew concerned about the amount of fat it ate, bearnaise and its associates all but vanished. Keller served it with reverence." As a friend of CBS says, "French cooking is the art of maximizing the highest tolerance in a dish for consumption of butter." "One of the things you learn in culinary school and working in restaurants is that everything, but everything gets a sauce. Nothing is complete without a sauce. You will never at a good restaurant be served a piece of meat until it has been sauced. Appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, and desserts always, always got some form of sauce. Sauce is so pervasive sometimes it's the only thing you get, in which case it's called soup. Sauces are a big deal, the main flavor enhancer, the seasoning, the moisture, the counterpoint. Because meat based sauces, sauces that begin as stock, are not easy and are easily ruined or bad - thick and pasty, tasteless, gummy, gunky, muddy, scorched, oversalted, underskimmed, fatty, greasy, wrong consistency, wrong color, insufficiently strained, cloudy - because so much could go wrong with a sauce, sauce was the true test of a cook, proof of the chef's subtlety and grace." The business of restaurants - Michael Symon talking about serving boring filet mignon: "Who's more stupid: them for eating it or me for not serving it when they ask?" Symon wasn't generous with sauces - but when Ruhlman would point out a "dry" dish, he'd say, "I know, we sell more wine that way!" Ruhlman reminiscing about CIA training: "I learned efficiency of movement to minimize wasted energy and time, and the idea of efficiency of movement extended to intellectual work. I began to value speed of movement more than ever before."
  • Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard (4/5) After writing his cooking book, he moves to Martha's Vineyard, where two boat builders Nat and Ross "are doing in Vineyard Haven what everyone thinks is happening in Maine but isn't". "Rarely was a working class so well enmeshed with an upper class, the wealthy and well heeled who paid for their product, as in the world of wooden boats. In few places anywhere did the rich and successful and famous revere the working class more than in this world." "[W]ooden boats, when they're being sold, are invariably old and tired and leak like hell. That's why they're being sol! No one sells a beautiful wooden boat in excellent condition that's great to sail - he'd be a fool. Boats like that, people keep: that's why they have them in the first place. What happens is that someone neglects a great wooden boat for too many years, and when it gets to be too expensive and too much of a headache to repair, then he sells it." "Old wooden boats you're forever repairing: broken ribs, water raining through the deck onto the bunks, seeping inexorably through the cracks... Fiberglass doesn't leak. Fiberglass doesn't rot. If you neglect wood, the wood resents it. Fiberglass couldn't care less. Wood is humanities and the arts, fiberglass is science. Wood is emotion, fiberglass is reason. And yet a few people kept building boats out of wood in the modern 1960s and even in the 1970s - oddballs, back-to-nature hippies, and eccentrics who just happened to like them. Wooden boats often stick around for a long time, and those tired old wooden boats were cheap for impecunious yachties willing to do a whole lot of work on them, willing to spend more time working than sailing, if they were lucky enough to do any sailing at all (often, floating was as far as they got)." "But as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, so many things were being made of plastic [that] 'plastic' turned into a metaphor for cheapness [and] impermanence...wood was the opposite." The G&B boat builders had a man in Suriname sourcing wood: "He kept an eye out for pieces of wood that were curved. A strong curved piece of wood is useless to a carpenter, a cabinetmaker, a house builder, but it's treasure to a boatwright. A boat is composed mainly of curves, and if a piece of wood has grown with a curve in it, that curve will be stronger than one manipulated by bending or sawing." Constraints: "Fiberglass boats often have true curves, but that isn't a given. You can make a fiberglass boat in any shape you want, unlike a traditional wooden boat. Thus many designers do make them any shape, most often enlarging the belly unnaturally to create more sleeping space below. The shape of a wooden boat is limited by how far wood can bend." When this book was written, Maine and Washington state were the states with the highest number of wooden boat building and designing firms. The west coast wooden boat center was Port Townsend, WA, on the Olympic Peninsula. Martha's Vineyard: "There's a level of culture here that you don't find in other places with money." "The thing about building boats of wood is you never really get as good as you want to be at it. Furniture makers approach perfection. Their joints get tighter and tighter, and the pieces are more perfect. And boats are the same way. The more you do it, the better you get. But you don't take a piece of furniture and thrash it around in salt water and sunshine. If a furniture maker took his dining room table and went out and rowed it around in the harbor, and then let it sit out in the sunshine for a couple years, what would be left?" "With [a wooden] boat, all the pieces are gathered from all over the world and put together by artists. With a [fiberglass] boat, it comes in a big barrel from New Jersey. The value of a wooden boat goes up every year like a house's. The value of a plastic boat goes down every year like a car's." "[Cedar] is the least expensive good-quality wood you can buy. It's light, durable, rot resistant." "When Nat hikes through a forest, he sees boats." "[T]he workman is, or should be, invested in his toolbox; he therefore instructs every new apprentice to build his own box as his first order of duty, and he points him to the scraps of topical hardwoods stacked against the wall beside the wood-burning stove." "Jon ran into a problem as soon as he tried to get material for his newsletter. Boatbuilders are not typically the most loquacious of people - they build boats, they don't contribute to newsletters." "Not only did Nat have the good fortune to find and stay on the perfect spot of earth for what he wanted to do, he also had the good luck to meet another man who had found the smart thing and who shared his appreciation of the elemental appeal and fundamental sense of traditional wooden vessels."
  • House: A Memoir (3/5) Another Ruhlman book. This time he buys a 100 year old house in a leafy suburb of Cleveland (his hometown) and deals with having it restored. Describing Cleveland Heights: "The houses here had been created largely in the first three decades of the century-spacious Tudors, humble but elegant Colonials, Queen Annes, Beaux Arts, quintessential bungalows, Prairie, Victorian - virtually every style of residential architecture from those decades was represented here, neighboring one another, along with a few nineteenth century farmhouses. On a twenty minute bike ride, you might see a sizeable swath of residential architectural history, homes built with the materials that were mainly taken for granted when they were used - first-growth timber, blocks of quarried sandstone that had been hand carved. Even the bricks had a patina and warmth that distinguished them. The operative fact was that the structures built during or before the 1920s had a textural richness in their details - the mullions, the eaves, the gables - and had an integrity in their materials, not of which existed anymore." "Hiring a moving company for the first time was a definitive indication of adulthood. I'd always thought of U-Haul as an unfortunate but necessary fact of life... I am confident in marking my adulthood not at or before my marriage, not at the birth of either of my children, not at the publication of my first book, but rather at the desire and ability to hire a moving company."
  • Eat a Peach: A Memoir (2/5) I've been enjoying food writing so much lately (Bill Buford, Michael Ruhlman) that I thought I would give David Chang's memoir a chance. I've heard good things about his restaurants (e.g. Momofuku) in New York and Los Angeles, but this book was pretty bad. Unlike the high-functioning Ruhlman or Buford, Chang is (or was) a depressed drug abuser. He had a good vision for what to cook and sell, but a messy personal life and not great business sense. His goal was to be a popular cook at all costs rather than some other more balanced and sensible goal. He also had quite a bit of racial resentment from being a second generation Asian immigrant.
  • World Made by Hand: A Novel (4/5) This is architectural critic James Howard Kunstler's 2008 novel about peak oil. It takes place in an upstate New York town that has reverted to an agrarian economy with most of the (remaining) population working in food production after energy scarcity and a nuclear attack collapses the country. It is the first in what ended up being a four part series of novels. Here's a funny one-star review by a bugman: "Welcome to the town of Union Grove, New York, where the men are brutal, the women are subservient, and non-white people don’t exist." This paragraph is classic Kunstler: "It was hard to imagine that we used to cultivate lawns. My yard was now a raised bed garden. It was geometrical, a cruciform pattern, the beds transacted on the diagonal as well, with brick paths carefully laid. With our many material privations, it was not possible to live without beauty anymore. I spent a lot of time in my garden, and the feel of being in it was as important to me as the vegetable I grew. At the center, I built a birdbath out of stacked granite blocks with a concave piece of slate on top that caught the rain. The birds seemed satisfied with it and it was pleasant to look at. I would have preferred a statue of the goddess Diana in the manner of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but I hadn't managed to scrounge one up." Another: "The old high school complex itself was a 1970s-vintage modernist monstrosity, a U-shaped set of low-slung rectilinear boxes like ten thousand other schools around the nation from the period. Seeing the building usually made me deeply sad and even a little angry, the way that refrigerator in my garden did. Its vision of yesterday's tomorrow seemed pitiful. Children like my Daniel and Genna had sat in those very box buildings under buzzing fluorescent lights listening to their science teachers prattle about the wonders of space travel and gene splicing..." Or: "I went and hit the power button on the old stereo. In doing it, I was conscious of putting something behind me: the expectation that things would ever be normal again. There was a kind of relief in it. I also turned off the electric lights so they wouldn't come on and scare anybody again."
  • Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization (4/5) See full review on CBS. First in a series of tobacco books for a reading program.
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (3.5/5) This is Nathaniel Philbrick's (author of Mayflower, Valiant Ambition, and In the Hurricane's Eye) story of the sinking of a Nantucket whaleship in 1820 in the south Pacific. It was attacked by a whale that it was hunting! The sailors were in trouble when their ship sank and they were left with three creaky, smaller whaleboats far from land and without good navigation equipment or much knowledge of Pacific islands. So much trouble that they end up resorting to cannibalism on two of the boats that were rescued. (One didn't make it.) Highlights: "Nantucket's shipowners could be as fierce in their own bloodless way as any whaleman. They might 'act the Quaker," but that didn't keep them from pursuing profits with a lethal enthusiasm. In Moby-Dick, one of the Pequod's owners is Bildad, a pious Quaker whose religious scruples do not prevent him from extorting cruelly long lays from the crew (he offers Ishmael a 1/777 lay!). With his bible in one hand and ledgerbook in the other, Bildad resembles a lean, Quakerly John D. Rockefeller..." "[T]he forecastle had its merits. Its isolation (the only way to enter it was from a hatchway in the deck) meant that its occupants could create their own world. When he sailed on a merchant voyage in the 1830s, Richard Henry Dana, the author of Two Years Before the Mast, preferred the cameraderie of the forecastle to steerage..." "[I]n 1848 came the discovery of gold in California. Hundreds of Nantucketers surrendered to the lure of easy wealth in the West. Abandoning careers as whalemen, they shipped out as passengers bound for San Francisco, packed into the same ships in which they had once pursued the mighty sperm whale. The Golden Gate became the burial ground of countless Nantucket whaleships, abandoned by their crews and left to rot on the mudflats. Long before Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859, Nantucket's economic fate had been determined. Over the next twenty years, the island's population would shrink from ten thousand to three thousand."
  • The Rediscovery of Tobacco: Smoking, Vaping, and the Creative Destruction of the Cigarette (4/5) Second book in our tobacco reading program. Author Jacob Grier is a Portland coffee shop commie (see physique), pro-BLM, but he's staunchly pro-smokers' rights and he even smokes cigars himself. He makes an interesting point: "the cigarette's domination of the 20th century is a glaring anomaly." Prior to the mass production of the cigarette in 1895, people used tobacco in all kinds of ways, most of which did not involve inhalation of smoke into the lungs: cigars, snuff, and chaw, for example. He asks, "Could smoking in the twenty-first century come to resemble the diversity of tobacco use in the past? Could tobacco follow the trajectory of goods like coffee and beer, rebounding from corporate consolidation to enter a new age of appreciation for quality and variety?" Cigarette smoke has a lower pH than pipe or cigar smoke, which makes it possible to inhale it into the lungs. "This inhalation encourages a different pattern of use. Smokers of cigars and pipes absorb nicotine more gradually. Cigarette smokers become accustomed instead to sharp peaks of stimulation, creating cravings that can only be satisfied by frequently re-upping with another smoke. The unfamiliar potency of the cigarette brought on dependence in the smokers who took it up. Although this was not initially an intentional design feature of cigarettes, it was a boon to producers. Through accidents of agriculture and processing they created the most effective and addictive nicotine delivery vehicle ever devised. 'The cigarette was to tobacco as the hypodermic syringe was to opiates.'" It was WWI, and providing cigarettes to men in the trenches, that really made cigarettes and that made western governments supporters of Big Tobacco. By 1922, cigarettes were outselling loose leaf and plug tobacco in the U.S. Grier's idea is that cigarettes are the problem and other forms of nicotine delivery have a much better risk-reward tradeoff. He calls it "Slow Tobacco": "The [cigarette] is made for a five-minute work break... A pipe or cigar, in contrast, requires a commitment of time. [...] The need to slow down and savor the tobacco, appreciating its subtle nuances, is part of the appeal. For people who decide to experiment with Slow Tobacco, we might go so far as to offer advice mirroring Michael Pollan's for eating, urging most importantly to avoid the deadly and addictive trap of cigarettes: 'Smoke tobacco, if you choose. Not too often. Mostly cigars and pipes.'" He looks at meta-analyses of smoking risk. "Heavy cigar smokers and cigar smokers who also smoke cigarettes suffer the highest risks. Of the studies that examined men smoking one-to-two cigars per day, none reported statistically significant increases in risk for all-cause mortality or heart disease, and only one reported a statistically significant increase for cancer." "For people who smoke infrequently and do not consciously inhale, the dose-response relationship for smoking-related cancers suggests that any elevation in risk must be quite low." He points out that Obamacare insurers are only allowed to discriminate against smokers (which is ridiculous) and that HHS regulation defines "tobacco use" as four or more times per week. Mentions The Cult of Statistical Significance, a book by two economists, which argues, "Researchers run their regressions, or they review the published literature, and the only question they ask is whether an effect exists." "Yes or no, they say, and then they stop. They have ceased asking the scientific question 'How much is the effect?" And they have therefore ceased being interested in the pragmatic questions that follow: 'What Difference Does the Effect Make?' and 'Who Cares?' They have become, as we put it, 'sizeless'." He goes through a history of bogus claims that anti-smoking researchers have made in recent years, like "thirdhand smoke". "Prominent anti-tobacco researchers have adopted a thoroughly ends-justify-the-means approach to science. They will promote any finding that helps delegitimize tobacco use, no matter how far-fetched or unsupported by the evidence." As part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with states, the big tobacco companies were required "to dismantle pro-industry organizations and fund anti-smoking research." So the situation is like climate change (formerly global warming) research, where only one side is funded, and there's no pushback against the zealous ideologues. There's a good chapter (Bootleggers and Baptists) about how the MSA in 1998 was fantastic for big tobacco, "structured in ways that converted the tobacco companies into a legally protected cartel." "All fifty states passed laws requiring cigarette companies that were not part of the MSA to either join the agreement or pay penalties..." "There's no doubt that the largest financial stakeholder in our industry is our state governments," said a tobacco executive. Another helpful regulation was the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which gave the FDA regulatory authority. Its anti-competitive measure is the one that requires the FDA to review new tobacco products before they are introduced for sale. (Products sold before 2007 are grandfathered in.) "The Tobacco Control Act essentially froze the market for cigarettes, protecting Marlboro's market share." The bootlegger and baptist dynamic is that "Big Tobacco benefits by raising the costs faced by these potential competitors, and the moral case for regulation is provided by anti-smoking groups, many of them funded in part by cigarette makers' own MSA payments." There's a Scandinavian tobacco usage paradox: "Tobacco use in Sweden and Norway is still robust; it has simply shifted to forms that are much safer than cigarettes. The Scandinavian experience shows that significant gains in public health can be achieved by persuading people to give up smoking even if they don't give up tobacco or nicotine altogether." "The methods of production used in making snus render it chemically distinct from older American-style chewing tobacco and other oral tobaccos... Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, Swedish snus producers developed standards to minimize carcinogenic constituents created by microbial growth and fire-curing of tobacco. Contemporary snus is made with air-cured tobacco leaves and a steam heating process that results in much lower concentrations of nitrosamines..." We were just talking about how paradoxes are refutations. "Snus became available in the United States fairly recently, though it remains a very niche part of the tobacco market. This is likely due to its association with chewing tobacco, since the differences between chew and snus are not obvious to the casual consumer. The FDA also forbids snus companies from marketing their product as a lower risk alternative to cigarettes..." He concludes the book: "The electronic cigarette may turn out to be the most significant innovation in the nicotine market since the Bonsack machine automated cigarette rolling in the 1880s. Vaping arose while mainstream tobacco control activists obsessed over trivial ideas like changing the colors of cigarette packaging; that it arose at all is thanks to a decade of permissionless innovation..."