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..."

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