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Monday, January 31, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Part III)

One of the posters reading this noted that nicotine is a neurotoxin. This is the sort of thing I am talking about.  If you make the definition of neurotoxicity "anything that affects the nervous system" (as described here) then yes, nicotine is a neurotoxin, just like love, chocolate and caffeine.

Nicotine is probably one of the most widely used drugs on earth - particularly when you consider its alternate forms (things into which it is converted or is part of) such as Vitamin B3 (niacin). 

(For those that are interested the E-cigarette forum thread is here.)

First off, Vitamin B3 is nicotinic acid (created commercially by literally treating nicotine with nitric acid) - also known as niacin.  Humans, unlike some animals, cannot manufacture Vitamin B3 on their own so they must get it from their diets.

B3 is required for health.  You cannot live without it.

Pure nicotine, on the other hand, is naturally present in eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and a whole host of other foods.  So, unless you avoid these types of food, you are exposed to nicotine on almost a daily basis.  (Though it is present in these foods the levels are generally much lower than the levels in cigarettes.  Eggplant has the most - about 10% of what might be in a cigarette.  The levels in other plants are about 10% that of eggplant.)

(I suppose that if you believe that nicotine is a neurotoxin then your mother's admonishment to "eat your vegetables" is tantamount to a conspiracy to kill you...!!)

In your body about 80% of the nicotine is converted to continine which is excreted via the urinary system.

So nicotine is closely related to Vitamin B3 that occurs naturally in things we eat.

As to what dangers nicotine present to a human (short of consuming too much) things are much less clear.  While there are a lot of studies about nicotine and smoking there are not a lot about what something like an e-cigarette might do as far as basically delivering nicotine only to your lungs.

So what you see written about studies and so forth related to nicotine are vary often linked to tobacco use.  In fact, there is very little published about nicotine alone - and what their is published you must read very carefully to tease out the issues related to nicotine versus those that are tobacco related.

The bottom line here, as I see it, and how this relates to e-cigarettes in general, is that "science" has done very little to study nicotine on its own, probably about as much as is done for caffeine.  Since its associated with tobacco it is just generally lumped into the "evil cigarette and tobacco" category and forgotten.

There are lots of silly sites like this claiming that foods of one sort or another are bad for you - but I think you have to be very careful when looking at this.  Personally I have come to believe that smoking is very likely done to address some sort of dietary deficiency.

Now, I am not a doctor so what I am telling you here is purely opinion.

First off, as I have documented in this blog, I have discovered that I, a person who is relatively healthy (or at least so I thought), is malnourished in today's USA.  What I mean by this is that my diet, though it consists of a variety of things does very little to address what my body really needs. This is due to many things as I have also written about here.

So one of the first things that I have to question is, relative to all this study of nicotine and excluding any tobacco studies, are these studies looking at healthy people in the first place.  And by healthy I mean people who are receiving proper nutrition.

More to the point, if you were properly nourished in the first place would you be smoking?  And, if you were properly nourished, would nicotine harm you more than love or a cup of java?

While you might scoff at this you really need to do some research before forming any sort of serious opinion.  For example, as I have documented here relative to Iodine I would say that probably 96% of everyone in the US is Iodine deficient.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with smoking?

Well, for one thing the symptoms of Iodine deficiency are many of the very same reasons people talk about as reasons for smoking - feelings of depression, tiredness, that sort of thing (see "Where for art thou Iodine").  Now, having addressed my own personal Iodine deficiency I have to say that the fact that medical "science" and the FDA ignore proper nutrition is the real crime.

And by crime I mean crime.

The FDA is supposed to help make sure that we citizens are healthy through monitoring and controlling issues related to foods and drugs.  The problem is that, as far as I can see (and again there are blog posts here to this effect) they simply don't care about things that don't involve good press for them and money.  Sure they spend lots of time making sure that Lipitor is available to kids - but as far as making sure the citizens of the country have enough Iodine in their diet they do nothing.

(Which is worse for your kid - smoking, e-cigarettes, or Lipitor?)

And that's a crime at the level of genocide.

So what we have here is a government that simply ignores the true health of its people working very hard on things, like Lipitor, that are really simply treating the symptoms of the people's underlying dietary deficiencies and doing nothing to correct the true problems, e.g., approving bromides in bread versus Iodine.

Given this you have a class of people, smokers, who are struggling with health issues.  The FDA, despite a vast collection of evidence that people's feelings about themselves (their self worth, worries about self, etc.) is more dangerous to their health than food, diet or lifestyle, works hard to demonize their smoking habit - thus directly contributing to they feeling of low self worth.

This demonization of smoking creates an untold negative mental affect on the smokers view of themselves.  A negative view compounded by malnourishment caused by the FDAs lack of action.

Now we have e-cigarettes - in fact not cigarettes at all as they involve nothing that burns.  I think the first mistake is to even call them e-cigarettes.  They are vaporizers - nothing more.

These devices serve to eliminate what is wrong with smoking - the smoke and burning - leaving only nicotine - a naturally occurring chemical found in many foods.

And what does the FDA do?

Attempt to make using these devices a problem.

(As a side note I find that most people don't even recognize an e-cigarette at all.  Because it does not smell or burn people simply don't notice it at all unless you try to make it look like you are smoking.  I think this is a very interesting psychological aspect to all of this.)

The truth is that the FDA is full of people who "used to work in industry" and, just like its total lack of attention to genetically modified and industrialized foods (because its staff came from that industry), e-cigarettes pose a threat to the well being of those its oversees.

The real problem is the FDA, the states, and the government in general is that they profit mightily from smokers.  (Do you really think the billions won by the states in the tobacco wars is being saved for your medical care as a smoker later in life?)

Only a government could do such a thing.  When the government runs a gambling casino they excuse themselves by displaying the 1-800-GAMBLING phone number at the bottom of the ad "in case you need help".

The hypocrisy of this is insane...

So far then I am saying (to summarize):

- The demonization of smokers is like all other racial profiling.

- Nicotine and e-cigarettes have nothing to do with smoking and its medical side show of misery.

- The government, with things like Lipitor, is just like a tobacco company pawning off bad things on unsuspecting victims.

- The government profits from this.

So how do e-cigarettes survive in this maelstrom of misery...?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Part II)

Juliet - Death by a Love Addiction (Ban it for the children!)
So we have clearly established that there is a bias against smokers - a significant, government sponsored, and perhaps racially based bias that says smoking is evil, wrong, and unclean.

And we also know that smoking as a nicotine deliver device is "bad."  But what exactly is the problem with nicotine?

Well, the US Surgeon General's report (PDF here) spends a lot of time talking (pages 103 - 110) about nicotine addiction and addictive behavior but no time talking about the effects of nicotine addiction itself other than smoking.  (You can read about the DSM symptoms for addiction in the report.)  So, without any sort of practical comparison, i.e., what is nicotine addiction in the absence of smoking, the report provides virtually no information on the effect of nicotine on the body.  On page 183 the report concludes about nicotine:

Nicotine is the key chemical compound that causes and sustains the powerful addicting effects of commercial tobacco products.

Now, it does NOT list side effects other than the addiction itself and the need for getting your "fix" each day.  In fact, it implies that the tobacco product, i.e., cigarettes, are the problem.  Without smoking, in fact, there would appear to be no more problems with nicotine than, say caffeine.  In fact, caffeine is close behind nicotine in terms of gaining status as an addiction just like heroin and cocaine.

And there are studies such as this that indicate that inhaling nicotine vapors (without smoke) does not cause tumors or cancer like smoking.

In fact, the study showed, the only side effect was weight loss.

(Perhaps nicotine would help with the obesity epidemic...?  In fact, if we banned cigarettes and everyone that smoked dies of obesity instead are we better off?  Think about it...  Is dying in bed from being overweight better than dying in bed because you smoked too much?  Actually both can cause heart disease so the death might actually be due to the same cause.)

So let's compare nicotine with something like, say, Lipitor.  (You can read about Lipitor's official side effects here.  Of course, there are many other problems people report but they are mostly ignored.)

- Muscle problems.

- Kidney failure.

- Liver problems.

Somehow you don't find these serious issues with nicotine. (Of course in sufficient quantity it is a poison and is used as an insecticide in other parts of the world.  But then, too much of anything, like Lipitor or electricity or water, is also a bad thing.)

There are many, many commercial drugs with far worse side effects, in fact fatal, dangerous side effects, that the FDA allows doctors to prescribe every day.  No one is concerned (unless of course they are impacted by such a side effect).  No one cares.  These medicines are socially acceptable and deaths and debilitation from them are also socially acceptable.

Why is this?

Well, for one thing ads for these kinds of drugs now appear on popular TV and radio shows.  Long ago, when cigarette ads were still shown through these media outlets the side effects of cigarettes were considered socially acceptable.  Today, Lipitor can cause your liver to fail and, because as a society, we see the ads for this all the time (and we believe the foolish "cholesterol is bad" Nazi propaganda that goes along with it) Lipitor-based liver failure is a socially acceptable outcome.

(I have written extensively about the entire cholesterol "magical thinking" conspiracy here if you are interested.)

That's right, just like driving 65 MPH which reliably kills measurably more people than 55 MPH driving faster is socially acceptable and a socially acceptable way to risk you life.  No one complains.   No one cries.  Its merely a simple fact of life they humans accept, live and die with every day.

Addictive behavior is part of the human condition.

Have we all forgotten this?

Human's do stupid things all the time.  They find comfort in ritual, fantasy, and addiction.

Love, for example, is also a demonstrable chemical addiction (see this): "Love, in other words, uses the neural mechanisms that are activated during the process of addiction."

So where's the FDA on this love thing?

Where the the anti-love Nazi's?

If love is an addiction isn't it unclean just like nicotine?
 Sometimes its even fatal, just ask Juliet...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Part I)

Anne Frank - From Wikipedia - Did she smoke?
I have been very busy and so have only been updating the Lone Wolf blog for the last few weeks.

Recently, though, I have been involved in a very interesting and unique process.  Several close relatives have been switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes.  And, what is surprising to me, is how much illogical and foolish nonsense is involved in the "myth of the evil cigarette".  To the point that it involves something like an e-cigarette which does not burn anything at all.  How is such a think "smoking" in any rational sense?  How is it a nicotine delivery device any different than, say, an eggplant, which is full of nicotine?  How is something natural like niacin (nicotinic acid or vitamin B3) bad for you?

I call it a "myth" because most of what people seem to believe is not based on any actual science at all but is in fact based on what I will call "politically-based pseudo science".  What is fascinating is that this pseudo science is no more modern or reliable than Hatiian Voodou yet modern people cling to it as if their very lives depend on it.  (Perhaps its because as a nation our burgeoning scientific ignorance is accelerating at a remarkable rate, at least according to this.)

As an advocate of logic the pseudo science of "the evils of cigarette smoking" makes a very interesting tale...

(I am an advocate of the libertarian perspective on all of this - if you don't like it go away and leave me alone and don't take my rights away because of what you don't like.  There are many other dangerous activities and diseases but since they are politically correct science looks for cures and aids to make sufferers live longer - funny how you don't see that with smoking...  Is it morally "better" to create a medication to help an Aids or Hepatitis C sufferer than a smoker?)

The history of this begins in the 1950's as observations about what happened to smokers were turned into epidemiological studies.  I have written here before about this kind of study (magical thinking) and how they work.

In point of fact no one reports the number of smokers who die from cancer as a percentage of smokers, i.e., if 100 people smoke how many will die.  The answer, unfortunately for the anti-smoking Nazi's is that only about 10% or so are actually killed by cancer directly (er, as "directly" as can be claimed) as a result of smoking, i.e., 10 of the 100 will die of cancer (see this).  So the propaganda machine turns this around and always talks about how many people die from lung cancer - which tells you nothing about the actual risk of smoking.

According to this only 1 in 4 smokers will develop progressive and incurable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

And most interestingly and more important there are many new genetic studies that point to all sorts of other genetic links between cancer and smoking such as this in Scientific American.

So my first point in the e-cigarette saga is that smoking is a problem related to being a "social outcast".  Its certainly less dangerous than many things, everyone regardless of whether they smoke or not will still die, and there are many more unpleasant ways to die than via lung cancer, COPD, or other smoking related illnesses.  (One study I would like to see is what does it cost to die.  I would also like to see studies that remove the elderly from the classic types of studies, i.e., what do younger people die from that is not usual.  As I have pointed out here in the past death certificates have only one box for a "cause" - and that is also a problem with all of this.)

So at any rate the ratcheted-up anti-smoking Nazi goose-stepping is all based on the fact that a majority of people don't like smokers.  Surprisingly even heavy pot smokers have complained to me that cigarettes "bother" them - as if that made any kind of sense at all.  They (the cigarette smokers) are "unclean" - to borrow from a more infamous famous historical perspective.

So the bottom line from the e-cigarette perspective is that its the "thought that counts": you're on your way to the concentration camp if you look like you belong there - life will be better for the rest of us (even the heavy pot smokers) without you...

Of course you think that I am some sort of anti-smoking extremist - which I am not. (I am merely a logician applying consistent rules across the boundaries of time to expose "pseudo science" for what it is: nonsense.)

Simply read the link above from the Scientific American - perhaps the smoker sitting next to you has a genetic variation leading them to smoke in the first place.

So how, in the eyes of a Nazi, is that any different than the genetics of Judaism, of Mishchling?

And given a demonstrated genetic component to smoking how is "hating smoking" any different than the evils of racial profiling?  Is a cigarette hanging out of someone's mouth any different than someone wearing a burka or turban?

Its not... its just plain old guilt by genetic predisposition.

While you many not like this, or me for saying it, you will not be able to convince me I am wrong because I am not.

E-cigarettes (which, again, don't even burn anything and hence are not related to smoking at all other than by appearance) have a big hole to dig out of...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chinese Mothers: No Catering Allowed.

Amy Chua - Harvard Professor, Author, and Chinese Mom
As I have written before I am married to Anthropological Mom.

Over the weekend I saw an article in the WSJ: Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.  The author, Amy Chua, describes her anthropological child rearing methods:

- No sleepovers, parties, camp, TV, computer games, getting less than an A, and so on.

- Insulting and/or belittling their kids when they deserve it.

- Use what by today's Western standards would be considered abusive physical or verbal coercion.

- Expecting their child to excel.

Not that long ago this was the standard model for child rearing in the USA as well - for example, when I was a child.  Our parents in those days were not nearly as strict in terms of some areas - we could, for example, watch TV after our chores were completed - but for the most part these rules stood.

If I had a penny for every time a childhood friend said "man, I can't do that, if my old man found out..." I would be a billionaire. 

In my day the "old man" meant business. 

If you lived on the farm as many of my friends did you spent your life working on the farm until you were old enough to leave (16, 17, 18 - depended on the kid's maturity level), get married or become one of the old man's partners.  No one cared if you didn't like it because if you didn't do your jobs and chores the family would starve - and it would all be on your head.

If you misbehaved and he found out you got a "beating".  The nature of a "beating" varied but it was not pleasant and was often added to anything dished out at school.

You weren't expected to be number one in the class or get all A's, but you were required to get "good grades" - again this varied by circumstances.

When you screwed up in front of the old man you were likely a "%$@## idiot" or a "dumb @##".  The old man was unafraid to express his true opinion in your presence.

Unlike Amy Chua the "old man" never sat around making you learn the song on the piano.  If he was paying for lessons you damn well better take them and seriously.  It didn't matter as much to him what became of your piano skills afterward - so long as you followed the program and took the spending of his hard earned money seriously.

There were no sleepovers in those days unless you were a girl - and then it was still rare.  You might have some friends over on a birthday, but again that was a rare event.

The old man didn't care much about your self esteem - that was your job.  You knew where you fit into the world based on what you were and what you had offered to you.  No one spent much time worry about having things - no one had things like computers, video games, and the like.  The old man made sure you had a ball and glove, or whatever was appropriate for your sport.  You had three squares, a bed, school, and chores. 

You learned to get along with bullies or you got beat.  Bullies were different in those days because there was still honor - if you whipped the bully he acknowledged it and gave you respect.  If you lost you were welcome to try again any time.

The bully didn't detract from you self esteem - he was a challenge to self improvement.  Your self esteem was intact no matter what happened unless you trashed it by running from a fight, ratting out your best pal, and so forth.

Today's children are so confused about themselves and their self esteem that they cannot deal with reality - reality like the fact that that there are and always will be bullies.  While adults can pretend they don't exist the child is smart enough to see that they do.

I wonder what this confusion does for the child's self esteem?

The Chinese Mother story is really the same story of what the US was like in the 1950's and 1960's - which was probably like everywhere else in the world in terms of child raising.

Here in the USA we have given up our adult lives to become children.  No one wants to make little Johnny "feel bad" about himself so we, as they used to say, "cater" to him.  Now, like Chinese Mothers, no one should be "catering" to anybody - particularly children.

Just last night my friend used the expression about his dog.  "Those damn kids cater to that dog by letting it in and out all the time so pretty soon the dog expects to be let in and out on its own schedule."

Thank God that some people still get it.

Without "catering" we all know our place - we may not like it - but at least we know what it is.

Once the "catering" begins all bets are off - your destiny is no longer set by you but by the "caterer" - who ever that may be.

Take my friend's dog for example, the dog is actually training the kids when to let it in and out.

Now who is in charge?  The kids or the dog?

And so it has gone on since the 1970's when whiny adult children set out to "change the world" and "make it a beautiful place".  Sadly today's modern Western society is today nothing but "catering".  Catering to every conceivable special interest group, minority, majority, interest, whim, religion, lack of religion, you name it.

Is the world now a better place than it was in 1970?

It is for the Chinese Moms. 

Their kids are succeeding where ours are now failing and falling behind.

So much for "changing the world" - making our selves second rate and mediocre - taking ourselves from a position of leadership to "has beens".

But at least we can feel good about ourselves as we slide relentlessly from our current world of mediocrity to complete abysmal failure as a culture and society.

And sure, a lot of Asian and Indian cultures stress the same principles and hard work as we once did.  But we also had creativity which the "old man" was never concerned about.  If you wanted it bad enough - what ever it was - you had to convince him.  He didn't cater to your ideas and dreams but he would respect them if they earned and deserved it.  Of course this is evidenced by the fact that in the olden days you "grew up and left home" because you needed to prove yourself - unlike today where you simply "never grow up or leave home".

And one more thing.  Amy Chua is not writing this article to ask for your forgiveness or to cleanse her soul for past wrongs against her children.  Chinese Moms will continue to expect their children to excel without concern of their Western self esteem.

Does this mean their children will always be the smartest children or the most creative?

Its hard to say. 

The Chinese culture has been around for 5,000 year or so, about twenty five times longer than ours here in the US and about ten times longer than most European cultures - twice as long as western culture in general.

Freedom and creativity can buy you a lot - look at the progress made here in the west during the last two hundred or so years. 

But we're still a flash in the pan compared to most Asian cultures.

I think Amy Chua just doesn't want us to drop the ball.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making a Front Door (Part I)

No, I did not make this door - its for illustration only.
Now that the holidays are over its time to finish up some projects around the house.

A major issue has been the fact that we still do not have a front door for our addition we added two years ago.  With the slowing of the economy it didn't seem prudent to buy the one we wanted given that we had the materials to make one.  Sadly of lot of other projects came up in the mean time which left us with a big, insulated, patched hole to fill.

So the goal here is a 3' 0 68 1-3/4" sold oak front door with two side lites on the side.  (Let me decode the door talk: 3' 0 means three feet (36" inches) wide, 68 means 6' 8" high, side lites are windows - not lights you turn on and off.)

The plan is to create the door first, then the frame, with a spot for the door and lights, then the lights. 

The image above shows the basic idea - though this is not our actual design.  The door itself will be made using mortise and tenon joints.

The mortises will be made in the stiles for the door.  The stiles are the long, vertical strips of wood running up and down on the left and right of the door (see picture and diagram below).  The tenon will be made in the rails which are the cross pieces.  Mortise and tenons are used because the door will be exposed on one side to the elements and subject to a certain amount of heating and cooling which will result in the wood expanding and contracting.  Things like glue-only assembly tend to fail in this sort of situation.

Below is a diagram of what components make up a door.

This is very old technology to be sure.

Our idea is to make the front door from the barn wood we have left over from our barn tear down.  So, rather than run down to the lumber yard and purchase the proper sized boards for this project we will instead make them.

Yes, you read correctly, we will be making oak boards. 

Given the thickness we need for this door we will need to start with 2 1/4" think "rough cut' oak.  Rough cut means that the boards are cut down from raw timber stock.   In our case we have saved the oak beams from the old barn - so instead of starting with logs we will start with beams.  We will plane the boards down to the finish size of 1 3/4".

(As it turns out all of this is a remarkably "green," recycling sort of a thing to do.  No logging will occur, no sawmill will be involved, etc.)

Unlike timber old barn beans have some advantages and some problems.  On the advantage side they are easy to manage - no limbs to remove, already in at least somewhat of a convenient size, already been drying out for the last 150 years or so and so forth.  On the down side there are nails.  Wood working equipment does not like metal and so all the metal has to be removed from barn beams.  Unfortunately, since the beams are part of a structure assembled in part with hammer and nails this can be a lot of work.

So, before doing any "rough cutting" we have to remove all of the nails.  To do this we need some plain old hand tools.  A mallet, chisels (and large screw drivers acting as chisels) and a one-handed adze - which I made out of something I found at Home Depot or Lowes.

The problem with the nails is that they rust off at the surface leaving only, at best, rusty remains flush with the surface.  To get these out you have to dig down around them removing wood until there is enough of the remaining nail exposed to pull out with a set of dikes or a wonder bar.

Once exposed you can usually get the nail out.

So after a hour or so of work we have our barn beam stripped of all the obvious nails.

Now at this point its important to realize that A) the beam is long enough and B) its thick enough.  Otherwise going through all this work might be a big frustrating.  So, to be sure, we can get at least one 2 1/2" cut out of this and its almost 90-some inches long - more than adequate for what we need.

To make the rough cuts we will use a chain saw.

(To be continued.  This will all take some time so there will be infrequent updates as various milestones are reached.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Tobacco/Cocaine Bleedout...

We spend an awful lot of money on stupid things in this country and its really hard to even imagine why.

This came to mind the other day when I was writing about the FDA and smoking.  In 2010 the FDA will spend $200 million USD on "to continue to implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Preventing youth from using tobacco and helping Americans quit, promoting public understanding of the harmful constituents of tobacco products, developing the foundation of science for regulating tobacco, and regulating tobacco to reduce the toll of tobacco-related disease, disability and mortality are tobacco program priorities for FY 2011."  This out of a total of $4 billion USD budget.

So if one imagines that cocaine as an "industry" does about $100 billion USD in revenue each year I have wonder why I have not seen one, not one, FDA warning about cocaine products here in the good old USA.

No, I'm not talking about the bump you get down at local bar (apparently no one complains about that).

I'm talking tea (like the kind you make with hot water) containing coca leaves.  The kind you can buy at  The kind that will get you busted in a drug test.  For example, this kind of "Coca Tea" sold directly on-line here (I went all the way to checkout just to make sure I was not on the Bolivian or Colombian

So what is up with this and the FDA?  I really don't get it. 

Cocaine is a Schedule I Controlled Substance.  Yet there seems to be nothing going on with it related to the FDA save for the banning of a drink called "cocaine" (see this) - a drink that did not actually contain any cocaine (yes, this is really like Alice in Wonderland).

Clearly cocaine is nearly as big, if not bigger, than smoking. 

And we are told, and have been since 1913 or so, the cocaine is bad; and since the 1950's that smoking is bad. 

We know this. 

So why spend $200 million dollars a year on smoking prevention but still allow us to drink cocaine tea?

Isn't a little tobacco like a little cocaine?

Apparently not, at least by the FDA.  Tobacco is FAR WORSE.

(Only ex-hippy, liberal, wacky nut jobs in the government would think this.)

I think this is like the $20,000 USD vet bills we run up (see this) giving little Fluffy an MRI, surgery, and blood tests.

Why, you might ask?

Because sometimes you get so focused on something, like your pet (or smoking), you start to miss out on the bigger picture (like the massive US cocaine addiction).

Wouldn't it be better to spend $20,000 (or $200 million) on something else?

Is my money going to make that much of a difference?

And, most importantly, are there smarter things I might be doing instead...


You see, I think we are just busy trading one problem for another.

When I was a kid in eighth grade your friends' older brother could get a six pack of beer somewhere without too much trouble and you could hang out, shoot the shit and drink it.  No harm and no foul.

Then the federal government came along and made kids having a beer a horrific crime by threatening states that if they didn't make it a horrific crime they would have some (5% or so) of their highway funds cut.

And it worked...  Except little Johnny and little Suzy are strung out on crack, coke, meth, oxy's, and pot.

You see - they were going to experiment regardless of the FDA's laws - a few beers - a cop catching them - running away through the bushes - that sort of thing made you grow up.  I know I grew up when my best high school friends sister was killed when I was 15.  She was in eighth grade when it happened.  My friend was never the same.

The problem is that today 16% or more of all drivers on strung out on drugs (see this).  Only about 2% have a blood alcohol greater than the common legal limit of .08.  The alcohol drivers "over the limit" are down about 50% since the 1970's...

In 1976 my friends sister was the exception, not the rule.

So you see, the "Don't Drink Till Your 21" program working, right?

At least the government thinks it is because they don't have to care about what else little Johnny might be doing instead...

We all get tobacco is bad. 

We all get that its "evil" and "foul" and "violates your rights".

We all tolerate the rights of bar and business owners loosing the right to entertain customers using legal products.

We all tolerate smokers having to stand out in the cold and rain so as not to "harm" everyone else.

While the FDA can proudly point out all the progress that's been made against smoking and alcohol WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THE VAST INCREASE IN HARD DRUG USAGE?

You an bet it won't be the FDA and anti-smoking bigots.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Over on the Lone Wolf blog I posted about e-cigarettes.  You can read there about what they are and how they work.

What interests me here is the reaction to these devices.

Now first off let's be clear.  There is no burning of tobacco - no smoke.  Instead nicotine infused steam or water vapor is created inside the e-cigarette and that's what you breath.

This has been studied in New Zealand (read this).  The report Summary says: "It is very safe relative to cigarettes, and also safe in absolute terms on all measurements we have applied."

As for the US you can download the full PDF here from the Surgeon General's website.  This is a long, tedious read about the hazards of breathing combustible materials.  Even the nicotine addiction section is tied to this.  I would imagine that no one is surprised to read that breathing smoke is bad.  Everyone knows this: smokers and non-smokers alike.  Unfortunately the government has spent a lot of money and time discovering and validating the obvious.

One imagines that, for example, firefighters would find this an important read because most of what is discussed about smoke and breathing smoke is generally true.  Apparently studying the effects on smoke on those people chronically exposed as part of their job is less important.  (As anyone who burns common paper household trash can tell you there is far, far worse involved than mere smoke.)

Then there is the FDA.  They have attempted and failed to have shipments of these products to the US banned or stopped at the boarder.  The FDA contends these are "drug" devices and must be subject to extreme regulation and control by the FDA (as opposed to, say, hypodermic needles, which you can buy by the dozen's in any drug store).

The problem here is really very simple.  All of this is about two things: money and control.

No one believes that smoking is good for you.

However, smoker's are addicted to two elements of smoking: the "hit" of the smoke from the drag and the nicotine.  E-cigarettes offer both - the vapor as the "hit" as well as the nicotine.

Nicotine is, in any significant quantity, a dangerous chemical.  In most of the rest of the world its used as an insecticide.  In small quantities, like those found in both tobacco and cigarettes, its dangers are much less clear.

A quick check of Wikipedia indicates many common elements between nicotine and, say, caffeine.  Both are alkaloids, both affect mood, both are consumed world wide in enormous quantities, both are mildly addictive to some degree, and on and on.

Sales of cigarettes in the US for 2005 was some 378 billion cigarettes which comes out to $180 billion dollars US at a retail price of $5/pack - which is probably around one percent (1%) of the US economy.  Another 1% of the economy covers the cost of treating smoking related health issues.

There are claims that "lack of productivity" caused by smoking costs around $100 billion USD per year but I think that number needs to be compared to the reality of eliminating cigarettes and any associated productivity losses associated with that to be meaningful.

The reason e-cigarettes are so popular is that cigarette prices are highly inflated by taxes.  Cigarettes in other countries where taxes do not play as much of a role is significantly less.  US states like New York can garner as much as $5 - $7 dollars a pack in taxes.

With e-cigarettes you can happily vape away for about $100 a year without paying any US taxes.  In a state like New York that probably means about $5,000 USD less a year per smoker in state tax revenue.  Given New York's tens of billions in budget shortfall you can see one of the reasons government is so interested in stopping e-cigarettes (200,000 smokers = $1 billion in annual cigarette taxes lost).

Then there is the control aspect.

The FDA believes that its role is to ban not only smoking but also the concept of smoking, i.e., its not good enough to control what you do, but you cannot be allowed to even want to smoke.  (Read the Surgeon General's report if you don't believe this).

The problem here is two fold.  First there is tax revenue and corresponding money spent on smoking remedies.  While on the one hand the government claims to want to ban smoking banning smoking successfully will strangle many state budgets because, as hard as it is to imagine, all those big dollar tobacco settlements won over the last decades are not sitting in banks waiting to pay for the cost of smoking related illnesses.  No, like social security, the states have long since spent that money and rely on direct tax collection of tobacco taxes to survive.

Second the FDA needs to control tobacco in order to manage the tobacco market relative to its big-tobacco friends in the industry (after all, their collective $180 billion dollar market is in significant danger if e-cigarettes go off the existing "tobacco control range").

Secondly, without a crusade, like tobacco, there is less for the FDA to do.  With less to do budgets shrink (just look at the hundreds of government funded studies in the Surgeon General's report).  So, though Congress told the FDA it can regulate but not ban tobacco, the FDA struggles to make itself relevant on the e-cigarette front.

All this said let's compare cigarettes to other "drug related" industries.

I would estimate that about 1,000 metric tons of cocaine is produced annual.    A metric ton is 1,000 x 1,000 grams (1,000 kilograms) or one million grams.  With a street price of $100 a gram that $100 million dollars per metric ton (more if the cocaine is cut).  Given 1,000 metric tons that's about $100 billion USD in manufactures cocaine sales - probably two or more times that retail on the street.

Now in the US a 100 billion dollar company is going to employ at least 50,000 workers - probably many more.  So one imagines that the same relationship must be true for cocaine.  Yet while there are lot of small scale arrests there are relatively few large-scale arrests (maybe 5,000 per year for trafficking - but I am having a hard time figuring this out).

At any rate while the FDA would happily shut down any US tobacco company at a moments notice for some trivial reason or other they apparently cannot manage to get their hands around the illegal drug trade's throat no matter how hard they try (I wonder if this is because government is full of baby boomer dopers who really don't want to see recreational drug use actually eliminated?)

Now if you add in cannabis, heroin, meth, etc. and other legal drugs used illicitly you will see that these industries employ a lot of people and are very, very large (like on the order of Mobil-Exxon for each type of drug).

The point of all this is that "clamping down" in terms of the FDA means at least a $100 billion dollars per year in annual sales - so clamping down on e-cigarettes (or cigarettes in general) would probably (actually) be a huge boon for the market.  Not to mention it would cut $100 billion out of state cigarette sales taxes.

The bottom line is that the FDA is grasping at straws: trying to get the cat back into the bag.

But I think its too late.  I have heard, but cannot confirm, as many as 30K people are converting per week to e-cigarettes (I wonder if this is because the FDA told them smoking was bad for them?)

Bottom line for me?

- E-cigarettes are far less dangerous than smoking regular cigarettes.

- Government and big tobacco are going to work very hard to protect their slice of the revenue and control pie.

- The FDA and state tobacco tax collections are going to go head-to-head for you cigarette tax dollars - its unclear to me who will win this battle.

- Banning e-cigarettes in hypocritical nonsense if you believe smoking regular cigarettes is bad.

- The FDA controlling tobacco and/or e-cigarettes to much will simply yield yet another giant criminal industry on the order of Exxon-Mobile.

- FDA regulation = means to tax.

- No one really knows what things like ionophores or genetic engineering might be doing to us and our food supply - but killing off smoking is apparently far more important to the FDA than stopping, or even studying, something that the entire general population has A) no control over, B) is not analyzed in anywhere as much, and C) is in virtually every food product we consume.

At the end of the day illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol probably make up a very large portion of the economy - on the order of health care at one sixth.

Perhaps the FDA should simply hire tobacco company execs to work there - after all they do hire big food execs - and magically there is not investigation or problem with genetic engineering or commercial chemicals with very little safety study.

Right or wrong smoking what people choose to do with their money.

(Again, I think that big government workers are liberally minded and see tobacco as evil and smokers are dull thugs unable and unwilling to think for themselves.  On the other hand, they see things like pot and so forth as enlightened recreational activities when properly used - after all, that's what they were told in the 1960's.  As I said - its what people choose to do with their money.)

But big nanny government knows you are too stupid to take care of yourself so they plan to do it for you.

Personally I think that all the tobacco settlement money states sued for should be required by law (or lawsuit) to be held aside for future tobacco health costs.  If the states cannot do this they are simply hypocritical liars who are out to take your money..., erh, ah, profit from your smoking habit.

Its a good thing we have exercised morality from our modern social conscience - otherwise someone might notice what's going on that think it was, gasp, wrong...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Animal Drugs

I have always been curious about animals and drugs - particular farm animals.

I recently happened upon an article that included this handy chart above.  In 2009 80% of all antibiotics when into animals - that's about 28 million pounds of chemicals.

In that same year humans only consumed 7 million pounds of the same drugs.

While perusing this list I cam upon ionophores.  Next to tetracycline ionophores are the second most common compound used in animal feed.  Now I've been around a while and most of the rest of the things on the list I have at least heard of before - but not ionophores.

Every hear of them?

No, I thought not.

So just what are these compounds?

Ionophores are compounds that affect how substances pass through the celluar membranes of microbes.  So, for example, some might block the passage of sodium ions through a cell membrane.  If the microbe requires sodium to live then the ionophore will cause it to die because it is unable to process sodium ions.

So specific ionophores are specific to kinds of ions.  And specific ions are used by particular bacteria, for example, in the gut of cattle.

Use of ionophores in animal feed can also cause cattle to produce less methane by changing how they digest their food and how that food is absorbed into their bodies.  And, more importantly, according to this "feeding of ionophores to cattle decreases the feed needed for growth and increases feed efficiency." (These sorts of statements always bring to mind the old adag "you can't get something for nothing.")

The actual effect is that these compounds delay the processing of the food consumed until after the stomach leaving the work to be done by the intestines instead.  These compounds are also apparently only safe for a small number of mammals, e.g., cattle and chickens.  Their use is detrimental to horses, dogs, and other common farm animals.

Ionophores are not antibiotics per se hence the FDA does require meat sold from animals feed with ionophores to be labeled as containing antibiotics. 

Ionophores are not used for humans do to their potent cardiovascular effects (see this).  I cannot find a lot of detail on exactly why but it seems that these compounds can damage cardiac and skeletal muscles.

Unfortunately ionophores are now found in our water and soil (see this article) - most likely through run-off and waste from large big-agra farming operations.  Again, this does not seem to get much study, though with that much of this being used you would like to think it was completely harmless to humans.

Of course, big agra doesn't want you to have to worry about ionophores and are working hard to remove use of these compounds from meat product labeling.

Ionophores do also create resistant bacteria - though not in the same way as with penicillin and other traditional antibiotics - but it takes much longer.

In any case - more food (no pun intended) for thought...

Monday, January 03, 2011

Characterizing Flu and Colds

I read a lot of blogs and information about flu and colds.  One thing that I notice is that the discussion of symptoms is always "flat" relative to time, i.e., you will see "runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing," as if they all arrive and leave at once.

Personally (as well as for people I know, and, in fact for everyone I know) the symptoms don't fall out of the sky "all at once" - they have a sequence.

Personally I experience these in a definite order and with a definite time progression.  I see this with others as well and in fact its often possible to decide if you have the same flu as someone else by discussing the progression.  For example, one year a friend said, "Oh I've got it now: first its the sore throat for a week, then the cold for a week, then the earache for a week" and by God he was right!  I had each of these symptoms, albeit very mildly, exactly in that order and for more or less the same amount of time for each.

There is also some specific aspects of symptoms I find for colds and flu. 

For colds I generally only have a mildly runny nose and perhaps a day or two of mild fever.  Nothing that stops me from doing anything but just enough so that I know its there.

Flu is more interesting.  Generally I find a very specific sequence of events.  First there is usually a day or two of gastrointestinal upset - for me very mild usually.  Then there is probably a lag day or two.  Then usually I detect some sort of post nasal drip which increases over a day or two.  Prior to me practicing sinus flushing things were usually more unpleasant after that: a stuffed up set of sinuses, a sore throat for a couple of days, fever, the post nasal drip would drip some miserable crud into my lungs, then the cough would start.  Generally first with a "tight" chest followed by a progressively worse cough over a series of days.  Usually a worsening fever was involved.  Then there would be weeks of "post flu" recovery - coughing for a week or so, some throat crud often involving a day of laryngitis, and a lingering (usually a month to six weeks) of sinus infection misery.

Post iodine supplementation and sinus flushing the course of the flu is now much different.  There is the same basic sequencing but the effects are very mild - generally never involving more than daily discomfort but still not really limiting anything I do.  The cough, sore throat and sinus infection phases are basically gone so long as I keep up with the sinus flushing. 

So no where do I ever see anything related to the sequence of events.  Certainly I know that other adults experience similar sequences of events but modern medicine seems to be completely ignorant of this progression.

What I have found critical to keeping from suffering is to apply the sinus flushing early on and regularly.  This seems to completely eliminate the sore throat phase, it keeps the sinuses from getting a serious infection (blood and yellow mucus), and seems to eliminate the cough - though with a bad flu I can still feel it progress into my chest somewhat - but its manageable and while I may voluntarily cough to eliminate mucus I don't suffer from "a cough".

For flu I tend to need a day or two of sage tea to help the sinus flushing.  Usually I use this (home grown sage dried, crushed, and placed into a "tea ball" then steeped in hot water for 5-10 minutes) if and when I feel things heading for my chest.  Prior to sinus flushing I needed a lot more sage tea but once I started with sinus flushing I find it only really helps with the "chest" aspect.

So why am I writing this?

For one thing I think that the type of flu is probably very definitely tied to the sequence of symptoms - not the just the fact that you have them but with the order in which they appear as well as their length.  No where do I see medical sites talking about this - yet no one I know ever gets "all" the symptoms at one time.

For another I think that its critical to keep the flu from going from your "head to your chest".  Sinus flushing and sage tea do this for me. (Colds, on the other hand, never seem to try for your chest and stay only "in your head".  Colds also never seem to produce the "green, yellow, and bloody" mucus -  instead causing white or clear mucus.  Colds never have gastric and sinus infection elements either.)

For me flu always tries to attack your chest and subsequently give you a sinus infection.  Like clockwork with a flu after its mostly gone suddenly my teeth and face will start to hurt telling me its going for the sinuses.  A couple of additional sinus flushes are critical at this point and completely kill off the sinus problems.

So what do I think?

I think that what we call "cold and flu" today is really made up of two parts:

First colds are simple viruses that cause head-only symptoms: runny nose, fever.  Beyond these basic symptoms I think that other infection elements (the second part) come into play - particularly in the sinuses.

Flu, on the other hand, involves a clear sequence of specific events in a specific order: gastric issues, nasal drip, plugged sinuses, move to the chest, cough, sinus infection.

I will claim that with proper treatment (iodine, sinus flush) that flu will take about twiece as long to run its course as a cold but still not cause significant problems unless you do not use effective (iodine, sinus flush) treatment in which case it will run on for weeks or months.

I think that a properly timed attack is key for flu - particularly during the head to chest transition.

I believe that the iodine and flush kill off bacteria that attempt to take advantage of your weakened immune system.

I believe that proper iodine supplementation helps and that you can increase this during a flu or cold to shorten its life (I went from two drops a day of Lugol's to four during the worst of it).

I believe that the ridiculous over-prescription of antibiotics for flu create far, far stronger strains of these bacteria and that modern medicine is making the problem of flu much worse than it would otherwise be.  Peroxide and iodine are fatal to bacteria for reasons much different than antibiotics and are therefore more effective.  (But since a bottle of Lugol's Iodine is $10 USD and a bottle of peroxide costs about $1.75 USD you will not see much happening in modern medicine to make use of it - particularly if you can do all this at home without a doctor.)

I think that flu should be characterized by sequences of symptoms over time so people can identify them and compare what they have to what the CDC and others are claiming are out there.  Of course everyone is different, but I am becoming suspicious that these viruses have very specific sequences of attack that are easy to identify.

Most of what is available from doctors, pharmacies and over-the-counter only address symptoms.  Flu and colds are viruses and only anti-viral medications will attack them directly.

No doctor or pharmacist that I know has ever questioned anything else regarding the flu like I have here nor do I believe that they ever will - as there is no business in it for them.

I think that if an idiot does not know how to wash his or her own hands (and needs a sign or video for instruction) its obvious that the same idiot will happily spread flu and cold viruses around like there is no tomorrow.  Hence all the "wash your hands" nonsense is just that.  Do you think the cook at home or out and about never sneezes? 

No, I think that this silliness is the result of the fact that most people have weakened immune systems.