Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 25th, 2014

Hard truths about the US and the results of its gun culture

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Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Guns, Video

Comparative study at Stanford of four diets

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Again, from Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes:

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.19.33 PM

I should emphasize that the Atkins diet—like any low-carb high-fat diet—by no means required that you eat meat, fowl, or fish. You can follow the diet as a vegan or vegetarian. Here’s one vegan who did.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 8:23 pm

A silent coup in the US?

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Read this Patrick L. Smith column and ponder it. It certainly rings true.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 7:12 pm

Irrational subsidies

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I just recalled, as I think about the low-carb diet, that sugar is a particularly damaging carb—and we taxpayers subsidize the production of sugar. We are underwriting sugar production presumably so that sugar can be more widely used, even though when it’s used it about as detrimental to our health as cigarettes, perhaps more.. Where’s the DEA when you need it? (In Why We Get Fat, Taubes talks about the addictive quality of sugar: sugar is not only damaging, it makes us crave sugar—cf. cigarettes.)

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 5:53 pm

Some excellent comments stimulated by the UCSB slaughter

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Very good column.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

Five studies you should read before you deploy a trigger warning

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Because I hate spoilers, I take a somewhat jaundiced view of the subset of spoilers known as trigger warnings. But that’s a personal preference. What does the research say? Richard McNally writes in Pacific Standard:

Resolutions by campus student groups seldom make national news. Yet when the student senate at the University of California-Santa Barbara passed a resolution to mandate that syllabi carry what are called “trigger warnings,” writers across the nation began typing. Professors, the resolution said, must alert their students to course materials that might produce emotional distress. Students should be exempt from portions of a class where “triggering content”—discussion of suicide, sexual abuse, kidnapping, or other disturbing topics—may occur.

Trigger warnings are increasingly being used on websites and blogs to warn readers away from potentially disturbing content. Their rapid spread has sparked loud debate about their use, prompting Slate to christen 2013 “The Year of the Trigger Warning,” and the New York Times to feature the controversy on the front page of a recent Sunday edition.

In the noise, it is easy to overlook that trigger warnings originated in the feminist blogosphere in part to emphasize the frequency of sexual assault in America and the trauma that can come with it. The UC Santa Barbara resolution urges the university to require trigger warnings to affirm its stand “against issues of sexual harassment and violence.” People who have experienced a trauma and developed post-traumatic stress disorder remember their experience all too well, reliving it emotionally in the form of intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. Warnings on syllabi can enable those who have suffered a traumatic event to avoid reminders that can trigger discomfort. But as the following studies show, these warnings may be counterproductive. The use of trigger warnings doesn’t just underestimate the resilience of most trauma survivors; it may send the wrong message to those who have developed PTSD.

1. Most trauma survivors do not develop PTSD

Experiencing trauma does not mean that one will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma is common, but PTSD is rare. In a representative survey of 2,181 adults in southeastern Michigan, the epidemiologists Naomi Breslau and Ronald C. Kessler found that 89.6 percent of them had experienced trauma, such as rape, natural disasters, serious accidents, or learning of the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. Yet only 9.2 percent of the subjects developed PTSD. These findings imply that risk and resilience factors affect whether exposure to trauma results in the disorder.

—“The Stressor Criterion in DSM-IV Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An Empirical Investigation,” Breslau, N., & Kessler, R. C., Biological Psychiatry, 2001

2. But PTSD is not uncommon among survivors of sexual assault

Not all traumatic stressors are equally likely to produce PTSD, as Naomi Breslau and her colleagues confirmed in a recent study. In a nationally representative sample of 34,653 American adults, interviewers asked respondents, “Were you ever sexually assaulted, molested, or raped, or did you ever experience unwanted sexual activity?” Among the women interviewed, 14.2 percent responded affirmatively, whereas 2.7 percent of men did so, according to Breslau. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD among the female and male sexual assault survivors was 43.2 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively. Compared to sexual assault, severe accidents and natural disasters produced far lower rates of PTSD in both women (16.0 and 6.9 percent) and men (6.4 and 3.5).

—“Influence of Predispositions on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Does It Vary by Trauma Severity?” Breslau, N., Troost, J. P., Bohnert, K., & Luo, Z., Psychological Medicine, 2013

3. Still, many rape survivors recover within months of their trauma

The clinical psychologist Barbara O. Rothbaum and her colleagues assessed the symptoms of 95 survivors of rape or attempted rape over the course of several months. Although 94 percent of the women met symptomatic criteria for PTSD about two weeks after the trauma, that number dropped to 65 percent after approximately one month and to 47 percent after approximately three months. The data indicate that about half of rape survivors recover naturally from PTSD within three months of the assault.

—“A Prospective Examination of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Rape Victims,” Rothbaum, B. O., Foa, E. B., Riggs, D. S., Murdock, T., & Walsh, W., Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992

4. Confronting triggers, not avoiding them, is the best way to overcome PTSD . . .

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 2:55 pm

Low-carb diets

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Note: When I say a “low-carb” diet, I follow common usage in which the term refers to a diet low in net carbs—that is, grams of total carbohydrates minus grams of fiber (since dietary fiber has no caloric impact but is important for health). So when you see “low carb,” think “low net carbs.” Some carbs have more serious metabolic impacts than others: refined sugars, particularly fructose, have worse effects than (say) the carbs in broccoli (1/2 cup of frozen, chopped, steamed broccoli has 4.9 g carbs, but 2.8 g is dietary fiber, so net carbs amount to 2.1 g). Similarly, while fat is now simply considered a food (rather than an evil), there still are some fats to avoid: cottonseed oil, soybean oil (which, like high fructose corn syrup (a bad carb) seems to be in all packaged foods now), peanut oil, and others. Reasons are given in Why We Get Fat and also in The New Atkins for a New You, which I also recommend. The Atkins people have been working on low (net) carb diets for 40 years, and that experience results in quite a polished book.

Low-carb diets have been around a long time. The first publication in English describing a low-carb approach was by William Banting (1796-1878), and in the UK eating a low-carb diet is still called “banting.” The main modern low-carb diets I have found in the US are as follows, though doubtless there are more:

Paleo diet: As the name indicates, the idea is to eat only foods that Paleolithic humans would have eaten and specifically to abstain from eating grains and foods made from them, beans, and dairy products. Unfortunately, the idea collapses immediately: no effort is made (so far as I can tell) to eat only the wild cultivars from which domestic crops (cabbage, say, or celery, or Brussels sprouts (developed in the 13th century), or broccoli, etc.) were bred. I also really do not see why dairy products should be excluded—though obviously one must keep track of their carbs. (Dairy products lack fiber, so total carbs = net carbs for them.) But if you’re tracking the carbs, why not dairy? The fact that Paleolithic humans had no dairy cuts no ice with me. They also didn’t have (say) Scotch.

I’m assured that one need not take it to mean that one should eat only the foods eaten by Paleolithic humans, but then why the name? I found it frustrating and misleading and quickly decided that for a literal-minded person, trying to eat Paleolithic foods doesn’t work. Sauerkraut, for example, would not be allowed even though the carb content is low: one serving has but 7g of carbs—and also 4g of fiber, so only 3g of net carbs. (Paleolithic humans, even if they had cabbage or a cabbage ancestor, would scarcely have the tools and insight to ferment the shredded plant to make sauerkraut.) See also the difference between wild (Paleolithic) and domesticated fruits and vegetables. Domestication involves substantial genetic modification, achieved through thousands of years of selective breeding—artificial selection instead of natural selection, with humans harnessing the power of evolution for their own ends. Indeed, domesticated fruits are so sugar-heavy that they give cavities to animals that have evolved to subsist on the wild versions. I suppose we are not to take the name “Paleo” literally, but then why give it such a name?

Primal diet: The same idea as the Paleo diet, so far as I can tell, though less strict and going beyond just the food to replicate the level and types of activity and the like. Here’s a good rundown.

Whole30: Dropping the historical allusions and focusing on the foods, Whole30 (the name refers to a 30-day challenge to get one into the plan) is an aggressively low-carb diet that rejects all dairy products—not because they sometimes are relatively high in net carbs (lactose is a sugar), but just because. Here are the rules (PDF).

Atkins diet: This was the break-out low-carb diet, and it is still around and doing well. It has four “phases,” with the list of allowable foods and net carb goal gradually increasing from phase to phase, as shown on this page. I did observe the 20g limit on net carbs for the first two weeks (the “Induction Phase”), but I have permanently levelled off at around 30g-40g net carbs daily. See

Low-carb diet: This diet focuses on the macronutrients without worrying about the historical origins of the food. You can eat pretty much what you want, so long as the daily amount of net carbs is kept suitably low (see below). Note that this diet is actually low-carb and also high-fat, though not terribly high. You eat just enough fat to replace the calories foresaken by restricting net carbs: if you cut carbs by 100g, you increase fat by 45g, each of those being 400 calories. A diet that’s both low-carb and low-fat and thus relies heavily on a high protein intake is dangerous—cf. rabbit starvation, aka mal de caribou.

Beans, for example, could be eaten in a regular low-carb diet (unlike the Paleo diet, which does not allow beans), but you would have to be careful: 1/2 cup of cooked black beans has 15g of carbs, though 7g of that is dietary fiber—still, that is 8g net carbs. If you’re trying to keep carbs under 20g/day, that’s a lot. (Net carbs under 20g/day is a target for the first two weeks. After two weeks, you increase net carbs to find what’s comfortable, while keeping the total daily intake under 50g net carbs. I currently run about 30g-40g net carbs per day.)

So beans might be avoided initially, not because Paleolithic humans didn’t eat them, but because they are relatively high-carb. Here’s a good rundown on a low-carb, high-fat diet and here’s another introduction.  And it’s important to know that a vegan/vegetarian low-carb diet is perfectly possible. (My current diet advice describes in some detail my approach and the reasons for my choices. Take a look at that to see what worked for me, after a certain amount of trial and error.)

Ketogenic diet: This is simply the low-carb diet with testing to verify ketones are present (see video below). The Atkins plan’s phase 1 (“induction”) limits net carbs to 20g/day, and thus is a ketogenic diet, but in later phases the plan has you gradually introduce more carbs to find what you can handle: see this page. The Keto more or less requires testing for the presence of ketones, and the best way to do that is similar to the way diabetics test for blood glucose levels: using a drop of blood with a digital meter. Diet Doctor has a review of four different ketone-blood-level meters. (You can also pee on test strips and check the resulting color, but I found those did not work well at all.)

This article is helpful: “What’s the Difference Between Keto and Atkins?

The reason ketosis gets so much attention is that when the body is in ketosis, it burns fat, and many people view a low-carb diet (including the keto diet) as a weight-loss diet. In fact, the goal of such diets is the metabolic effect (very important for those suffering from insulin resistance or full-blown diabetes), not weight loss in particular. Weight loss does often occur, because a diet that includes slowly digested fats and proteins leaves one feeling satiated longer and thus many find themselves eating less and/or less often, but that is certainly not true for everyone. In this post I discuss how I adapted my low-carb diet to improve weight loss (an adaptation that freed me from counting calories).

Watch this video for more information:

JH2 in a comment pointed out this page, which shows various ranges of daily carb intake (using net carbs: total carbs minus dietary fiber):

300 or more grams/day – Danger Zone!

Easy to reach with the “normal” American diet (cereals, pasta, rice, bread, waffles, pancakes, muffins, soft drinks, packaged snacks, sweets, desserts). High risk of excess fat storage, inflammation, increased disease markers including Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes. Sharp reduction of grains and other processed carbs is critical unless you are on the “chronic cardio” treadmill (which has its own major drawbacks).

150-300 grams/day – Steady, Insidious Weight Gain

Continued higher insulin-stimulating effect prevents efficient fat burning and contributes to widespread chronic disease conditions. This range – irresponsibly recommended by the USDA and other diet authorities – can lead to the statistical US average gain of 1.5 pounds of fat per year for forty years. [FWIW, if you stuck with Soylent as your food and ate it for three meals a day, that would be 228g of net carbs daily. – LG]

100-150 grams/day – Primal Blueprint Maintenance Range

This range based on body weight and activity level. When combined with Primal exercises, allows for genetically optimal fat burning and muscle development. Range derived from Grok’s (ancestors’) example of enjoying abundant vegetables and fruits and avoiding grains and sugars.

50-100 grams/day – Primal Sweet Spot for Effortless Weight Loss

Minimizes insulin production and ramps up fat metabolism. By meeting average daily protein requirements (.7 – 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight formula), eating nutritious vegetables and fruits (easy to stay in 50-100 gram range, even with generous servings), and staying satisfied with delicious high fat foods (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds), you can lose one to two pounds of body fat per week and then keep it off forever by eating in the maintenance range.

0-50 grams/day – Ketosis and Accelerated Fat Burning

Acceptable for a day or two of Intermittent Fasting towards aggressive weight loss efforts, provided adequate protein, fat and supplements are consumed otherwise. May be ideal for many diabetics. Not necessarily recommended as a long-term practice for otherwise healthy people due to resultant deprivation of high nutrient value vegetables and fruits.

UPDATE: Steve of Kafeneio points out a very interesting article in this regard. From that article:

  1. Recognize that the overall pattern of the diet matters
  2. Recognize that the best way to avoid bad foods is to eat good foods instead
  3. Talk about nutrients less, and foods more
  4. Acknowledge that the quantity of calories does, of course, count
  5. Acknowledge that the quality of calories does also, of course, count
  6. Acknowledge that the best way to control the quantity of calories without being hungry forever is to improve the quality of those calories
  7. Acknowledge that daily use of feet and forks does involve personal choice, and thus requires personal responsibility
  8. Acknowledge that to be responsible for anything, people need to be suitably empowered
  9. Acknowledge that choices we make are in turn dependent on choices we have- both need to be good
  10. Acknowledge that impulses related to food are deeply rooted in both biology and culture, and thus hard to change
  11. Acknowledge that culture must adapt to compensate for Stone Age biological impulses that otherwise do harm — whether they are about sex, or food, or anything else
  12. Acknowledge that no one thing is THE thing wrong with our diets, and no one food or nutrient change will fix it all
  13. Acknowledge that we need to change the world around us, but can’t just wait on the world to change; in the meantime, we need to empower, and change, ourselves
  14. Acknowledge that most expert opinion and the weight of scientific evidence support a basic set of fundamentals of healthful eating
  15. Recognize that the imperfect knowledge we have of optimal nutrition is still enough to eradicate 80 percent of the total chronic disease burden. If ever there was a case not to make perfect the enemy of good, this is it
  16. Emphasize to the public what we know best and agree on most about healthful eating, rather than an endless “my diet can beat your diet” parade of contestants
  17. Work out what we don’t know, while applying to good effect what we do
  18. Establish a reliable, objective, operationally useful definition of junk food- and then ban all of it. Junk is not food, and food is not junk.
  19. Identify gaps in the prevailing skill set for healthful living, and establish programs to fill those gaps in all of the relevant settings: schools, work sites, churches, restaurants, cyberspace, supermarkets, and so on.
  20. Keep pushing on the food supply to change, but take better advantage of the most effective, least contentious way of changing it: changing our demand.
  21. For fully fleshed out approaches to these and related ideas, see:

UPDATE: Some other good books I’ve found:

How Not to Die, by Michael Greger, MD – this is the book that convinced me to switch to a vegan diet (no animal derived foods: no meat, fish, fowl, dairy, or eggs). It works quite well, as it turns out. I describe in this post my approach.
Death by Food Pyramid, by Denise Minger

Also, watch the movie Forks Over Knives.


Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 12:15 pm

Supreme Court justices routinely rewrite their opinions without public notice

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I find the practice described in NY Times article by Adam Liptak to be shocking. If they must revise, fine—but then make the revisions public, and explain why the revision is made: to correct a factual error, to limit the decision’s impact, or whatever. Sneakily going into rewrite a published opinion and deliberately and consciously keeping that revision a secret is simply beyond the pale. The Supreme Court should be ashamed of such arrogant and self-serving practices. We need legislation to regulate the practice and to ensure that all revisions are made public. The article begins:

The Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include “truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon.

The court can act quickly, as when Justice Antonin Scalia last month corrected an embarrassing error in a dissent in a case involving the Environmental Protection Agency.

But most changes are neither prompt nor publicized, and the court’s secretive editing process has led judges and law professors astray, causing them to rely on passages that were later scrubbed from the official record. The widening public access to online versions of the court’s decisions, some of which do not reflect the final wording, has made the longstanding problem more pronounced.

Unannounced changes have not reversed decisions outright, but they have withdrawn conclusions on significant points of law. They have also retreated from descriptions of common ground with other justices, as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor did in a major gay rights case.

The larger point, said Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford, is that Supreme Court decisions are parsed by judges and scholars with exceptional care. “In Supreme Court opinions, every word matters,” he said. “When they’re changing the wording of opinions, they’re basically rewriting the law.”

Supreme Court opinions are often produced under intense time pressure because of the court’s self-imposed deadline, which generally calls for the announcement of decisions in all cases argued during the term before the justices leave for their summer break. In this term, 29 of the 70 cases argued since October remain to be decided in the next five weeks or so.

The court does warn readers that early versions of its decisions, available at the courthouse and on the court’s website, are works in progress. A small-print notice says that “this opinion is subject to formal revision before publication,” and it asks readers to notify the court of “any typographical or other formal errors.”

But aside from announcing the abstract proposition that revisions are possible, the court almost never notes when a change has been made, much less specifies what it was. And many changes do not seem merely typographical or formal.

Four legal publishers are granted access to “change pages” that show all revisions. Those documents are not made public, and the court refused to provide copies to The New York Times.

The final and authoritative versions of decisions, some published five years after they were announced, do not, moreover, always fully supplant the original ones. Otherwise reliable Internet resources and even the court’s own website at times still post older versions.

The only way the public can identify most changes is by painstaking comparison of early versions of decisions to ones published years later.

But there have been recent exceptions. Last month, Justice Scalia made a misstep in a dissent in a case involving the E.P.A. Under the heading “Plus Ça Change: E.P.A.’s Continuing Quest for Cost-Benefit Authority,” he criticized the agency for seeking such authority in a 2001 case. But he got its position backward. Worse, he was the author of the majority opinion in the 2001 decision.

Law professors pointed out the mistake, and Justice Scalia quickly altered his opinion, revising the text and substituting a bland heading: “Our Precedent.”

Even more recently, Justice Elena Kagan this month corrected her dissent in Town of Greece v. Galloway, modifying a categorical assertion about the location of the first community of American Jews.

The court did not draw attention to the changes, but they did not go unnoticed. Other revisions have. A sentence in a 2003 concurrence from Justice O’Connor in a gay rights decision, Lawrence v. Texas, has been deleted from the official record. She had said Justice Scalia “apparently agrees” that a Texas law making gay sex a crime could not be reconciled with the court’s equal protection principles.

Lower court judges debated the statement, and law professors used it in teaching the case. The statement continues to appear in Internet archives like Findlaw and Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

But it has vanished from the official version published in 2006 and from the one available on Lexis, a legal database.

“They deliberately make it hard for anyone to determine when changes are made, although they could easily make that information public,” Professor Lazarus wrote in the study, which will be published in The Harvard Law Review. . . .

Continue reading.

In any event, the practice of concealing the revisions must stop.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2014 at 10:57 am

Posted in Daily life

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