Coronavirus: Thread

grarpamp grarpamp at
Wed Apr 21 14:19:29 PDT 2021

> Current score... Corona: 5

Obesity: 250,000+

Raw veggies :)

How Government Subsidizes Obesity

Authored by Barry Brownstein via The American Institute for Economic Research,

Austrian mathematician Abraham Wald was a World War II hero. He worked
out of a nondescript apartment building in Harlem for the Applied
Mathematics Panel. Wald’s ability to see the unseen was a significant
factor in the Allied victory in World War II.

Allied bomber planes were being shot down at such an alarming rate
that bomber airmen were called “ghosts already.” The Air Force
concluded that more armor was needed on the planes but adding armor
would add weight. David McRaney, the author of several books on
cognitive biases, tells the story of how Wald saved the military from
a major blunder:

    “The military looked at the bombers that had returned from enemy
territory. They recorded where those planes had taken the most damage.
Over and over again, they saw that the bullet holes tended to
accumulate along the wings, around the tail gunner, and down the
center of the body. Wings. Body. Tail gunner. Considering this
information, where would you put the extra armor? Naturally, the
commanders wanted to put the thicker protection where they could
clearly see the most damage, where the holes clustered. But Wald said
no, that would be precisely the wrong decision. Putting the armor
there wouldn’t improve their chances at all.”

Wald looked at the same bullet holes and saw a pattern revealing
“where a bomber could be shot and still survive the flight home.”

Wald didn’t fall for survivorship bias. Here is what he advised:

    “What you should do is reinforce the area around the motors and
the cockpit. You should remember that the worst-hit planes never come
back. All the data we have come from planes that make it to the bases.
You don’t see that the spots with no damage are the worst places to be
hit because these planes never come back.”

McRaney writes, “The military had the best data available at the time,
and the stakes could not have been higher, yet the top commanders
still failed to see the flaws in their logic. Those planes would have
been armored in vain had it not been for the intervention of a man
trained to spot human error.”

We easily succumb to what you see is all there is (WYSIATI) mindset
bias. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains,
“You cannot help dealing with the limited information you have as if
it were all there is to know. You build the best possible story from
the information available to you, and if it is a good story, you
believe it.”

Think of the last time you looked to a “survivor” for career and life
advice, eager to learn their ticket to success. McRaney writes, “The
problem here is that you rarely take away from these inspirational
figures advice on what not to do, on what you should avoid, and that’s
because they don’t know.” We make faulty decisions when we ignore the
evidence from those who did not survive a selection process.

As an example of entrepreneurial success, Kahneman took a look at
narratives of how Google beat its competition. Kahneman writes of such

    “The story could give you the sense that you understand what made
Google succeed; it would also make you feel that you have learned a
valuable general lesson about what makes businesses succeed.
Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that your sense of
understanding and learning from the Google story is largely illusory.
The ultimate test of an explanation is whether it would have made the
event predictable in advance.”

Clearly, any story of the rise of Google will not meet a forecasting
test. Kahneman writes, “No story can include the myriad of events that
would have caused a different outcome. The human mind does not deal
well with nonevents.”

We are all too ready to ignore our ignorance, especially when there is
much that is unknown. At the same time, in our ignorance it is easier
to construct a story. Kahneman explains, “Paradoxically, it is easier
to construct a coherent story when you know little, when there are
fewer pieces to fit into the puzzle. Our comforting conviction that
the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost
unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”

In short, we don’t spend a lot of time wondering about what we don’t
know. Kahneman warns that to “focus on what we know and neglect what
we do not know… makes us overly confident in our beliefs.”

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the media and politicians have
insisted we rely on the “judgment calls” of their proclaimed experts
to guide policy. Facile but incorrect stories about lockdowns

In March, Dr. Fauci again incorrectly predicted that doom was upon us
when Texas relaxed its pandemic rules.

Kahneman writes:

    “It is wrong to blame anyone for failing to forecast accurately in
an unpredictable world. However, it seems fair to blame professionals
for believing they can succeed in an impossible task.” Perhaps,
Kahneman is too kind.

With Covid, predictions are founded on politics, not science, as Bill
Maher recently pointedly and humorously explained.

We are ignorant of our ignorance. It is time to look for new patterns
in the evidence of those who have not survived.
Who Didn’t Come Back from Covid

The military was wise enough to listen to Wald. It would have been
perverse to ignore the cockpit and reinforce parts of the plane that
could survive bullet hits.

Policy makers, politicians, and the media have largely ignored the
cockpit of good health: the human immunological system.

Maher pointed to a recent CDC study that reported the vast majority
(78%) of those hospitalized or dead from Covid have been overweight or

Of Americans aged 20 and over 73.6% are overweight; 42.5% are obese.
(Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.) Many
studies explain how obesity decreases resistance to infection. Obesity
is linked to type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, which
increase the odds of hospitalization from Covid.

The Covid survival narrative has focused attention on lockdowns, masks
and vaccinations. Maher pointed out the role that obesity played:

    “People died because talking about obesity had become a third rail
in America.” Maher continued, “the last thing you want to do is say
something insensitive. We would literally rather die. Instead, we were
told to lock down. Unfortunately, the killer was already in the house
and her name is Little Debbie.”

Little Debbie, of course, is Maher’s reference to heavily processed
foods that are ubiquitous in the American diet.

A significant factor in the startling numbers of overweight Americans
is the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in heavily processed

The total per capita consumption of all sugars in the United States is
approximately 150 pounds a year. Of that, the average American
consumes over 50 pounds of corn sweeteners a year.

Sugar is heavily subsidized by the US government through loans,
purchases of sugar, and tariffs on imported sugar. Government
incentives have created a high-fructose corn syrup industry which
didn’t exist prior to the 1970s. US sugar prices can be up to twice
the world price.

>From 1995-2020, corn subsidies in the United States totaled $116.6
billion. The subsidized and surplus corn ends up not only as processed
food but as animal feed.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan explains, “Read the
ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know
the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find.”
Pollan describes the corn food chain:

    “Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds
the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the
tilapia and, increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that
the fish farmers are reengineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made
of corn. The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy
cows that grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that
spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.
Head over to the processed foods and you find ever more intricate
manifestations of corn. A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon
corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do
most of a nugget’s other constituents, including the modified corn
starch that glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter
that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less
obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and
triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric
acid that keeps the nugget “fresh” can all be derived from corn. To
wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the
supermarket is to have some corn with your corn. Since the 1980s
virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the
supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup
(HFCS)—after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient.”

You might say at least we are getting cheap food for our tax dollars
but not so fast. Heavily processed foods appear less expensive than
they are, shifting consumption away from foods that do not promote

Notably, the cow is a ruminant animal and is meant to thrive on grass,
not grains. Pollan explains why subsidized feedlot farming places your
health at stake:

    “We’ve come to think of “corn-fed” as some kind of old-fashioned
virtue, which it may well be when you’re referring to Midwestern
children, but feeding large quantities of corn to cows for the greater
part of their lives is a practice neither particularly old nor
virtuous. Its chief advantage is that cows fed corn, a compact source
of caloric energy, get fat quickly; their flesh also marbles well,
giving it a taste and texture American consumers have come to like.
Yet this corn-fed meat is demonstrably less healthy for us, since it
contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat
of animals fed grass. A growing body of research suggests that many of
the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems
with corn-fed beef. (Modern-day hunter-gatherers who subsist on wild
meat don’t have our rates of heart disease.) In the same way ruminants
are ill adapted to eating corn, humans in turn may be poorly adapted
to eating ruminants that eat corn.”

Pollan explains how corn subsidies distort many aspects of animal production:

    “To help dispose of the rising mountain of cheap corn farmers were
now producing, the government did everything it could to help wean
cattle off grass and onto corn, by subsidizing the building of
feedlots (through tax breaks) and promoting a grading system based on
marbling that favored corn-fed over grass-fed beef. (The government
also declined to make CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations]
obey clean air and clean water laws.)”

Consequences of subsidized corn production abound, Pollan points out,
“which are never charged directly to the consumer but, indirectly and
invisibly, to the taxpayer (in the form of subsidies), the health care
system (in the form of food-borne illnesses and obesity), and the
environment (in the form of pollution), not to mention the welfare of
the workers in the feedlot and the slaughterhouse and the welfare of
the animals themselves.”

Throughout this pandemic, corn subsidies have continued unabated.
Americans have continued to consume heavily processed foods while
health consequences are ignored. Indeed, lockdowns fueled the
consumption of junk foods. Yet, as Maher pointed out, it is not
acceptable to point to the pattern of obesity in many who suffered and
died from serious cases of Covid. It is not a stretch to say that
subsidizing foods known to increase obesity has killed people. Of
course, we are all responsible for our food choices but there is no
need to incentivize poor choices.

Other patterns can be observed linking government policy and Covid
deaths. Parks were closed and outdoor activities prohibited. A recent
study found that “people who tended to be sedentary were far more
likely to be hospitalized, and to die, from Covid than those who
exercised regularly.” We know too that Vitamin D is essential for a
healthy immunological system. Government policy dictated that we stay
home rather than get outdoors, exercise, and allow the human body to
manufacture Vitamin D from exposure to sunshine.

Heavily processed foods are designed to excite the taste buds. The
illusion of tasty has killed Americans. Change begins with the
willingness of individuals and families to overcome ignorance of what
weakens the immunological cockpit of the human body. We can learn from
those that didn’t come back from Covid. We can strengthen our
immunological system by rejecting a diet of subsidized, heavily
processed calories.

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