The poem Hávamál explains that the originator of the runes was the major god Odin. Stanza 138 describes how Odin received the runes through self-sacrifice:
The state investigators are also examining whether some additives, like black tea extract and guarana, may contain additional caffeine that is not reflected when the drinks are labeled.It is really hard to complain about that. I know that there are some people who think that even informational labeling mandates are anti-liberty. But as an economist, I have to say that providing accurate information, and trying to provide as much decision-relevant information as possible, even if that involves mandates, is necessary for real informed autonomy (i.e., liberty).
The attorney general...is also looking at whether the companies...violated federal law in promoting the drinks as dietary supplements rather than as foods, which are regulated more strictly.It is pretty difficult to think of these concoctions as food. The only reason to define them that way would be to be able to ban them as "adulterated". (That silly word, in itself, makes the case: How does it make any sense at all to refer to an engineered, completely artificial product as "adulterated"? It is what it is.)
I like that point. That is the kind of simple truth in labeling that could nudge people into making better decisions without needless restrictions or manipulative games. A refreshingly rational and non-doctrinaire point, given the title of the speaker. Oh, but wait...[Amelia M. Arria, an epidemiologist who serves as director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health] added. “The term ‘energy drink’ is misleading. Energy should come from calories — this is more about stimulation.”
Huh? One of the effects of being drunk, for some people, is drowsiness and the like. Caffeine and other drugs can eliminate (not "mask") that particular effect, but certainly not the other effects. Perhaps she is arguing that getting groggy and falling asleep is a feature of drunkenness, rather than a bug. But, funny, you never hear "public health" people arguing that this is a good self-correction built into drinking, even though they are happy to implicitly evoke it when condemning some other product.“A person who co-ingests an energy drink and alcohol doesn’t understand how drunk they are,” Ms. Arria said. “Caffeine keeps you awake so you can keep drinking, and high levels of caffeine can mask intoxication.”
The amount of caffeine differs widely among drinks but can range from about 80 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams. By comparison, a 12-ounce cola contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine, while a 5-ounce coffee has about 100 milligrams.The 80 mg is more typical, so that range is rather misleading. But more important, why did they not just compare, say, 20 ml of coffee, if they were going to report an absurdly small quantity. Who pours only 5 oz. of coffee?
any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselvesA great point. Unfortunately, this observation will likely not generate concern about the countless people who are convicted of street crimes in the U.S. based on similar "evidence"? For most of them, the testimony that the cops extract from some convenient "witness" does not leave them as a millionaire living a life of leisure, of course, but utterly ruins their lives.
True or False: Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.The details of this are probably a little complicated for the kids, but this statement is, and has always been and is well documented as being, nonsense. I am not just talking about the built-in implicit lying about low-risk products by referring to "smoking" as "tobacco", though that is probably the most harmful aspect of it. The problem is that if it is "preventable", why are we not preventing it? Because we actually do not know how to do so, of course. Then why is it "preventable"? Because they are quite sure it can be prevented just as soon as they figure out how to do it. But by that definition, cancer or apoptosis is a preventable cause of death too.
True or False: In order to purchase tobacco products in the United States, an individual must be at least 16 years of age.When I answered True, it told me I was wrong and that individuals must be at least 18 years of age. Which, of course, means that they also must be at least 16 years of age, so the correct answer is indeed True. False would mean that you could buy at younger than 16. Numeracy is not the strong point of these people.
True or False: Youth are sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent sooner than adults.The first bit of that conjunction is rather odd to even ask (does anyone really think that young people are immune to nicotine?) so the truth value hinges on the latter part. They assert "the younger they are when they begin using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine and the more heavily addicted they will become." Since there is no scientific definition of "addicted", let alone "more heavily addicted" this is a little hard to judge. It turns out there is remarkably little solid evidence on this topic (once you replace the dramatic words with something scientific), given the huge confounding problem.
True or False: Smokeless tobacco is addictive and can lead to dependence.Of course they say True, which is not an absurd claim if you are not bothered by the pesky little problem of their being no accepted meaningful definition for "addictive". But their answer is still clearly wrong, reading: "True. Smokeless tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing agents. Adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers."
True or False: Tobacco smoke contains about 70 chemicals that can cause cancer.If they had said "at least 70", then in the spirit of "at least 16" they would have been literally correct. Of course, since so many chemicals can cause cancer in the right dosage and location, and you can never conclude that a particular chemical never causes cancer, this is pretty unscientific phrasing from people that are supposed to be a scientific organization. But that is not the worst of it. The answer (True, of course) goes on to say "Therefore, it's no surprise, then, that smoking causes about one in three of all cancer deaths in the United States." Huh??? Even setting aside the accuracy of the statistic, how they hell do they translate "contains 70" to "causes 1/3"? It is bad enough that they are so scientifically illiterate that they think that makes sense. But should they really trying to keep American youth ranked so low in math and science literacy?
True or False: Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke.[Insert your own joke about not understanding the difference between inevitable social correlations and causation here -- I have run out of energy.]
On Sunday, Paul Krugman noticed Niall Ferguson writing something apparently false about the Affordable Care Act. Today, Ferguson responded to Krugman’s critique by saying, in effect, that he wasn’t wrong so much as he was very carefully trying to mislead his readers.Ferguson wrote, in a cover story in Newsweek:
The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.Klein observes:
The intended meaning is pretty clear. Ferguson is saying Obama “pledged” that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit, “but” the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Tax Committee now say otherwise. The problem, as Krugman pointed out, is that the CBO and the JCT do not now say otherwise. Ferguson is simply wrong.Klein then goes on to suggest that the CBO reporting was rather confusing, so being wrong is possibly understandable. This seems way too charitable toward someone who presumes to write paid commentaries in national forums. But that turns out to be moot.
But Ferguson says he wasn’t confused. Rather, he phrased his original comments very carefully in order to deceive his readers. You see, Ferguson specified that he was only talking about the “insurance-coverage provisions,” and so, if you happen to be an employee of the Congressional Budget Office and you’re aware of the difference between these reports, you would’ve understood that when Ferguson wrote [the above quoted two sentences] that the first sentence and the second sentence had nothing to do with each other. Of course, most people are not employees of the CBO, and so they just got tricked. In the pages of Newsweek. Bummer for them.That is a nice summary of what happened. Sadly, Klein then goes on to say:
But while the fact that Ferguson is trying to trick his readers about the facts of his case might be a reason to be skeptical of the rest of his piece, it’s not the main reason. After all, Ferguson’s careful misdirection is arguably evidence of a quick and agile mind. He might be cheating to strengthen his argument. But that doesn’t mean his argument is wrong. Rather, the main reason to mistrust Ferguson is that, for years now, his argument has been wrong.No no no no no. No! Bad, Ezra Klein, bad! Most of the time when someone is trying to understand a technical analysis, they do not expertise like Klein or Krugman has here. They will not necessarily be able to identify various other things that Ferguson gets wrong, and how the entire basis for his argument is faulty. The same would be true if Klein or Krugman were trying to interpret a debate about, say, tobacco harm reduction. The reaction should be "here is clear evidence this guy was trying to lie to me; in theory it is possible that everything else in the piece -- all those bits that I just have to trust the author about -- is true, but a safer bet is that the whole argument is not anchored in truth."
I actually can’t recall running into a piece in which the argument is so carefully written as to mislead the reader without, in most cases, being entirely untrue.So he recognizes that when someone is carefully trying to mislead, their argument is almost certainly untrue. But he still takes an attitude of "don't leap to that conclusion; instead, look at all the other stuff that Ferguson got wrong, and furthermore, what is wrong with this entire political dogma". But as nice as it would be for everyone to understand enough about economic policy to see through the worst of the WSJ/Ryan faction's absurd claims, it is not going to happen. And while this was a major matter for Krugman and Klein, which they were certainly going to carefully review, most people -- even most of their readers -- need a more efficient strategy for figuring out when to stop believing someone.
The premium brands are about to lose much of their appeal and so people are going to turn to cheaper cigarettes. Pushing people onto cheaper cigarettes is not generally considered to be best practice in public health. But fear not, because [anti-tobacco industry leader and all-around muddled thinker, Simon] Chapman has the solution...He is right (Snowdon, not Chapman, obviously) about the general effect of making cigarettes cheaper, and the point that he goes on to make that Chapman's "solution" will just drive more people to the black market. A bit more economic science about these points can help clarify what would happen and why:But the Australian government can simply raise tobacco tax overnight as often as it needs to effectively maintain a floor price for cigarettes that will deter smokers from buying more than they could have afforded previously.The man's a genius! Make cigarettes more expensive and fewer people will buy them. Why has no one thought of this before?!
why spend on corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Brands empower and enable consumers to select those companies they approve of. The environmental policy of a company or how they treat their employees influences my decision to buy a given branded product. Without the brand, however, that power is removed and, by default, the business's interest in CSR. The business's fear factor and liability is reduced substantially.Take that concept and circle back to the discussion of the black market. It is actually an application of the same principle. Manufacturers of non-monopoly, branded consumer goods have the incentive to behave well, sponsor good causes, not break marketing laws, etc. because they get more business by appearing to be good citizens. Of course, many of these friendly "good" "citizens" still support all kinds of policies that are bad for 99% of the population, so do not mistake this for praise of big corporations at their core. Rather, it is praise for one way of making them behave a bit less like the purely selfish rapacious entities that they otherwise would be.
Rigorous ex-post evaluation finds no evidence that Olympics produces Olympic medals
Using data conveniently available from the Peruvian, Ecuadorean, Bolivian, and Chilean Olympic trials, the study compared athletes who just made the Olympic team with those who just fell short....Read the whole thing to appreciate since it is a very quick read -- so much short that to quote extensively from it would not be fair use.
Each plant has probably earned, on average, $20 million to $40 million a year from simply destroying waste gasand
The production of coolants was so driven by the lure of carbon credits for waste gas that in the first few years more than half of the plants operated only until they had produced the maximum amount of gas eligible for the carbon credit subsidy, then shut down until the next year, United Nations reports said. The plants also used inefficient manufacturing processes to generate as much waste gas as possibleIn addition, the manufacturers are threatening to start venting the gasses if their absurd subsidies are withdrawn. You might recognize that business model because it is the same one employed by Somali pirates: Do something that is socially very harmful, and make money by getting Westerners to pay to you reduce the harm you are causing, somewhat.
“I was a climate negotiator, and no one had this in mind,” said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It turns out you get nearly 100 times more from credits than it costs to do it. It turned the economics of the business on its head.”Really? It never occurred to anyone that it was a bad idea to create a "market" where someone was not penalized for creating a pollutant (because the requirement to buy carbon credits to offset pollution is imposed only in a few countries) but was rewarded for destroying it. Even if the authors of the plan -- inexcusably -- were unaware of this technology that produces that 100-fold profit margin, surly they must have realized this was a perverse incentive. I realize that someone who works for NRDC is perhaps not a very good scientist, but the planners could have asked, say, a random economics student for some help.
“While consumption patterns of traditional cigarettes have continued to decline, when we take into account these alternative cigarettelike products, we’re seeing a lack of change in the overall consumption of burned tobacco that is being inhaled,” said Terry Pechacek, associate director for science with the C.D.C. Office on Smoking and Health in Atlanta and one of the report’s authors.That will not stop the anti-tobacco industry from claiming ongoing success when it suits them, of course. I do not anticipate CDC or the rest of that industry backing off on their efforts to keep smokers from switching to low risk alternatives. But back to the topic for today....
"This report demonstrates that the the tobacco industry is as resourceful, and as predatory, as ever," says Thomas Glynn, director of international cancer control at the American Cancer Society.The DFP story and the ACS quote, and others like them, demonstrate two fundamental bits of economic innumeracy. The first is the mistake of thinking that supply creates demand rather than the other way around. What actually happened is that the price of one good kept climbing while an inferior (in the eyes of the consumer -- else they already would have been buying it) good remained cheaper, and once the price differential was high enough, some consumers accepted the reduction in quality and switched. Specifically they switched from cigarettes to pipe tobacco, which they rolled themselves, or to "little cigars" or the even lower-taxed "big cigars", a category that has consistently been protected from excise taxes because rich people like them. It is consumers that are resourceful. Once the consumer started being resourceful, something happened that would only surprise the innumerate: People started buying out all the supplies of pipe tobacco, and in response, the producers started producing more. And when the cigars that are just big enough to be in the cheaper "big" category became more popular, more of them were made too (as well as the little ones which have more taxes but are a better substitute for cigarettes).
Altria, the parent company of the country's leading cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, believes "that little cigars and roll-your-own tobacco should pay the same tax as cigarettes, as Congress intended," spokesman David Sylvia said.