Category: Political Controversies
drinking, Political Controversies, Rule 4, science

The CDC and the New Prohibitionists

[caption id="attachment_11123" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Brought to you by The Centers for Disease Control Brought to you by The Centers for Disease Control[/caption] This little gem about America's modern prohibitionists came out last month, but I didn't want to harsh your rum buzz with yet another example of how joylessly unrealistic, controlling, and contemptuous American bureaucracy is. Of course, The Centers for Disease Control (the subject of this little screed) would likely argue that I'm some kind of baby-killer for not rushing their message out as swiftly as possible. You see, they want you to know that no woman of child-bearing years should drink any alcohol at all, unless she is on full-time, passive birth control. From The Atlantic—Protect Your Womb from the Devil Drink:
Julie: Olga, did you know that 3.3 million women in the U.S. are “at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol?” Well, their hypothetical babies at least. This number represents the women aged 15 to 44 who are “drinking, having sex, and not using birth control,” according to a report The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Tuesday. In an effort to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, the agency says doctors should “recommend birth control to women who are having sex (if appropriate), not planning to get pregnant, and drinking alcohol.”
Here's the report from the CDC, so you can read this piece of Chinese lead- and talc-filled pablum for yourself. If you can't stomach longish articles that look like Carrie Nation took over the USAToday, I'll digest it for you.
  • There is NO SAFE AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION during pregnancy, from making the Beast with Two Backs, all the way until the sweating, screaming, and well-coached breathing. (And really not until you finish breast-feeding, but that's another publication for another day) ((You are breast-feeding your baby, right? Right? Right?!?!))
  • There is a whole raft of scary, permanent problems that a baby might have. A large number of these can be caused by (among other causes, known and unknown) any alcohol consumption during any point of pregnancy.
  • A post-pubescent, pre-menopausal woman can become pregnant if she, get this, has sex.
  • Ipso facto, all fertile women must choose between drinking, or The Pill or an IUD. (Or condoms. But let's be honest with ourselves, if you are a boozer, how careful are you always going to be about condoms?)
I'll admit, I may have made explicit some subtext in all that.... On the face of it, this is yet another of those apparently reasonable, "what could it hurt not to be safe?" kind of things that public advocates put out all the time. Because it is "apparently" reasonable. It is also brutish. And bad science that is provably so even by someone like me who is outside the field. And hugely paternalistic, like most such pronouncements from the government health field. Oh yeah, and it is more hopelessly naive about human nature than TV commercial dads are about diapers. Brutish? Yep. From the Atlantic article again:
On an individual level, pregnancy is an exercise in abstinence. Women are told to give up not just alcohol, but caffeine, too. And seafood and lunch meat and soft cheeses. And sometimes, things that are much harder to go without. Jane Marie wrote a heartbreaking essay in Cosmopolitan about going off her depression and anxiety medication while pregnant.
It is a bit brutish to demand that a woman who wishes to go about her life to give up sensible recreational lifestyle choices (e.g. sex... or Pegus), or to endure a range of side-effects, agonizing negotiations, or other dangers. But asking people to make draconian personal choices against their own wishes to prevent low-order-probability events is just one of the brutish services modern government provides! And get this: I am fully aware that brutish (by this definition) advice is often necessary, and indeed a good thing. Fathers like me, with daughter's like mine, often issue "brutish" advice about subjects quite close to this. One difference is that if an individual issues such "guidance" to a young woman or women publicly, a Twitter mob of persons allergic to contrary viewpoints will form and declare the Earth a Safe Space, where said individual is not welcome. Other differences are the time-testedness of the advice, the recognition of human nature in the thought process, and the order of magnitude of the probabilities.... The science here really is dubious. It's what happens when you combine patrician public policy with scientific endeavor. Science loses... or is co-opted, which is worse for Science. First off, yes: All evidence is quite clear that some level of alcohol consumption, at some points in a child's development, can have deleterious, even devastating consequences. What is, however, far from remotely certain is how low that level of consumption is, and a which points in the timeline, and how great the risk actually is. (One in a hundred? One in a million?) As but one example, there is evidence showing an improvement is natal outcomes with mothers who drink low amounts of alcohol during parts of pregnancy over those who teetotal. (Danger! Correlation is not causation!) My point here is that there is conflicting good science on the subject. It is dishonest and to no small degree self-deluding to act as if there evidence sufficient to support such an absolutist conclusion as the CDC puts forth here. While the CDC release does not use the term, it is clearly informed by the all-too common term, "There is no safe level of X." With the exception of supertoxins like Plutonium, this phrase generally has come to mean, "we don't actually know for sure what the minimum safe level is, only that there is some level that is not safe. So to be conservative, let's just say the level is zero. Better safe than sorry." To adopt this as rigorous scientific method, we would be forced to also put forth public policy based on there being no safe level of crossing the street. If you base life decisions on pronouncements like there being "no safe level of crossing the street", the little Jimmy will not be allowed to walk the two blocks to Billy's house on Saturday. Jimmy's mom will instead have to schedule a playdate for next weekend. The upshot of this is that Jimmy will be safe from the terrifying risk of walking down the street while eleven, but the cost of this safety is that there is now be a near certainty that he will be living in Mom's basement and working for the Martin O'Malley campaign when he is 24. It is simply not possible for human beings to avoid all risks in life, and any attempt at doing so usually ends badly. An honest accounting of risks, and an honest disclosure of the uncertainties about those risks, is going to be more helpful to people in determining what risks to take, and how often. The human mind works fairly consistently, especially en masse. Tell people that something is too dangerous to do at all, something they really like doing, and they are going to do it anyway. Having decided to do it anyway, they will justify this by not believing you. And once they don't believe you, many will take this as license to seriously ignore your advice.... And if this disbelief is easily justified by their own experiences and by facts in evidence, they will conclude not only that you are wrong, but that you are liars. And they will place an assumption upon you that any other advice and/or edicts you may issue are also likely untrue. And they won't be happy about it. Think I'm wrong? [caption id="attachment_11126" align="aligncenter" width="360"]The inevitable consequence of telling people that the sky is green for long enough.... The horrible, inevitable consequence of telling people that the sky is green for long enough....[/caption] So, why do public health advocates employ absolutist solutions so often? Are they truly so risk-adverse that they genuinely believe their own advice? I doubt it. In a recent speech, Christopher Snowdon of the British think tank Institute of Economic Affairs addresses this endemic dishonesty, using general alcohol consumption issues as his focus. I think it is an excellent piece, not least because much of his thinking mirrors my own as outlined above.... He suggests there are two reasons, neither of which are a true belief in the advice offered. The first thought process he describes in terms of teacher's setting homework expectations.
...the teachers told us that we would be expected to do three or four hours of homework a night. ... I doubt that any of us were so conscientious. Speaking personally, I recall half an hour being the average, perhaps up to an hour on occasion. Looking back, I think the teachers knew that we wouldn’t do three or four hours. I think they would have been very happy if we did one or two hours. They were doing something that behavioural economists call ‘anchoring’ — putting an unrealistically high number in our minds in the hope that we would settle for a lower number, but that the number would still be higher than the number we would have come up with if left to our own devices. If they had said we should do an hour, we might have settled for 20 minutes. If they had said half an hour, we might have settled for ten minutes.
The second motive he proposes is bureaucratic, rather than health motivated. Put in terms of this CDC missive, the number and intensity of women drinking while pregnant or actively trying to become pregnant has been declining over time. That this can be attributed to the efforts of the public health community is indisputable, and to the extent that we recognize it as a public good, should be celebrated as a success. But bureaucracies are generally loathe to brag about real successes (though they certainly tout illusory successes when they are failing at root jobs). Why? Because if they admit to having fixed a problem, the rest of the government will say, "Awesome! Now we can give your money to spend on some other problem that isn't fixed, or even (I'm laughing so hard I can barely type here) just not spend that money at all." Conversely, if you change your metrics, from "don't drink if you are trying to become pregnant" to "don't drink if you could possibly become pregnant", suddenly you have three and a half million women added to your population of people with dangerous drinking habits. Three and a half million is a crisis! Better give them more money.... I'll propose a third motive as well: the clever, incremental totalitarianism of the bureaucratic state, in this case, the Prohibitionist wing. When we ended Prohibition, we didn't end the prohibitionists. We just taught them better tactics. First, they came for the college students, and I did nothing. Because, screw those punks. Then, they came for the fertile women, and I did nothing. Because I am not a fertile woman. And so on. Finally, the CDC is being a bit naive about some of the rather elemental relationship between booze and pregnancy. Bill McMorris at the Federalist writes this:
Forgive me for taking this personally, but I wouldn’t be here if not for the invention of Irish whiskey. My two children wouldn’t be here if not for Pinot Noir. We’re a good Catholic family. The only form of birth control we use is my physique, but, like every other method of birth control short of abstinence, it is not 100 percent effective (Baby No. 3 is due in July). Evidently we are child-abusing monsters.
In my case, I am reliably informed that in my case, my nativity can be put down to the invention of the Stinger.... Regardless, I am not suggesting women go on The Drinking Man's Diet, be they fertile or not. There is a connection between drinking and pregnancy outcomes. The connection gets stronger with greater consumption, likely curving up in more than just a straight line. The advice our physician gave my wife and me was to be careful about the calendar when actively trying to get pregnant, and abstain once we succeeded. In the latter stages of the pregnancy, a smallish glass of wine on most days would likely have a higher chance of being beneficial than being harmful. Pregnancy is hard, people. There is the weight gain. The weariness. The sexual insecurity. The crankiness. The worries about the future... And guys, if you think it is hard, the women have it even worse!abc
drinking, Funny, Political Controversies, Rule 4, Whiskey, Whisky

Irish Hipsters Compare Their Booze to America’s

I've got two fun videos that entertain yet say a lot about drinking tastes and booze-making skills on either side of the Atlantic. The first is about beer, and the second is about whiskey vs whisky. In each we watch as a group of Irish hipsters...
So, what's the group word for hipsters? You know, a Murder of crows, a Bloat of hippos, a Congress of Owls...
Heh. A "Congress of owls"... You know, because owls are supposed to be wise, and Congress is, um, demonstrably not.
Yeah! Wait... You're getting me off topic in the middle of my interruption!
Now you know what it feels like!
Harumph. Names like this usually come from what the group is or does, like a Skulk of Jackals. And since a Nuisance of housecats is already taken...
OK. So these videos present us with a Pose of hipsters from Ireland blind-tasting booze. [caption id="attachment_10803" align="aligncenter" width="530"]Frasier T-Shirt in 2015? Yep, they're hipsters. Frasier T-Shirt in 2015? Yep, they're hipsters.[/caption] The first, I found via LikeCool. They take our Pose of Irishpersons two at a time and present them with an American beer in plastic cups. First they get all squee over the quaint, silly American custom of drinking out of cheap, convenient, clean, and safe drinkware. Then, they try Budweiser, High Life, Brooklyn Lager, Coors Light, and Sam Adams. Watch: I was initially surprised about how kind they were to the King of Beers, but only a little. See, here's my own little mental test of a drinker's character, when they start talking about beer. If they trash Budweiser, I know they are a snob with self-awareness issues. Budweiser is the very definition of drinkable, when it comes to fermented grain. No, there is nothing interesting about it, because there is nothing objectionable about it. If you can't enjoy an afternoon drinking a bucket of cold Buds, you have lost the capacity to just enjoy beer. and I feel sorry for you.
Some of you who know Doug are realizing about now that he has judged you in just this way in the past. Now, don't you feel ashamed?
As for the rest, the Miller and the Brooklyn get mocked, the Sam Adams get a little love, and the Coors Light gets exactly what it deserves. It's all fun and games as they mock American beer in every way that is reasonable to the Irish, and quite understandable to Americans. But here's the thing: they know all the beer they are trying is American. It gets a lot more interesting in the second video. Here, our intrepid drinkers are presented with a side-by-side samples of one American and one Irish whisk(e)y, and must choose which they prefer. They pick up little signs to signify their choice. If they see our guy, who-wishes-he-were-a-king-but-isn't-so-suck-it-Barack, they chose the Whiskey, and if they see their pasty white guy, who-totally-isn't-the-Queen-and-we'll-totally-punch-you-in-the-nose-if-you-suggest-he-might-as-well-be, they chose the Whisky. The results? Yeah, Michael Higgins doesn't get a lot of face time. The American's just crush the Irish in this test, folks. [caption id="attachment_10806" align="aligncenter" width="448"]USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA![/caption] To be fair, there isn't a lot of practical applicability to this kind of test. I would personally make the American choice in all three of these comparisons. But. Whenever I walk into a place and the bartender is clearly in the weeds, or just look like they couldn't mix a Rum and Coke without help, I always, always order a Jameson neat. Why? See my comments about Budweiser above. The Irish, they know brown liquor, though it might pain them to acknowledge it in the context of the contest we just watched. Why? Well, re-watch the first four seconds of that second video, or try out this little music video I made back when this blog (and my kids) were new to the world. abc
Drinking Games, Political Controversies, Rule 4

Mid-Term Election Night Drinking Game

blitzer-election-night It is Election Day once again in America. Actually, for well or weal, it is the end of Election Month in America, but this is the day that average folks pay the most attention. A whopping 25% of American citizens will have voted by the close of the polls today, which puts this up there in the Monica and Chandler's wedding territory as far a capturing the nation's zeitgeist.... So, as is our national tradition when we are all watching the same event, and listening to a diverse group of people all saying the same predictable things about it, we need a drinking game to take away the pain. This list is hardly exhaustive. Also, given my own political leanings, it may be a bit harder on the Blue Team talking heads. Therefore, I'd like your help. If there is an obvious drinking opportunity I've missed, please let me know in the comments or mention it to me on Twitter at @DAWinship. I'm also looking for suggestions for presidential tropes for the big game in two years. {I'll update as long as I get good suggestions. Additions from other folks are in italics.} These lists get long, so I'd suggest you and your crew select your favorites from it and follow only them... unless you are Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who may need all of them to get through this night.
  • Every time a race is called for an incumbent, take a sip.
  • Every time an incumbent is defeated, drink once.
  • Every time a pundit on your side says something you think is patently untrue, drink once.
  • Every time a pundit not on your side says something you think is patently untrue, do nothing. (Or you will wake up in the hospital with a pumped stomach.)
  • Every time someone says something about the Kochs, drink once.
  • Every time someone says something about Tom Steyer, drink three times.
  • Every time a pundit mentions the fact that Kansas voters hate both of their major candidates for Senate, drink once.
  • Every time the phrase "Tight as a tick" is used, drink twice. If you are merely drinking beer instead of something stronger, drink once for all other Ratherisms.
  • Should LA or GA go to a run-off for Senate, drink three times.
  • If something weird happens with the FL gubernatorial election, drink three times.
  • If any of the "wave indicator" elections goes the GOP's way, have an extra shot. (MA, MD, CT governor. NH, VA, KS senate.)
  • Every time a partisan pundit has to choke back a sob, drink once.
  • Every time a supposedly non-partisan anchor has to choke back a sob, drink twice.
  • When a pundit excuses a loss for his team based on "Dark" or "outside" money, drink once.
  • Every time a righty pundit darkly alludes to the "margin of fraud", drink twice.
  • Every time a lefty pundit complains of voter suppression, take a sip.
  • If a righty pundit uses the phrase "the deep state", drink three times.
  • Any time a pundit uses race to excuse a loss, drink once.
  • Any time a Democrat pundit blames the President for a loss, take a sip.
  • Every time a pundit outright blames a loss on voter stupidity, drink twice.
  • Any time a righty brings up, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, or Lois Lerner and the IRS, take a sip.(Just Me)
  • Keep a separate glass beside you. Every time there is cross-talk, add a splash to the glass. Any time some cross-talk continues obliviously right into the commercial break, chug the glass.
  • If anyone says something apocalyptic like "this is the End of Democracy", take a drink. (@KevinInABQ)
  • At any poll closing, if they project the winner before a single vote is counted, take a drink.
  • If anyone projects a winner in a state before all its polls are closed (e.g. FL and TX), do two shots.
  • Every time someone trots out the idea that a GOP takeover of the Senate would be a bad thing for Republicans, take a shot.
At popular request, I've added a network-specific section, to add spice to your selection of who to watch. FoxNews
  • Any time Karl Rove deploys his little white board, take a sip. (@JackMColdcuts)
  • When Frank Luntz speaks, do half a shot, spin five times, and finish your shot. (Matt Hamlin)
  • When right-wing pundits get into an argument of immigration, do a shot.
  • The first state that goes Democrat after Rove promised it would go Republican, take a drink. If Rove then pleads that the network retract its projection, finish the glass.
MSNBC, and its subsidiary, NBC News
  • Every time a pundit or anchor reveals a genuine incredulity that anyone votes Republican, take a sip.
  • Should anyone on their air or in their crawl declare the intent to "leave the country", drink twice.(@KevinInABQ)
  • If Maddow at any point just throws up her hands and says, "Screw it! Lets just talk cocktail recipes", then go ahead and drink with her.
  • Any time Gee Whiz techno-wizardy such as pinch to zoom touchscreens, 3D popups, etc. is used, take a sip. If they brag about its earth-shatteringly advanced awesomeness, take two drinks.
  • If the hologram comes out, take three drinks the first time, and a shot thereafter. (Matt Hamlin)
  • If they report on a an issue you've heard about for days, weeks, or months as if it were totally new to the public eye, take a drink.
Add the following list should the Republicans manage to get to 51 senate seats (and you are still sober enough to read):
  • When the GOP gain control of the Senate, drink five times. (Champagne for Republicans, brown liquor for Democrats)
  • Every time a left-leaning pundit or non-partisan anchor uses the phrase, "this is not a wave", drink once.
  • Every time a right-leaning pundit openly mocks whomever is sitting across from him, drink once.
  • Every time a lefty pundit denies that the Republicans have a "mandate" from this election, take a sip.
  • Should an anchor casually dismiss the idea that Republicans have a mandate from the election, drink once.
  • Should a righty pundit make grandiose claims about a huge mandate, drink once.
If the Senate ends up 50/50, putting Joe Biden in charge... Drink heavily until you run out of all the alcohol you own. That's all I have right now. I know there is lots more, for the wonk and the casual observer alike. Again, help me out in the comments or on Twitter. Please be sure to play this game only where you intend to sleep for the night, or where you have a friend who will be playing Dungeons & Dragons in the next room and staying the hell away from this game. Finally, if you do want to geek out on the politics tonight, may I suggest you keep the Ace of Spades HQ Decision Desk open in one of your browser windows? It is run by conservatives and libertarians for the most part but they are ruthlessly committed to accurate election results, not cheerleading, and their massive nationwide volunteer apparatus is usually ahead of the AP in collecting vote results. Keep an eye on them and you may know what the people on your TV will be talking excitedly about twenty minutes later. Welcome Sidebar-reading Morons! This is where I spend my writing time, instead of in the comments at the HQ. I hope you wander around the rest of the site!abc
Biographical, drinking, Funny, Political Controversies, Rule 4

Presidential Drinking Habits

Obama gives a thumbs-up as he celebrates St. Patrick's Day in Washington The New York Post has just published a nifty little piece of scholarship by Mark Will-Weber entitled "A Complete List of Every President's Favorite Drink". I was just going to link it in the SideBlog, but there is enough stuff here to share some highlights without stealing so much you won't read the original. Some of this I already knew, but most I did not. It is a fun and quick read. It is an illuminating historical fact that of America's Founding Fathers, only Washington died wealthy. In fact, virtually all the rest died broke. Perhaps some of the reason for this is because, while Washington was the continent's biggest liquor producer, he never drank it, preferring the odd porter instead. In contrast, Jefferson bankrupted himself on expensive wine, and James Monroe spent the White House furniture budget on 100 cases of French wine and Champagne. Martin Van Buren was a heavy drinker, who liked a New York-made Genever variant called Scheidam. Anyone ever heard of this stuff? We had some bad presidents in the lead-up to the Civil War, and their drinking habits are in keeping with that. Millard Fillmore was a near teetotaler, and with a name like that to tote around, a sane man would need an occasional belt. He was followed by Franklin Pierce, who died of cirrhosis, and James Buchanan, who drank Iberia dry. The Rutherford B. Hayes White House staff would resort to spiking the punch because his wife was a Prohibitionist, but she caught on and substituted their rum with artificial flavoring behind their backs. If you merged a period costume film with Porky's, you get a Hayes state dinner, I guess. Read the entry for Grover Cleveland. No really, read it. I can't steal it. William McKinley had an official campaign cocktail. An Official. Campaign. Cocktail. Harry Truman started most days with a shot of bourbon and a massage. The only man to ever nuke anyone didn't play around. Finally, if LBJ had been president when MADD was founded... they would not have gotten along. For why, and plenty of other good stuff, click the