Monday, August 29, 2011

Thought Experiment Part 2

Okay, so yesterday, we hired some scientists to do some studies examining claims by the makers of RM and PM, each of whom said that the other's product was bad for you. So our scientists did a bunch of hard work and found out that a) RM was causing hundreds of deaths per year, b) most of those deaths (roughly 80%) were of children, and c) RM had no advantages over PM, which didn't cause any deaths during the study period. So what's the next thing to do?

Well, our scientists then did an educational program where they convinced most of the vendors of RM to switch over to PM, pointing out that the product liability issues would be horrific if they continued selling RM. Most of the vendors of RM looked at the studies that our scientists had done, realized that they'd be toast if they got hauled into court, and switched to selling PM instead. This was made easier by the fact that it took only one piece of equipment to convert RM into PM so they didn't even have to change suppliers or anything, they just added that one piece of equipment to their processing plant and they were done.

But there were still children dying from sales of RM, mostly from fly-by-night vendors who had no assets and thus didn't care that they might get sued if their product made people sick. Rarity made RM more expensive (though it required less equipment to produce!), and thus more profitable, and there are always people willing to jump into a market selling harmful substances if they can make a buck doing so, especially if they still have all those old long-discredited studies showing that RM is good for you and manage to trick people into buying it as a "healthier" alternative to PM. If adults did this to themselves, that's one thing. Just call it evolution in action, yo. The problem was that 78% of the people dying from RM were children. So what now?

Well, I suppose we could say, "RM people, you can sell your stuff, but you have to put our warnings on it and include our studies with it." But the RM people would just slap a label on it saying "this was forced on us by those evil PM people, here's our *real* studies at our web site proving our product is good!" And some people would believe it. And since we have this devotion to something called "free speech", shutting up their false claims is problematic.

Or we could stop the RM people from selling RM. That would require hiring men with guns to enforce it, because RM is profitable. But it'd result in fewer dead children.

After a number of people whined that an outright ban on selling RM would be unconstitutional, a compromise was reached: Only interstate sales of RM would be outlawed. If a state wished it to be banned within its own boundaries, that state would have to pass local legislation doing so. Thus raw milk continues to sicken and sometimes kill children every year despite having no (zero) health benefits over pasteurized milk and significant health risks. But people keep buying it because it's "natural". Just like cyanide. And arsenic. And death. And we have to protect people's right to kill their children with it because, well, because it's Freedom(tm), I guess. But at least now the death toll per year can be counted up on the fingers of your hands, rather than being like our family cemetery from the first half of the 20th century, where the tiny little graves and tiny little headstones outnumber the adult ones.

And therein ends this exercise in Libertopian thought vs. reality, which tends to be messy and have those inconvenient little things like bodies of dead children. And by being non-Libertarian tens of thousands of children are alive today who would otherwise be dead. That's something I think about every time I hear a Libertarian whining about "onerous government regulations" and "Big Brother government". You're still free to buy your own cow and drink all the raw milk you want even in states that outlaw the sale of raw milk... you're just not free to sell this dangerous substance across state boundaries. Just like you're not free to sell arsenic-spiced toothpaste and other such dangerous substances across state boundaries. Bummer, eh, how that eeeeevil government is takin' away your right to kill other people!

-- Badtux the Lessons Penguin


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  2. The difference is that marijuana isn't harmful and there are no legal substitutes for marijuana, while raw milk is harmful and there is a legal substitute (pasteurized milk) that has the same nutritional value and effect. So yeah, you're right, the two are JUST THE SAME, just like beheading children and beheading Barbie dolls is JUST THE SAME. Err, yeah right.

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  3. PS: Here is the list of everybody who has ever died from OD'ing on marijuana:


    That is all.

    Oh wait, an empty list? You don't say! No graveyard full of little victims of marijuana? Oh dear!

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  4. If the death toll was an important factor, there are a lot of things that would be eliminated. For example, how many people are killed on our highways every year?

  5. Jerry, it's all about tradeoffs. The automobile is dangerous, but there's no real substitute -- unlike what some rabid liberals insist, mass transit simply cannot do what automobiles can do, which is to go where you want, when you want, in a timely manner. The majority of people in America have decided that the risk of driving a car is acceptable, and would tar and feather any politician who tried to ban cars, though they do insist that cars be as safe as technically feasible. That's just the facts of life in a democracy.

    I do object to seat belt laws -- I wear seat belts even offroad where it's not required (but where the risk of rollover in my Jeep is much higher), so I think it's a good idea to wear seatbelts, but other than for children I don't think there should be a law requiring morons to wear seat belts. We need fewer morons :). But I seem to have gotten overruled. Democracy. Eh. It sucks. Too bad every other form of government ever tried sucks even worse :).

    -Badtux the Practical Penguin

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  7. Err, no, Purple, read again. It is for *SELLING* the wrong kind of food -- the kind of food that sickens and kills people. You can drink as much raw milk as you want to drink. You just have to milk your own cow to get it. Or go across the border into a state that does allow its sale, if you live in a state that outlaws its sale.

    You're saying we should return to having graveyards full of tiny little graves, like was true back before pasteurization of milk was common? So are you saying that I should be allowed to sell toothpaste laced with arsenic, with a picture of a rosy-faced girl on it? (That's one of the side effects of mild arsenic poisoning, in case you wonder). I'm not getting your point.

    Regarding marijuana, I just went to the CDC site and did a search. Other than a "Surgeon General's Warning" (and note that the Surgeon General is a politician, not a scientist), all I see there are use prevalence studies, no epidemiological studies showing it's killed people like the epidemiological study on raw milk. So again I'm baffled. You're not pulling shit out of your ass again, are you? Yes, I know a cloaca is called an "all-purpose orifice", but it's *monkeys* that are supposed to do that, not *penguins*. Just sayin ' :).

    - Badtux the Rude Penguin

  8. The problem with children is a very real one. On the one hand, there really is no reason to make things like raw milk illegal. I know that I would not like paying to house prisoners on a milk rap. But I do acknowledge that society has an obligation to protect children even from well meaning parents. So things like vaccine requirements and raw milk bans make sense.

    Here in Michigan, I think we have a nice way to get around the raw milk bans anyways. You can't buy raw milk but you can buy a share of a cow or goat and then hire someone to take care of the animal and milk it. I once bought a 1/4 of a goat because I wanted to make some cheese that required raw goat milk. And let me tell you, that milk was way better than any milk you could buy at the store because the hippy farmers treated the goats well and fed them sunshine and happiness. :) You can home pasteurize the milk before giving to kids and it still tasted much better mostly because it was so fresh.

    There has to be some kind of balance. Adults really should have the right to consume things like raw milk if that is where their philosophy takes them. They also should be allowed to treat their ailments using non-traditional medicine if they want to.

    But do adults have the right to raise their children the way they want to? Should they have the right to feed their children raw milk? Should they have the right to raise their children to believe in some supernatural "god" who hates people enough to send hurricanes and earthquakes? Should parents be allowed to spank children? Yell at them? Where to draw the line between society's genuine interest and responsibility to protect children and adult's rights to choose how to live their own lives and how to parent their children is a very tough call. Good luck drawing that line.

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  10. How many people do you have to protect before you move from "nanny state" to "legitimate function of government"? Or is protection of people never a legitimate function of government?

  11. Go up a level to the main raw milk site at, and you'll see the list of how many people have been *reported* dying due to drinking raw milk over the past ten years -- of which the majority were children. They are careful to state that these are only the cases reported to the CDC. Not all cases are reported to the CDC, as I'm sure you know.

    Given that pasteurization occurs at a lower temperature than boiling, and given that I wouldn't drink raw milk without boiling it for the same reason I wouldn't drink creek water out of a creek without boiling it (I've had food poisoning, it is *not* fun, projectile diarrhea anybody?), I'm not quite sure what your point is on the fact that a few enzymes are deactivated by higher temperatures. More enzymes would get deactivated by boiling than by pasteurization.

    But in any event: The point is that pasteurization has saved thousands of lives. I can take you to the family graveyard and show you the little graves that outnumber the big ones in the old part of the cemetery, if you like. Granted, not all of them died from drinking raw milk, there were so many diseases back then that killed children that immunization and better sanitation now prevents, but still. I suppose you oppose mandatory immunization programs for children too? Are all those dead children just "collateral damage" in Libertopia?

    - Badtux the "I see dead children" Penguin

  12. BTW, Purple, you never answered my question about arsenic-laced toothpaste. Should I be allowed to sell arsenic-laced toothpaste in Libertopia with the health claim "for rosier cheeks!"? Curious penguins are... curious!

    - Badtux the Curious Penguin

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  14. a) we've banned selling cigarettes to children, b) we've put warnings on cigarettes so that people who buy cigarettes know they're buying coffin nails. In my opinion, that's all we need to do. There are no little coffins in the family cemetery caused by cigarettes.

    And there are no (zero) CDC studies showing deaths caused by marijuana, for that matter. Just sayin'. So you whining that marijuana is JUST LIKE raw milk is nonsense. The CDC can show you dead bodies of people killed by raw milk. They can't do the same with marijuana.

    Regarding my question about whether, in Libertopia, should I be allowed to sell arsenic-laced toothpaste as a beauty aid? I think you answered "Yes", but I'm not sure because you sorta danced around the question a bit. What about glycol-laced toothpaste? Same thing? When does a poison-laced substance that causes death get banned in Libertopia?

    Just curious. 'Cause seems to me that knowingly selling dangerous substances that have equally good substitutes is a) morally wrong, and b) should be illegal. But it seems to me that you're saying different -- that I should be allowed to sell poison-laced toothpaste all I want, as long as the people buying it are adults.

    Just curious: How is Libertopia supposed to last, if half its population is dead 'cause they're selling poison-laced food and cosmetics to each other? Just wonderin' :).

    - Badtux the Puzzled Penguin

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  16. I answered the question about cigarettes. Please re-submit w/o the duplicate stuff.

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  19. 1) I wasn't aware that parents typically gave their children cigarettes

    2) I wasn't aware that there was any substitute for cigarettes that was safer than cigarettes while providing the same value.

    3) The CDC has conducted epidemiological studies showing deaths from both raw milk and cigarettes. The fact that you're not familiar with the scientific literature is your problem, not mine, and if you continue reciting talking points rather than admit to scientific facts, I *will* use the ban-hammer. I have little patience with people who insist upon living in some bizarro world of their own creation rather than in the reality the rest of us live in.

    4) You appear to be saying that in Libertopia, I can sell any poison I want to anybody I want, as long as I properly label it. Because, y'know, everybody reads the tiny print that says "diethylene glycol" on it when they buy a tube of toothpaste :).

    Libertopia as you describe it sounds like it'd be a really awful place to live, what with all the dead bodies lying around from drinking cyanide-laced koolaid and such (hey, it was *labeled* that it had cyanide in it, you didn't *have* to drink it! Just sayin ;).

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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  22. It's in my ground rules. Fact-free talking points -- insisting that the sky is purple even though every piece of evidence says it's blue (on a clear day anyhow) -- aren't allowed. If you're going to say that dozens of scientific studies are wrong, you're going to have to present more evidence than simply exhorting "the facts are wrong because I say they're wrong because they violate my talking points!" Try some other site if you want validation of your talking points :).

    - Badtux the "Read the rules" Penguin

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  24. Sorry, but you said three "facts" that weren't -- that it's illegal to drink raw milk (it isn't), that there is no scientific evidence that tobacco kills people (there is), and that there is no scientific evidence that raw milk kills people (there is). To clarify, I've clarified my posting rules to make it clear that you're entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts out of thin air. Not on this blog, anyhow.

    - Badtux the New Rules Penguin

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  26. Popular debate, eh? I don't care enough to take sides. My main milk concern is with stealing enough of the 120-ml containers of milk that the hospitals sends to the patients.

    They come in small plastic cups, sealed with a foil top. Loads get wasted, because if they go back with the food trays, dietary just has to toss them. There's no telling how long they've sat out at unknown temperatures. Terrible waste of plastic, as well as of nutritional value.

    So I scavenge the unopened ones before the kitchen worker takes the tray trolley away. Pop 'em in the unit fridge so there's always extras for the patients, and I usually smuggle home two or three per shift. They're the perfect size for steaming in the mornings with my cappucino. But as an example of how there is controversy over many milky topics, Mrs. Bukko does not like me snaffling this free food because she doesn't know if it comes from cows dosed with bovine growth hormone. She prefers organic milk, which you can get from one producer here that still uses the old-fashioned, returnable glass bottles.

    Raw milk has its fans in Australia. It's illegal to sell it as food there, so at farmers' markets the dodge is to claim it's for "milk baths" and as a complexion aid. It must have aficionados, because there's a raw milk stand at every Aussie open-air market.


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

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