Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Social Matter - Weimerica Weekly Podcast

The gentlemen at Social Matter are hosting my weekly podcast. Go listen to it there. The idea is to tackle the absurd, the weird, and the themes and undertones to what we see in the news. Because this is Weimerica, there is usually a dark reason below the surface.
In this initial podcast, I introduce the idea of Weimerica, the Obamas and then discuss the odd focus on women's hair in the last 5 or so years and how it fits into the problems of our diverse Weimerica. I finish with a completely bizarro song that is high on pop charts and heavy in pop radio play right now. It is a little over 30 minutes.
Next week's podcast discusses infantilization of Americans, the obsession with youth culture and mouse utopias. Thank you Social Matter for graciously hosting this. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Dual Rise of Obesity and Anorexia

The rise of the fatties has no single cause. It is a multivariable problem with many different features. What we can all agree on is that people of all types are getting fatter with no end in sight. At the same time as this meteoric rise in obesity rates, Americans also saw a rise in eating disorders of the purge and starvation variety (bulimia and anorexia). These two disorders became cultural phenomena with many think pieces, sob stories and Hollywood attention. Why the rise of both obesity and on the other end of the spectrum, eating disorders?

It is fun to read Harvard's take on this. A government program will get kids moving and not watching images of unattainable beauty! We need to not stigmatize fat people! A good recommendation is trying to push more home cooked meals. This runs into a problem. Americans have the time to cook them now but simply do not want to. The average American watches well over 4 hours of television a day, which is enough time to pack a lunch and cook a dinner if one wanted to. People do not. Americans, especially 21st century comfortable Westerners, take the path of least resistance.

The path of least resistance contributes to America's downfall. Why deal with something when you can take the easy way out? With demoralization of Americans and the rise in deaths of middle aged white Americans in the news, eating oneself into gargantuan clothes is another sign of emptiness. Fill the boredom with eating. Like druggies and alcoholics, these addicts do not stop and the food never ever says no. Obesity is another sign of our decay and decline as no one gives a shit about appearances anymore. This is shameless America.

Grerp ran through the causes for the rise in obesity well, and the media discusses it enough too, but why the rise in anorexia at the same time? Seems no one really knows, and the old correlation of higher socioeconomic status and anorexia/bulimia is not as strong as in days of old if it exists at all. There is something at play though in how it is mainly a white girl problem as even in weeks of searching, the only things I could find about black women and eating disorders were "me, too!" type articles that threw overeating as a disorder in a desperate attempt to say it affects black women at the same rate as whites.

We are not talking about as high of a population as the obese crowd, but what might be coming into play here? First is the idea of sexual marketplace value. Staying thin can keep one's value high. The fear of becoming fat can make one compulsive about maintaining a slender physique. Being thin to increase value can cause some women to become anorexic/bulimic to gain an edge. As American women grew fatter through the years, this made thinness an even greater premium, creating more incentives to be thin. This is in contrast to years past where there were maybe 2% obese and they were shut ins and 1/3 of women were overweight, but a sliver in that might be good overweight if placed well. Women had to compete on many things for mates, not simply "I've got a good body".

In contrast to years past, the sexual marketplace is not as much to find a husband as it is to find sex partners and maintaining curb appeal would force a woman to keep competitive with that fresh crop of 18-21 year olds hitting bars every single year. If you're just looking for a girl for the night, it does not matter what she acts like as long as she is on the "Go Team" and has a nice figure. Facial beauty is just a light switch away after all. We live in the age of the butterface, and this is part of it.

It is not just a sexual marketplace issue but a social class issue. Obesity is more prevalent among the poor. While the surveys are finding that eating disorders are becoming looser in their connection to class, there is still a strong connection to eating disorders and white women. Socioeconomic class over time has become pretty clearly correlated to race, which is a big part of the "evaluations" when one group dates out. Are you dating up or down? Women of middle to upper-middle class do not want to become fat to be like "those icky poor people". Women don't want to become fat like one of those Wal-Mart patrons or those girls at bars that sweat the moment they walk in the door. They don't want to get fat and have no guy talk to them, sorry, no white guy talk to them. Becoming fat became a way to class yourself down.

These women do not want to put in the effort like yoga, weightlifting, watching their calories, not eating ice cream every night so why not just skip a meal? Far easier. Far far easier to just blame avoiding food on a food allergy, and boy, have those risen in incidence, so easy to hide there. This is another least resistance path as starving oneself is much easier than working on your body and counting the calories and eating balanced. Just avoid the food, make it disappear, and the problem goes away. At my high school, eating disorders were so rampant they routinely brought in speakers who spoke of losing it all from anorexia. The girls track team or swim team would listen, and no one would care. They passed on their disorder like a cold. It was more a ritual though as they repeated the same tricks to avoid eating.

There are long term consequences, and like obesity and other addiction issues, there is always the fear that it might come back. When a fat person does lose weight, it is a great thing, but there is the fear that those pounds will return. It's not unrealistic body image expectations and it is not pressure to be thin. Anorexics have agency and choose to compete on being thin. The obesity problem is human weakness and how we have shaped a society to consume now and think later. Yes, television advertisements push food non-stop, but fatties have agency. No one is shoving the Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies in their face for them.

Grerp's essay on this subject is here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Grerp On The Rise of Obesity And Anorexia

If you’ve been paying attention lately, you’ll have noticed that the world has becoming a fairly baffling place, and not just baffling in the sense that mores are shifting and certain cultures are ascending and attempting to annihilate others, but in the sense that actual physical conditions of life have changed in the past five or so decades. Specifically, this would be the rise in strange allergies and autoimmune diseases, obesity, and widespread lower level mental illnesses.

28Sherman asked me to discuss the question of why our society has seen the rise of two very different and seemingly opposing problems: obesity and anorexia/bulimia. I’ve given this some thought over time as I’ve done some reading on health and nutrition as well as changes in societal trends. While I’m not a nutritionist, a doctor, or a sociologist, and I’ve done no research, either in the lab or in the field, on this matter, I’ll wade in with my ideas. Because why not?

The technological breakthroughs that occurred within the twentieth century affected people’s lifestyles in a number of ways, but on a basic everyday level three of them stand out: what people eat, how they treat their health problems, and how people move.

I’ve only been alive since 1971, but I’ll tell you that when I was a kid there weren’t fat kids. There were chubby kids who we thought were fat, but kids were not fat like they are today, let alone obese. Maybe somewhere they existed, but not in my small town/bedroom community. When I go through my high school yearbooks, it’s shocking how thin we all were. And, other than the usual “Am I too fat?” discussions we had with our girlfriends in our budding years, we never thought about our weight. We didn’t.

I’m sure that I probably knew girls who were anorexic or bulimic, and articles about the problem showed up in women’s and teen magazines, but this also was not an issue that we widely discussed, partly because we weren’t obsessed about weight. We weren’t fat.

We also brought whatever we liked or ate at home to school and ate it communally. This included peanuts and tree nuts, all of the gluten, and dairy. I’d say soy, but no one ate anything with soy in it or anything they knew had soy in it. We ate over at friends’ houses and their parents dished out to us the same casserole they were serving to their own kids.

My family sat down and had dinner together every single night, and the food was nearly always homemade and reasonably basic. Some of the ingredients, like cream of mushroom soup, may have been processed or canned, but the entire meal wasn’t. My mom canned and froze fruits and vegetables herself. The snacks that were in our house were homemade as well.

We never went out to restaurants. If we did it was an occasion like a birthday or anniversary. We also rarely drank soda, juices, or other sweet drinks. In our house we drank water, milk (dried skim - GAG), and tea. Every once in awhile my parents would order a pizza, and my sister and I would split a bottle of pop.

My sister and I were bookworms and not athletic, but that didn’t stop my mom from kicking us out of the house and telling us to find something to do. After a certain age we were free to roam the neighborhood. We were in and out of people’s houses all day. My mother wanted to know where we were, but as long as we were home by dark, she didn’t worry. This meant we spent summers swimming for hours at the community pool, biking, playing in the park, and running around. In the winter we played in the snow and went sledding.

Our TV got four different stations: NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. Much of the programming wasn’t too interesting. We didn’t have a computer and Atari games didn’t come out until I was in fourth or fifth grade. Since my mother didn’t entertain us and she wasn’t worried about our safety, we were expected to figure out to do with ourselves during free time. We were pretty active. In high school I walked to school. It was only a mile away. Most kids did not own their own cars. They didn’t fix cars either. Many of them had jobs, but they were mostly in the service economy. To get around they borrowed their parents’ cars, got rides, or rode the school bus.

It’s hard for me to comment on medicines because except for ear infections, strep throat, and the kidney infection I had in fourth grade, for which we took antibiotics, we didn’t take medicine. We were vaccinated and we took a multivitamin. None of the kids I knew took regular medication for anything. The spazzy kids just spazzed out, and people got annoyed with them. Honestly, I don’t remember spazziness being a general problem, and I was a kid who was pretty serious about school.

I know this is only first-hand experience, but this is not the world my son lives in. He, like my husband and I did, is growing up in the middle class. Our lifestyle is a bit different than that of his classmates. From what I can tell, kids now play a lot more video games and participate in scheduled activities quite a bit more than they play freely outside. I almost never see kids in our neighborhood just goofing off in groups or hanging out on each other’s lawns. My son texts his cousin to talk to her.

Families rarely sit down together to eat dinner, and nearly all of the snacks and lunch food I see is processed and packaged. People eat out and drink soda on a nearly daily basis. This is because in most of the families we know both parents work. I’ll take a guess and say that a large majority of what Americans eat today, including middle class Americans, is in some way processed.

Finally, kids today are highly medicated. Recently doctors have been trying to stem the tide of antibiotic use, but kids are on all kinds of medications for depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity. What’s more, many of these kids were exposed to medications like these in the womb, and that may have had an effect on their formation. Anecdotally, my son was adopted from abroad. He is probably the healthiest kid I know.

My hypothesis about why kids and adults are simultaneously experiencing high rates of both obesity and anorexia is that they eat a high-sugar, high-caffeine, low-nutrient diet, they rarely exercise and even more rarely exercise in the kind of way people did for millennia, and they have completely messed up digestive tracts that lack healthy gut bacteria.

It seems intuitive that if you eat high calorie foods and you exercise less, you’ll gain weight. But the kind of gross obesity that we’re getting used to seeing is abnormal. I’m not saying that in an “I’m judging you” way. I mean, there are enough people these days who look like lab experiments gone wrong to wonder what is this lab experiment they’re running on us. Food is manufactured to be addictive now. That wasn’t the case when I was little. Most of the food I ate as a kid was okay. I had favorite foods my mom cooked. I did not crave any of it, except for maybe the chocolate chip cookies.

Why are they craving this food? Is it only because of the way the food is manufactured? Or is it because their bodies have changed and are no longer satisfied with the kind of ordinary food we used to eat? This is where gut bacteria factors in. I think that the increase in obesity, immune disorders, depression, anxiety, mental disorders like anorexia, and odd allergies is the result of an entirely abnormal gut bacteria ratio in the digestive tracts of Americans. We are discovering that a healthy gut keeps bad bacteria at bay and actually produces some of the the vitamins and nutrients people need to feel good and think clearly as well as aiding in actual digestion.

New research indicates that gut bacteria produce nearly all of our neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine which are crucial to maintaining good mental health. In fact, depression, anxiety, OCD, and autism have all been linked to gut bacteria balance. Anorexia, some believe, is on the same spectrum as OCD and has much in common with that disorder.

Anorexia and bulimia are both disorders that involve an obsessive anxiety (in both cases, being fat) and a coping behavior designed to nullify that anxiety (avoiding food or purging it after eating). That is why they are linked to OCD. It would make sense that as people actually do get fatter, they would feel anxiety about being fat, but neither anorexia or bulimia are rational disorders. In fact, no matter how thin patients with these disorders become, they continue to feel the same anxiety and continue to try to address it in destructive ways.

Doctors have had some success treating them with antidepressants because, by modifying brain chemicals, including serotonin, in the body to more normal and healthy levels, this type of behavior wanes. Lessening the anxiety will lessen the need for destructive coping mechanisms. Some doctors also believe that antidepressants regular hunger signals that can trigger binge eating. Personally, I believe that the increase in brain chemical imbalances triggering these strange new neurotic behaviors is also a result of diet, lack of exercise, and a proliferation of bad gut bacteria.

In some experiments, researchers introduced gut bacteria from obese women into the gut bacteria of thin mice, and the result was that the thin mice grew fatter than the control group despite eating the same diet. Certainly there are a number of factors at work here, but that to me is fascinating. If we could recreate the living conditions that people had, say, prior to 1930, and instead of sending people to inpatient therapy, drug rehab, or America’s Biggest Loser, we sent them to work on a farm doing regular exhausting manual labor, living a good portion of the day outside, and eating simple foods, including fermented ones like sauerkraut, would that work better? Would they be happier and less neurotic? Would they be thinner and healthier overall?

I believe they would, and it is unfortunate we can’t try this out on many of the miserable people we encounter in our daily lives. It would certainly not eliminate pain or sadness. It wouldn’t solve all of the world’s problems. But it might restore their physical and mental health and make a greater point to society about the lifestyle we’re touting as “better” and “more enjoyable.”

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Social Matter - Hidden, Subtle Underclass Coddling

Today at Social Matter I write about the underclass coddling across America and a particular sneaky program that enables the underclass to live comfortably while not helping you.
One of the greatest misconceptions among liberals and normal folk is how poor people manage to live. How do they have kids? How do they exist? Oh gosh, how do they even live? You’re well aware of the the exasperated tone used when considering the plight of the poor. The progressives have set up a jobs machine for themselves that creates a situation in which we socialize the losses for every dysfunctional decision a person can make. We have divorced consequences from actions, resulting in disastrous cultural results.

Please go read it there. You will shake your head at the lengths the progressives go to make sure our underclass does not have to endure the consequences of their bad decisions.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Podcast News + SM Review + Preview 23

Looks like the podcast idea is a go. It should be every Wednesday on Social Matter. Weimerica Weekly. The alliteration was just too tempting for me to resist, and the editors at Social Matter agreed to host and distribute it. The first one will go up next week. It'll just be me, but I will work to line up folks for interviews in the mix.

Last week I discussed the problem of our System, SCALE and the scams that it fosters. SCALE is from the guys at MPC. It is a great concept, and it applies to our housing market. The dangerous part was applying the dangerous effects of SCALE to something like housing that affects everyone and destroys communities. The next two weeks will publish posts on how the media enables the Left's economic lies and then some sneaky forms of underclass coddling.


Technology creates new problems that require new solutions. New technology then creates additions to the original problems that require more solutions. No one voted on being able to sign up for credit cards online, but it happened and identity theft took off. Consumers should be able to vote on this with their pocketbook, but there is one problem. Our government stopped caring about antitrust law, and we never really put in protections against oligopoly. Corporate consolidation meant fewer options, and a bad choice by a company for efficiency cannot be avoided. We are victims of scale.

An interesting symptom of our scale problem is the entire housing casino that our elites created. Scale is not just the size issue, but the acronym of size, complexity, atomization, liberalization and elitism. Looking at our housing debacle, scale fits perfectly. Make more loans, securitize the asset, offload it onto someone else for a few points above Treasury bonds, collect a fee for processing and servicing and leverage up. Only credentialed experts can allocate capital and make the proper loans. Keep getting bigger. Reduce costs through efficiency. Automate as much as possible to just read the data and not verify. Efficiency means streamlined approval processes. Approval processes means the loans must meet a base minimum underwriting standard to have the loan packaged and sold off. Keep growing the pot bigger while shrinking who collects the winnings to concentrate more wealth.

Hustle and lies created borrowers, but the size of the problem now creates new scams. Some slick mortgage firm created NINJA borrowers (no income, no job or assets), but someone on the other end allowed for underwriting standards to accept that risk and market it to asset buyers. Off-loading the risk and separating borrowers from lending institutions created more holes for others to fill. Who files complaints? Who defends the little guy when the process is automated? Where is due process and when a man's day in court? Brookstone Law fills a need and hole with a great pitch. Sue the bank keep your home.

It is a great pitch and one that works well for any American angry at the legal system and desperate to stay in their box. These guys are also fraudsters. Forget the Bloomberg article, even amateur sites were onto the spotlighted scam law firm. Is it technically a scam? That is the problem of our financial and legal system. We encourage such twisting of the law and legal loophole finding, that the line of law abiding and breaking behavior is blurry. The size of our system and scope of our housing problem allows weasels like these men to wiggle into a spot and collect millions.

Bloomberg scolds this law firm, but the system allows it. This law firm benefits from honest laws that give individuals the right to challenge the foreclosure process. Just filing the proper forms and asking for extensions gives homeowners time to plan a next step and not have to pay their mortgage. This specific law firm is manned by former crooks, but our American legal system looks softer at what we call white collar crime. The due diligence a homeowner would be responsible for is their responsibility, but we are already discussing a stressed and frazzled homeowner behind on mortgage payments. A snazzy website with a solid sounding name can trick just enough of the people to reap millions for sharps with questionable ethics. Law firms like this firm are also helping the banks.

These delaying actions give the banks a breather as the home retains an occupant to prevent the banks from having to perform upkeep. Not foreclosing means they do not have to realize the loss on the property as now their collateral is worth far less than the loan they secured it with. The banks dragging their feet on foreclosing some high end California homes was not about helping the wealthy out as much as it was delaying the recognition of a loss on the loan. To recognize such losses would have brought calamity to the banks.

For our current political-economic system, that cannot be allowed to happen. The five biggest U.S. banks control half of the industry's total assets. These banks fund our political elites and need government sanction and blessing to continue their control over the allocation of capital not just in America but within the American empire. These same banks have the majority of total derivatives as the government's lack of regulation of derivatives acts as an economic moat for those same banks. If the banks go down, the danegeld holding together the Left is threatened and large corporations suddenly have to adjust long term planning.

Our government went along with this because it sold out the productive elements of our economy for a FIRE economy. It boosted aggregate GDP. Asset holders and information gatherers over natural resource extraction and product manufacturing. Capital over labor. GDP uber alles. We had to grow the economy to soothe the left to pay for those social welfare programs through taxation and a large economy to perform a nation-sized leverage buyout. It soothed the right as economic interests were pacified as well as the pitch to the voters that the right would make your materially better off. No one questioned the continual centralization and consolidation of decision making since it made things more efficient.

Because of the size of dollars and institutions involved and the limited number of credentialed geniuses at work, wealth and income concentrate and million dollar scams pop up like the Brookstone Law firm. The system's scale and scope changed home mortgages from a relationship between two locals (lender and borrower) forging a relationship in their community into a transactional relationship for lowest cost and efficiency. Brookstone's pop up because they fit a transactional need, just like the newly minted mortgage originator did. Brookstone is an unintended consequence of the financialization of our economy. Brookstone is a side effect of the cure that easy money will fix the economy. Like the fine print side effects of big pharma's supposed cure alls, take the pill, the experts said so, and just keep quiet about the negative side effects a few of you little people face. There is too much money at stake for the big boys to slow down for you.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

WW1: Morbid Humor

Safe space? There was no safe space as a pilot in WW1. The picture above is a memento mori of a German fighter squadron.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Upbeat Downer Songs

There was someone on Twitter a couple years back (Matt Frost, actually) who asked if there was a more "upbeat downer" song that "Pumped Up Kicks". Interesting thing is that I view that song as sounding completely haunting and dark to match the lyrics, but goddamn does it have a beat you can move to. I don't see how "Pumped Up Kicks" is a peppy song. If Hollywood were smart, they'd eventually use it in a movie about a serial killer where the serial killer playfully dances with a knife to the song as they approach their victim in the basement. Set the murderer up in a Bob Fosse styled solo, dancing around the victim before making the first slash. The song is haunting but people still consider it a feel good tune.

Are there more songs like this? Of course there are. One of my favorites is "Kicks" by Paul Revere and the Raiders. This was an American band that blatantly ripped off the drum heavy sound of the Dave Clark Five, channeled the Beatles visually and churned out some hits. "Kicks" is pretty upbeat sounding and the embedded video shows the girls dancing onstage. It's a dark song about a young woman caught up in a hedonistic pursuit that leaves her feeling empty. This is a warning to her to stop with the drugs, booze and sex or else she'll chase the next, greater high to a point of no return. This was 1966. That was a big enough problem for this to become a written song and a message culturally broad enough that people would listen. The rot runs deep.

There are many others and it plays to the human ability to not really pay attention to lyrics with music. What are we listening for? What in the structure of the tune is reaching you? This is a nice trick the R&B and rap world pulled to create fantastic beats and melodies with the worst lyrics in the world... well at least lyrics that would cause a commotion if the rapper or singer was white (ask Eminem why only he was ripped for anti-gay lyrics fifteen years ago). You have had generations of women dance to songs calling them bitches, hoes and freaks for 25 years. Very easily R&B songs could switch to romantic instead of graphic, yet they do not. The message then is important for the listener to hear repeated over and over again on top of that catchy beat. "You are a worthless ho, act like one." If you believe in hypnopaedia at all, there has to be something to listening over and over again to the cultural messaging while awake.

One hit wonder "99 Red Balloons" is about nuclear war, yet how many can even catch the military lines, and that killer '80s dance beat makes you forget. I have heard interpretations of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" to be about Hamlet and Ophelia. Ophelia drowned or purposefully drowned herself in Hamlet (read the dialogue discussing her death). Listen to "Just Like Heaven". Kind of flows, but The Cure were always depressing so I have a hard time seeing their music as upbeat. These depressing but upbeat songs are around and can even drive an album.

Bruce Springsteen's entire "Born in the USA" album is a nostalgia album for Boomers facing their mid-life crisis by echoing the '60s in either the sound or in the subject matter. Billy Joel did this same Boomer nostalgia for the '60s in the '80s as his audience aged. Echoing the sound of the early '60s is easy to spot with "Cover Me", "I'm Goin' Down", "I'm On Fire", "Working on the Highway", and "Darlington County". The depression hits in other songs. "Glory Days" gets fools moving but is depressing nostalgia of divorcees and High School peakers. It rocks like an over-the-hill band at a high school reunion. "Born in the USA" is a Vietnam War protest  and yet an Affirmative Action-Outsourcing protest song. "My Hometown" is straight up depressing and nostalgic for the old days. It might as well be the background track for my Takimag column on heroin in Fishtown.

We all have a favorite though. Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" is my favorite example as it was a song that even your mom listened to in the '90s, singing along to the "doot-doot-doot" bits. She could even clean the kitchen counters while doot-doot-dooting along to the song. Similar to Georgy Girl where some whistling or doot-dooting can mask depressing lyrics. Semi-Charmed Life was about an empty life of doing meth and sex, highs and lows. Meth addiction sounds so damn happy when you just wrap it in "doot-doot-doot, doot-doot-do-dooooo". You still hear it today. It's on those '80s and '90s flashback stations that always have '80s hits weekends. Don't be alarmed and enjoy those tunes, but your kids call those stations "Mom Rock".