Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dr. Frieden, Bloomberg's Super Nanny, Isn't Worth His Salt

There's a fascinating article in the NY Times by John Tierney on the New York City experiment with reducing salt in our diets; and the piece underscores the unscientific, and frankly frightening, methods employed by the good doctor in his pursuit of a liberal fascist Valhalla. The headline says a lot: "Public Policy That Makes Test Subjects of Us All."

Having gotten away with his arbitrary calorie counting assault on fast foods-and the businesses that purvey them, Frieden, Mike Bloomberg's Nanny in Chief, now is looking for more guinea pigs to socially experiment on:

"Suppose you wanted to test the effects of halving the amount of salt in people’s diets. If you were an academic researcher, you’d have to persuade your institutional review board that you had considered the risks and obtained informed consent from the participants...But if you are the mayor of New York, no such constraints apply. You can simply announce, as Michael Bloomberg did, that the city is starting a “nationwide initiative” to pressure the food industry and restaurant chains to cut salt intake by half over the next decade. Why bother with consent forms when you can automatically enroll everyone in the experiment?"

It was exactly so with his fast food assault. Armed with no scientific data from peer reviewed efficacy studies-but bolstered by the propagandistic pretensions of a bunch of unscientific busy bodies from Center for Science in the Public Interest-Frieden proclaimed that posting calorie counts on menus would save countless lives. Well, he's back: "And why bother with a control group when you already know the experiment’s outcome? The city’s health commissioner, Thomas R. Frieden, has enumerated the results. If the food industry follows the city’s wishes, the health department’s Web site announces, “that action will lower health care costs and prevent 150,000 premature deaths every year.”

Was there ever a bigger medical fake, phony and fraud than this quack? But Frieden's intervention in our lives is sanctioned by the great medical maven himself-Dr. Mike Bloomberg, a man whose scientific and medical knowledge has been nurtured through osmosis; and by ostentatious donations to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. And the danger lies in the fact that these two fakers have the power to coercively tell people how to behave. All for their own good, of course.

But what does the extant work on salt suggest? According to Tierney, you might be a bit surprised: "You might, for instance, take note of a recent clinical trial in which heart patients put on a restricted-sodium diet fared worse than those on a normal diet. In light of new research suggesting that eating salt improves mood and combats depression, you might be alert for psychological effects of the new diet. You might worry that people would react to less-salty food by eating more of it, a trend you could monitor by comparing them with a control group."

The fact here is that no one has any idea how people will react to less salt in their diet-just as Friedberg had no clue what the impact of calorie posting would be, aside from knowing that it would be fun to force small businesses to spend thousands of dollars in jumping through bureaucratic hoops: "No one knows how people would react to less-salty food, much less what would happen to their health."

So what's the problem here? The problem lies with the way that the Friedberg's of the world want to impose their life style choices and social views on others-damn the scientific evidence when you're one of the chosen true believers. And it's a slippery slope from this kind of imposition, to others that are far less benign; even while appearing to be imposed out of genuine love and concern for the well being of the masses.

This is precisely what Tocqueville called "soft despotism," a paternalistic lassitude that saps the liberty of a people: "In Democracy in America, Tocqueville suggested that democracy was capable of breeding its own form of despotism, albeit one without the edges of Jacobin or Bonapartist dictatorship with which Europeans were all too familiar. The book spoke of “an immense protective power” which took all responsibility for everyone's happiness-just so long as this power remained “sole agent and judge of it.” This power, Tocqueville wrote, would “resemble parental authority” but would try to keep people “in perpetual childhood” by relieving people “from all the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living.”

Sound familiar? Folks like Friedberg have little faith in the intellect of the folks; or in their ability to act in their own best interests. Nanny emerges and enervates the free spirits of a people: "After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."

So, who care about the facts-kind of like Al Gore, isn't it?-when we have a more important task at hand; remaking the populace into our own image of health. And let's put aside the fact that reducing salt isn't good for everyone. The goal is control-and the resultant passivity that allows elites like Friedberg to monitor and regulate how people should live.

As Tierney points out: "In the past year, researchers led by Salvatore Paterna of the University of Palermo have reported one of the most rigorous experiments so far: a randomized clinical trial of heart patients who were put on different diets. Those on a low-sodium diet were more likely to be rehospitalized and to die, results that prompted the researchers to ask, “Is sodium an old enemy or a new friend?” Those results, while hardly a reason for you to start eating more salt, are a reminder that salt affects a great deal more than blood pressure. Lowering it can cause problems with blood flow to the kidneys and insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks."

The Friedberg regime is truly frightening-with a B. F. Skinner kind of behavioral model that sees all citizens as subjects to be experimented on. The most foreboding aspect of all this is, well to put it kindly, these folks are full of crapola-making policy based on pseudo science-much as the antifat campaign was a few years ago: "That antifat campaign, like the antisalt campaign, was endorsed by prominent groups and federal agencies before the campaigners’ theory was tested in rigorous trials. It too seemed quite logical — in theory. But in practice the results were dismal, as demonstrated eventually by clinical trials and by the expanding waistlines of Americans. People followed the advice in the “food pyramid” to reduce the percentage of fat in the diet, but they got more obese, perhaps because they ate so many other ingredients in foods with “low fat” labels."

But if form holds, and Mike Bloomberg is able to purchase the NY electorate once again, we willl really find out that the third time is no charm. And the man behind the curtain is little in stature, but he has big plans for how you should live your life.