Did The FBI Poison Innocent People During Prohibition?

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Why yes, yes they did. Shocking, isn’t it. I wrote about this a few years ago, in Poisoning People During Prohibition: A Disturbing Parable, when Deborah Blum’s book The Poisoner’s Handbook was published. She detailed the story there, as did a few other news outlets at the time. But I bring it up again because one of the YouTube channels my son Porter subscribes to, Alltime Conspiracies, posted a video about this dark tale in our history. It’s entitled Did The FBI Poison Innocent People?, and details how over the final seven years of Prohibition, our government in effect murdered over 10,000 Americans in the name of stopping people from drinking illegal alcohol.

Alcohol Doesn’t “Cause” Violence

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This one is sticking in my craw, and would be turning me to violence except for the fact that I’m not a terribly violent person, even when I drink. But to hear Alcohol Justice, and many others recently, you’d think that one sip of beer turns every person into a homicidal maniac. I don’t know how much more obvious this could be, but alcohol doesn’t cause violence. It’s not the primary catalyst of domestic violence. It may exacerbate it, it may intensify it, it may even be used as an excuse for it, but if you remove alcohol from a dysfunctional relationship, the violence doesn’t magically disappear. The underlying causes of domestic violence, and all violent behavior, is more complicated. I grew up with an alcoholic, psychotic, and frequently violent stepfather, but the issues that led to his outbursts were not caused by the alcohol he consumed. He often used that as his excuse, and as a way for society to overlook the root causes, because during periods of time when he wasn’t drinking, his violent tendencies were undiminished.

So watching the news regarding the NFL recently, I’m amazed that people are trying to blame alcohol. Not surprisingly, the prohibitionists at Alcohol Justice are leading the charge, since they’ll use any excuse to promote their agenda. You just have to see their recent and frequent use of Robin Williams’ image in numerous tweets, as if he was tacitly endorsing them or prohibition, to know how far they’ll go. Tellingly, this began shortly after his death, when he no longer could agree to be their spokesperson or have a say in how his image or story was used. So naturally if the NFL is having problems, it must be the fault of alcohol.

In their latest press release, Alcohol Justice Says Roger Goodell and Anheuser-Busch InBev Blame Personal Conduct, Ignore Alcohol Policies and Sponsorship, they’re at it again.

The latest brouhaha with the NFL has left me with mixed feelings. I think John Oliver hit the nail on the head when he recently said that the NFL was America’s FIFA, in terms of corruption and dysfunction. In a lengthy segment during the World Cup earlier this year, he detailed all that is wrong with FIFA, but ended with the admission that he was still really excited to watch the soccer during the tournament.

And that’s how I feel about the NFL. There’s so much I hate about them — from their non-profit status, the denial of the long term effects of concussions, the way they treat the referees and cheerleaders, how the wealthy owners manipulate communities to get new stadiums and economic concessions, thumbing their nose at those same communities when they don’t get what they want, like petulant children, even as they get tax breaks while the cities crumble into economic ruin. And yet…. And yet I still look forward to football season, watching the games on Sunday with my son and cheering on my favorite team (the Green Bay Packers, who, I like to point out, is the only major sports team owned by the community, a loophole the NFL closed the moment after the Packers incorporated in 1950).

But now there’s this latest spate of incidents of violent behavior off the field giving the league a black eye and tarnishing their image. This is both for the behavior of the players and for the way the league is, or more correctly isn’t, dealing with these issues. Most commenters and pundits and people paying attention believe during his tenure beginning in 2006, commissioner Roger Goddell is at least partially, if not mostly, responsible. And yet he apparently continues to have the support of all the team owners, as he said during the travesty of a press conference he held recently, during which by all accounts he did more harm than good. That alone, tells us quite a bit about how out-of-touch with their fans the league really is, but then we’ve seen that over and over again during the many scandals in recent years.

What I’m truly amazed at, is how many people seem surprised that professional football players are having trouble controlling their anger and violence. They’re trained to be violent as one of the main requirements of their job. They’re no different than professional fighters, who are taught to be aggressive from Pop Warner football, high school and college football programs, so that by the time a player reaches the professional ranks of the NFL, they’re a finally tuned machine of hitting, tackling, and other skills necessary to succeed in a game that celebrates violent behavior. It’s modern gladiatorial sport, although happily no one dies at the end or gets eaten by lions.

The real question is why anyone would think they wouldn’t become violent people in the process, or find difficulty switching between their work life and their home life? Everybody brings their work home with them, at least a little. It’s the same shock and surprise that people express every time a soldier comes home from the war and commits some violent act. How could he? The pundits wonder aloud. How could he not? He was trained to meet violence with violence, taught to engage the enemy, to kill or be killed. And yet we think a soldier should be able to turn off that like a switch when he’s no longer on the front lines. I’ve never been in a combat situation — luckily, my time in the military was relatively peaceful — but we know that war changes people. We’ve known it for centuries, and since World War I have studied it more closely and found all sorts of psychological problems created by the sacrifice many veterans make by going into battle on our behalf. But knowing that, we do precious little help them adjust back into civilian life or deal with the changes that being in war brings to their personality.

So whether the battle is in some war torn region of the world or on a 100-yard field of grass, we’ve bred people to be aggressive and then asked them to walk off those fields and turn off that aggression and be gentle, caring societal role models for the children. What could go wrong? I’m sure it’s partly because I”m getting older, but the world seems more violent today than it did when I was younger. It just seems that today it’s more taken for granted in our society, and accepted. And issues with acts of violence by NFL players off the field is nothing new, but doesn’t it seem like it’s intensified in recent years? More arrests, and for more and more serious crimes is how it seems to me, at least. Were there any football players accused of murder in the 1960s? I don’t remember any. It seems like that would have been a big deal back then.

So we’ve created a class of individuals, incredibly well-paid — our modern gladiators — and as the amount of money at stake is growing larger and larger, we’re finding that they can’t be controlled and can’t be expected to meet the responsibilities of the morals clause of their contracts, that compels them to act in a certain way to protect the image of themselves, their team and the league in way that they can still be considered role models to children and which allows the league to sell a product that’s very, very profitable. And all the while demanding them to be aggressive, violent players during their game each week.

But now Alcohol Justice has to take this situation and blame it all on alcohol. In the subtitle to their press release, the “Watchdog demands end to alcohol industry’s toxic relationship with NFL, teams and big game advertising.” It’s the same dead horse they been beating for years, and the same one that most prohibitionist organizations have been similarly beating since 1933, when Prohibition was repealed. Limiting alcohol advertising as dangerous was the very first tactic undertaken by the temperance movement when they realized prohibition had failed. But here we go again.

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They jump right in with their own agenda. “The NFL’s Roger Goodell has yet to show any understanding that alcohol use by players is a major cause of domestic violence, child abuse, arrests and even suicide and homicide. Though he has shown progress in recognizing that domestic violence is a serious problem, he and the sport’s biggest sponsor — Anheuser-Busch InBev — continue to blame individual behavior as the cause. What they continue to ignore is the influence of the complete saturation of the NFL with alcohol sponsorships of teams, stadium advertising, tailgating, beverage sales and TV broadcast of games, especially the big one in February.”

What I can’t for the life of me understand is why Alcohol Justice is so utterly against “individual behavior.” Why are prohibitionists so convinced that people should not be responsible for their own actions. Except instead they’d prefer to blame alcohol, as if without it no violence would ever take place, as if people don’t have any control over their actions, as if alcohol makes people do things against their nature. It’s baffling. Consider the KISS principle — keep it simple, stupid. Is it more likely that people are complicated, that violent behavior has many, many causes and like all human experience cannot be generalized so easily — or — does one drop of alcohol turn every person into a violent monster? Yet that’s the position taken by Alcohol Justice and other similar groups, especially as they increasingly take the position that no amount of alcohol is “acceptable,” or “safe.” It’s heroin to them; no difference. As dangerous, as addictive, as sinful, as bad for society, like the temperance of old where all roads led to ruin, every indulgence led to another one, and only abstinent perfection was the proper way to live.

Maybe the question should be why do they not blame individual behavior? Why is it acceptable to blame alcohol for all of society’s problems, but not the people who abuse it? How does that make any sense? Why can’t they bring themselves to ask, or insist, that people take responsibility for their actions? It should again be obvious that millions of people drink, most moderately, but even a few immoderately, without turning violent. That fact alone should persuade a reasonable person that alcohol won’t make everyone who drinks it turn violent.

Curiously, AJ also points to a statement by a well-known sociologist, Harry Edwards, who’s been a staff consultant to the San Francisco 49ers, among other sports teams. Apparently shorty after Goddell became commissioner in 2006, Edwards “warned him that players’ personal conduct would become the defining issue of his tenure.” That’s “players’ personal conduct,” not alcohol. And yet now in a San Francisco Chronicle article he’s “pointed to alcohol as the leading factor.” That’s all he says, though. The quote in AJ’s press release where he says this is based on his “experience,” not any actual evidence or statistics, is nowhere to be found in the article, but even so is contradictory and fairly absurd.

So when AJ says: “Anheuser-Busch InBev distanced itself from Rodger Goodell and the NFL on Tuesday, September 17, 2014 with a hypocritical statement of concern over “…the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own culture and moral code,” I can’t help but think they’re the ones being hypocritical, which is not terribly uncommon for them. Can they really think that ABI wants their customers beating one another? That they’re somehow in favor of domestic violence? I’m willing to bet that privately they don’t believe anyone in the alcohol industry has a “moral code,” given the way they usually characterize us. It never seems to occur to prohibitionists that we have families, whom we love, too. So why should it surprise anyone that ABI, or any of the other NFL sponsors who are questioning the handling of recent incidents, such as P&G, Radisson and Nike, would do so? Most are taking a wait and see approach, primarily because there’s so much money at stake. You’d think that ABI’s statement would be applauded for putting morals ahead of money, unlike most of the NFL’s sponsors, but because they make alcohol, instead Alcohol Justice accuses them of being hypocritical.

The entire statement was very short, but to the point:

We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.

But who could disagree with that? I feel the same way about the NFL’s handling of this, don’t you? Only I can’t share my “concerns and expectations with the league,” and even if I could, they wouldn’t listen, as they’ve shown time and time again they don’t really care what their fans think. Just ask the refs, or the cheerleaders, or the many former players with head trauma and brain problems. But ABI can get the league to listen, so maybe we should applaud their efforts instead of belittling them. If their doing this is so counterintuitive, as many have thoughtlessly commented, then shouldn’t that show just how important an issue it is? Instead of adopting this pointless air of mock surprise, in effect characterizing ABI as an unfeeling, amoral monster (and by extension all of the rest of us in the beer world) then doesn’t this disprove the very point they think they’re making? Maybe it should make prohibitionists rethink their view of alcohol companies. Of course when they donated water for earthquake relief, all they did was complain, as they do no matter what we do. But maybe being one of the few NFL sponsors doing the right thing is just the right thing to do?

But instead they continue to, in a sense, change the subject and blame domestic violence on alcohol ads during games and at stadiums. If it weren’t for the advertising, everyone would stop drinking, just as nobody smokes anymore now that they’ve banned tobacco advertising. And in any event, alcohol consumption in the U.S. is declining, a fact conveniently ignored by prohibitionists while spreading this kind of propaganda. No matter, AJ’s director of public affairs (whatever that means), Michael Scippa has this to say. “To deny any responsibility in the wake of the NFL’s problems, or the massive alcohol-related harms their products cause to the public, is just ludicrous.” To me what’s ludicrous is to take a very real problem — domestic violence, violent behavior of any kind and a history of sweeping it under the rug and not dealing with it because of the money involved — and instead using it to promote their anti-alcohol agenda. What most people have been discussing here is the violence, the culture that fosters and supports it, and how our society as a whole does not treat seriously violence against women, and instead turned it into another alcohol bashing session. Nobody brought up alcohol at all, not until they saw their opening when ABI had the audacity to be one of the few courageous sponsors to ask the NFL to do better, to use their clout for a good cause. That should be celebrated, but as usual, let no good deed unpunished. As I mentioned, Alcohol Justice also complained mightily when ABI canned water and sent it to earthquake-ravaged Haiti a few years ago, taking issue with them putting their logo and name on the cans. I’ve never seen an organization so committed to finding fault with absolutely everything another organization does. It’s remarkable, really, how blindingly absolute their hatred is.

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And I just knew they’d bring this up.

Even the Daily Show, disturbingly infused with alcohol advertising of its own, which many youth watch, exposed the irony of AB InBev’s statement. Isn’t AB InBev’s chief “culture and moral code” to sell more beer for fans to consume at stadiums, tailgating parties, sports bars and at their homes? And then they solely place blame on players if they are abusive and destructive while under the influence?

I, too, winced to hear Jon Stewart (especially because I’m usually such a big fan of the Daily Show) refer to alcohol as “maybe one of the only substances that is proven scientifically to increase the likelihood of domestic abuse.” Again, it won’t make someone become violent unless they also have that in their nature. We all know that bad drunk who has a problem, but that’s not everyone, and it’s not even most people. Most of us can have a few drinks and not beat our wives or children. But there’s no “scientifically proven” causation. In fact, the research suggests that alcohol abuse is not a direct cause of domestic violence, but that it can exacerbate situations, as I said earlier. Even the World Health Organization, which is generally anti-alcohol, admits that violence is usually the result of “the harmful use of alcohol,” which is very different from the way most of us consume our beer.

But who exactly is “solely plac[ing] blame on players if they are abusive and destructive while under the influence?” I haven’t heard that one. Have you? What I’m hearing is AJ solely placing the blame on alcohol and not blaming individual players for their actions, in fact mocking the idea that they should take personal responsibility for their violent behavior. This is the modern version of the devil made them do it. But letting people blame the alcohol, in fact insisting on it as AJ is doing, does more harm because it’s removing the responsibility for one’s actions. Saying we can’t blame individual behavior allows it to continue, allows it to be used as an excuse for the violence, in effect allowing a person to say I couldn’t help myself, I’d been drinking. Which is utter bullshit. Most of us can drink a little, or even a lot, and it never once occurs to us to hit somebody, to do anything violent whatsoever. So if you’re saying you can’t, then yeah, you’ve got problems. You definitely should not be drinking. But don’t presume that your problem is my problem, or everyone else’s problem.

Scary statistics follow, the same propaganda they’re usually peddling. Then this statement from AJ’s sheriff, and chief hypocrite, Bruce Lee Livingston. “AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito can declare all day long that the problem is the NFL’s, but both the NFL and the beer barons need to back away from advertising and team sponsorships.” This is pure substance-free propaganda, and it’s not actually doing anything useful. First of all, AJ is the only one blaming the violence on the advertising of alcohol during games and team or league sponsorships, as if that’s what led these players to become violent. That is the issue here, that NFL players are being violent off the field, and the NFL is not dealing with it. Period. It should not be an opportunity to pile on your agenda.

But even so, they’re worried about kids seeing alcohol advertising. I’m more worried about kids being beaten and abused. Watching Sean Fucking Hannity defending beating kids while talking about how his Dad hit him with a belt, all the while insisting he’s not in therapy was painful. It should have been obvious to everyone seeing that, that although maybe he didn’t go to a therapist, perhaps he really should. And now; right away. But the number of people and pundits defending the physical abuse of children as an acceptable form of discipline was almost as unsettling as the abuse itself. That so many think that it was alright to raise welts on a four-year old because he wasn’t listening and because that’s what your Dad did was appalling, especially when you realize that studies consistently show that discipling children by physical force — spanking, hitting with a belt, etc. — are not only ineffective but actually lead to greater problems later in life. It’s sad to see how unevolved we are on this subject. The United Nations, in 1989, adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, among other things forbids abusing children, which would include spanking and other physical discipline. Every member nation in the world ratified the convention, agreeing to abide by its tenets, all except two, that is, which to this day have not ratified it. Those would be Somalia and the United States. We apparently won’t ratify it because we want to keep our precious right to put a child to death, whereas the convention forbids capital punishment for children. But I’m amazed how many people here still seem to think spanking, or worse, is actually effective or, at least, harmless. To me, this is a far greater problem to be focusing on then whether kids see an ad for alcohol.

And second of all, Brito never said that “the problem is [only] the NFL’s.” Read ABI’s short statement above, in its entirety. Does it say that? No, it fucking doesn’t. They say they’re “disappointed and concerned” (which I am, and so are most people) that they are “not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of [these] behaviors (again, I’m not, you’re probably not. Who exactly is satisfied, apart from the team owners?) and that the violent behavior “clearly go against our own company culture and moral code” (which of course, it does). Just because ABI makes beer doesn’t mean they condone violence against women, violence against children or violence of any kind for fucksakes, and yet that’s the connection AJ, and sadly Jon Stewart, are making. That since a minority of people abuse alcohol, and may commit violent acts while intoxicated, that means beer companies either don’t have a moral code or have one that thinks violence is okay. Using that logic, there should be no gun manufacturers either. Because if you make a gun, and someone kills another person with it, well that means you’re condoning violence using the same twisted logic they’re employing here. And if you have a gun, you have no choice but to kill somebody. You can’t help it, there’s no personal responsibility. How dare anyone even suggest that you take responsibility for your actions? That would be ludicrous, wouldn’t it?

Then there’s this gem. The “prevention of domestic abuse and player violence off the field has to begin with the end of the NFL’s promotion of alcohol.” Really, that’s where the NFL needs to start in addressing this? Promoting alcohol is not the same thing as promoting violence, as that statement suggests, and yet again AJ is turning the debate toward their own agenda, despite the fact that it has little to do with what’s going on here.

Sadder still, they provide a list of truly tragic events where former players committed suicide, murder or were arrested for being drunk or shooting off firearms. And those are awful, but those incidents did not occur for the sole reason that any one of them took a drink. People don’t kill themselves just because they got drunk, they do so, or worse, because of deep-seated problems that most likely had little or nothing to do with alcohol. Because most if us do not take to violence when we drink. A violent drunk is a violent person.

AJ’s sheriff leaves us with this wisdom. “In the NFL culture of game aggression and beer marketing, the players alone can’t be blamed for alcohol abuse, binge drinking and addiction that leads to domestic violence, homicide, suicides and traffic collisions.” First of all, why can’t all of us be blamed for our actions. Is a Twinkie defense so ingrained in our culture that we can’t conceive of being responsible for our own actions, so much so that there has to be an outside cause we can blame? I don’t get that. If you do the crime, you did the crime. It shouldn’t, and really doesn’t, matter if you were drinking, or on drugs, or your blood sugar was too low, or you were amped up on a sugar rush eating Twinkies. Such factors may explain certain bad decisions and poor judgement, but they never excuse it. Many, many factors may contribute to our behavior every single day of our lives. But in the end, we are responsible for what we do to ourselves, and others. Why is that so hard to understand?

Finally, Livingston demands that “the NFL and sports’ biggest beer sponsors Budweiser and Coors educate on the harms and dangers of alcohol, get advertising and overconsumption out of the game, and recognize moderation and (horror of horrors) abstinence as legitimate choices for players and fans.” All of the major beer companies have responsibility programs, but of course AJ never acknowledges that they’re anything except half-hearted, forever criticizing them. The advertising angle as I’ve gone over, is the same tired tactic prohibitionists have been using for over 80 years. But I love that he says — excuse me, demands — these companies “recognize moderation and (horror of horrors) abstinence as legitimate choices for players and fans.” Who said they don’t? Oh, that’s right. You did. Because nobody else is insisting that anyone must drink, or must drink heavily, and no one’s trying to make it a requirement. And I won’t mention that as long as moderate drinking is shown to increase the average person’s longevity, barring any specific health issues, that advocating for abstinence is actually not the best choice someone might make. But I won’t mention that. It might upset your delicate constitution.

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The reality is that this is a very complicated issue, and it does little good to reduce it to a single factor, or even just a primary factor, especially when it’s the wrong one. And unlike the absolute blinders that AJ wears, I recognize that people with violent tendencies abusing alcohol could make them worse, and more violent. Such people probably should not drink, and certainly not to excess. I’ve had my fair share of personal encounters with such people throughout my life. But like most things, the dose makes the poison. I’ve also had even more experiences with many, many people with whom I’ve shared a drink with positive outcomes. Drinking sessions during which no one resorted to violence at all. For me, and I suspect most of us, that’s the norm.

I want to believe that prohibitionists are well-intentioned, that they sincerely mean well. But it’s difficult to maintain that belief when they’re so continually dishonest and manipulative, so ends-justify-the-means about everything, all the time. I’ve been watching the self-proclaimed watchdogs for a number of years now, and they constantly amaze me with their underhanded tactics and propaganda. They remind of a bad joke, but one that many people actually take seriously, and don’t realize is a joke. Which is why they’re so damn scary.

But this is really supposed to be about violence and especially violence against women and children. So it’s somewhat surprising that Alcohol Justice would try to distract the debate away from that, instead heaping the blame on their favorite target: alcohol. Actually, it’s not surprising at all, just par for the course, sad to say. But for the sake of my daughter, and women everywhere, I sure wish they’d cut it out. Unfortunately, if history is any teacher, the drive by fanatical temperance groups for another prohibition will almost certainly outlive me.

As for the NFL, I do wish they’d get their shit together. Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful, not under the current management or with the current team ownership. Money is their driving priority, which is understandable to a point, but until they leave a little room for human decency, then nothing is likely to change very much. They’re in damage control mode right now, and that will likely continue until everybody’s moved on to the next news cycle. Goddell has already tried to not do anything about it when he “promised” changes by the Super Bowl, at the end of the season, four months from now. He’s hoping everyone will just forget about it, and they probably will so long as there aren’t any new cases of player mischief that pop up. Their committees will offer some half-hearted band-aids, no real or long-lasting solutions, and that will be it, provided everything stays quiet. There’s just too much money at stake for a sweeping change, especially absent the amount of pressure from the league’s fan base that would be needed. And the larger problem with that is the way violence against women and children in our society is currently tolerated and accepted. Until that changes, it’s unlikely the NFL will change, either. But as long as people can avoid responsibility for their actions, their “personal conduct,” and can continue to blame alcohol, nothing will change, either. Which is why Alcohol Justice’s position that alcohol is to blame for violent behavior, and not anyone’s personal conduct, is so dangerous that they’re actually making this situation worse. It’s a good thing I’m not prone to violence.

NFL Beer Prices Continue To Make Movie Popcorn Look Like A Bargain

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I took a look at Beer Prices By Football Stadium in 2012, and you’ll probably be as un-shocked as it’s possible to be to learn that they’re even higher today than two years ago. According to a report by Business Insider, the “average cost for a small draft beer at NFL games this season is $7.53,” which last year was only $7.05. Only, ha. That still makes it more ridiculously proceed than the concessions at movie theaters. At least, movie houses have the excuse that they don’t make much on the films themselves, and have to make it up on popcorn and soda pop. NFL tickets, by contrast, are one of the most expensive things a family can buy, and the NFL rakes in billions, despite being classified as a non-profit!

And according to another recent report by Team Marketing Report, the most expensive place to see a game is the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara. “The estimated price for a family of four to attend a game in the Niners’ new digs … is $641.50, a hefty, expected increase from their last season in San Francisco. That includes an average non-premium ticket price of $117, which is second only to the New England Patriots’ $122.” Hell, the average price for an NFL ticket is $84.43, and the average “Fan Cost Index price is $479.11,” meaning that’s how much it costs for a family of four to go to a stadium and see an NFL football game.

But let’s get back to the beer. The two most expensive stadiums to buy a beer are both in the Bay Area, $10.75 for 20 oz. at a Raiders game and $10.25 for 20 oz. at a Niners game. “The increase comes despite the introduction of a $4.50 beer in St. Louis, where the Rams now have the cheapest beer in the NFL,” but as they point out those lower prices are also for smaller pours, in some cases nearly half. “If we consider the size of the beer, the most expensive beer is in Philadelphia, where the smallest beer costs 71 cents per ounce. The Cincinnati Bengals offer the cheapest beer per ounce, with a 14-ounce beer costing just $5 (36 cents per ounce).”

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Popular Is As Popular Does

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A variation of “stupid is as stupid does,” either works, as far as I’m concerned. Because this is a stupid type of study that keeps going around and pretending to be scientific and valuable, of which it appears to be neither. The latest one of these, entitled Beverage- and brand-specific binge alcohol consumption among underage youth in the US, appeared in the May edition of the Journal of Substance Use (although the Post’s infographic mis-identifies the source as the “Journal of Substance Abuse,” which ceased publication in 2002). What it “found,” is that when underage youth drink, and binge drink (a ridiculously defined term), they drink popular brands of alcohol, from which they draw sinister conclusions. Here’s how the Washington Post reported the the absurd conclusions drawn in What underage drinkers drink when they binge drink:

“The most important finding is that the phenomenon of binge drinking among our youth is extremely brand specific,” Dr. Michael Siegel, professor at Boston University School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors, said in an interview. “For the first time we’ve found the brands that are most responsible for binge drinking among our nation’s youth.”

For the first time? Seriously? This sort of “study” has been done before, as I detailed last year in New Study Concludes Kids Drink Same Beers As Adults, in which I found it’s been done previous to that one, as well. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, or new.

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Perhaps most obnoxious is Alcohol Justice, who naturally has been tweeting with their usual glee anything that they believe shows alcohol in a negative light. Here’s how they characterized it:

What underage drinkers drink when they binge drink http://wapo.st/1u1V76Y Spoiler alert: BEER.”

So what’s especially annoying about that, is that while beer is indeed number one on the list, of the 25 brands listed, only 8 are beers, or only 32%. And even by the total percentage, the eight beer brands are 44%, less than half. Then there’s the fact that the spirits and wine are, on average, much higher in alcohol than beer, so comparing straight percentages skews the actual amount of alcohol consumed. If we adjusted this for the amount of alcohol in each, and thus how much alcohol was consumed, the amount of beer would likely plummet to an even smaller percentage of the whole. So by virtually every measure, beer is not the biggest culprit, yet Alcohol Justice singles it out with typical ignobility by saying “Spoiler alert: BEER.” Yet it’s not really beer, if you bother to actually look at the data. In the abstract of the actual study, even the conclusion of the researchers is that “binge drinking among youth is most commonly involves spirits [sic].” But Alcohol Justice ignores that — reading is hard, after all — and targets beer once more.

Of course, the data itself is questionable, too. According to the abstract, it was compiled via “[a]n Internet panel [that] was used to obtain a sample of 1032 underage youth aged 13–20, who drank alcohol in the last 30 d. For each brand consumed, youth reported drinking quantity and frequency, and whether they engaged in binge drinking with that brand (≥5 drinks for males and ≥4 for females). Each youth reporting binge drinking with a brand constituted a binge drinking report.” So they put up an internet poll and asked kids to report on their own illegal activity. How scientific. How could anything go wrong?

But it’s especially the conclusions they draw from them that seem absurd. For example, as was found in the previous study I reported on, Bud Light was the brand most often chosen. But Bud Light is, of course, the best-selling brand of beer in the U.S., a fact you’d think the researchers would be aware of. You don’t need a slide rule to figure why the beer that most of their parents are buying, might also be the one their kids are drinking, too. The same is true for just about every brand on the list, all very popular ones, the best-sellers in their individual categories. So you’d expect that they’d be the same brands consumed by our youth, especially if they’re taking them from their parents or other adults’ stashes. It’s the most obvious reason. Even if minors are asking adults to buy them some booze, the more popular brands would be the ones most readily available and sold by the most retailers. But the obvious answers seem to always elude the scientists, who seem more interested in making tenuous, off-the-wall but apparently agenda-supporting conclusions.

But even if we assumed that beer was number one, so what? In terms of both volume and sales, beer outsells every other adult beverage by a wide margin. So why wouldn’t that be across the board, including underage drinking, too. Why would they appear to be surprised that the best-selling type of alcohol, as well as the best-selling brand of beer, are also the most popular among minors?

And they seem to do the same thing with the others, too. So instead of recognizing that Jack Daniels in the best-selling whiskey (the chart incorrectly calls it bourbon, which I’m not sure means the researchers or the Post don’t know what they’re talking about), they instead go down the road less traveled of bizarre reasoning.

The list of the most popular alcohol brands among America’s heavy-drinking youth might appear somewhat disjointed at first glance. Some of them, after all, are difficult to comprehend — Jack Daniel’s bourbons [sic], for one, is significantly more expensive than other lower shelf whiskeys, and yet ranks as the second most popular brand across all spirits and beers. But there’s actually a reasonably clear thread that could be tying them all together: millions upon millions of dollars in marketing.

“Why are these brands the most popular? Is there something in their marketing? There could be messages in their marketing efforts that are encouraging the use of these not just by youths but also in excess,” Siegel said. “We need to take a closer look at the marketing practices of these larger brands.”

Yup, kids choose them because of “millions upon millions of dollars in marketing,” not because they’re already the most popular brands, or because their parents drink them and so are in their homes, or because they’re the brands available for sale at the most places. Yes, you could argue that it’s marketing that built and now maintains their popularity, but that some malicious scheme will be revealed by “tak[ing] a closer look at the marketing practices of these larger brands” is completely absurd. When you go looking for a bogeyman, that’s what you find, especially when you ignore the simple, logical answers and try to find something more complicated. Because it seems like they’re going out of their way to ignore the obvious in favor of finding something to blame alcohol companies for.

Another reason to suspect this study is about promoting an agenda is something they state in “Background and objectives.” They begin their “study” with this underlying premise. “Binge drinking is a common and risky pattern of alcohol consumption among youth.” But as even the NIH admits, “[s]ince 2007, alcohol use and heavy drinking have shown appreciable declines in national surveys of middle and high school students. One study found that 12th-grade alcohol use declined from 66.4 percent to 62 percent in 2013, with a similar downward trend seen in eighth- and 10th-graders.”

And finally, in the Post article’s conclusion, author Roberto A. Ferdman, whose beat is “food policy, consumer business, and Latin American economics,” really shows what he doesn’t know about beer and its history, with this. “Currently, national and state-level policies aimed at curbing underage drinking are more focused on the point of purchase and consumption than on the time of potential indoctrination that precedes them.” Hardly. The moment prohibition ended, prohibitionist organizations began targeting advertising regulations to limit where, when and how alcohol could be advertised, along with where it could be sold, to whom, and all manner of other restrictions intended to do anything they could to limit it, figuring it was the next best thing if they couldn’t outlaw it outright. And they’ve been crying about that very issue ever since, incessantly trying to move the needle to limit “the time of potential indoctrination that precedes” … “the point of purchase and consumption,” exactly what Ferdman seems to think has been ignored has been the number priority of prohibitionist strategies for over eighty years.

I find it amazing that these types of so-called “studies” — what are essentially internet polls — are taken seriously and that they find journals willing to publish them, in effect legitimizing them somewhat. Because if it’s in a journal, the mainstream media often just writes about it uncritically, taking them at face value. But more insidious, prohibitionist organizations, like the ever delightful Alcohol Justice, will distort then and even fabricate their already questionable findings to use in their own agenda, like saying it’s beer that’s the biggest culprit, when even the study does not say that.

Happy Labor Day: Beer Creates Jobs

occupations
Happy Labor Day everybody. I thought this was a good day to highlight a press release from the Beer Institute about “how one job inside a brewery supports another 45 jobs outside. From farmers to factory workers, and truck drivers to tavern owners, beer puts people to work.” It’s not just that breweries employ a lot of people — they do — but many more job are created beyond the brewery that might not exist were it not for the beer. As their research shows, for every job inside a brewery, there are 45 related jobs outside the brewery.

BEER 3982 JOBS

From the press release:

“Today we toast to the industry’s 2 million men and women who make it possible for Americans to enjoy their favorite beer,” said Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute President and CEO. “America’s preference for beer is a huge boon to the national economy and the American worker.”

According to an economic study jointly commissioned by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association in 2012, U.S. brewers and beer importers are the foundation for an industry that employs more than 2 million Americans, directly and indirectly. Beer also contributed $246.6 billion to America’s economy and generated $49 billion in local, state and federal taxes.

A Beer Institute analysis showed that each job in a brewery supports other jobs in the agriculture, business and personal services, construction, finance insurance and real estate, manufacturing, retail, transportation and communication, travel and entertainment and wholesale sectors.

They also broke down the number of jobs flowing from beer for each state. Not surprisingly, California was number one, with 241,640 contributing over $34 billion into the economy. After California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois have the most beer-related jobs, but even in the smallest states, thousands of people are gainfully employed thanks to beer. The total number of jobs nationwide is just over 2 million with a total economic impact of almost $247 billion. To see it broken down even farther, including by state and Congressional district, check out Beer Serves America.

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Happy Labor Day, the only this missing from this picture? Where are the brewers?

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Brookston & Porter

ice-bucket
So you’ve probably noticed that one of the latest internet memes is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The idea involves “dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.” Also, the “challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same.” I was challenged by my friend and colleague, Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News, who also tapped Stephen Beaumont and Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association. So here’s my video, with my son Porter, who decided he wanted to join me.

You can find out more about how to donate at the ALS Association or the MDA.

THE ALS ASSOCIATION

I also challenged three friends:

  1. Fal Allen, brewmaster, Anderson Valley Brewing
  2. Justin Crossley, founder, The Brewing Network
  3. John Holl, Editor, All About Beer magazine

Now it’s their turn. No thanks necessary.

The Battle Over Beer Label Approval

TTB
The Daily Beast had an interesting profile of Kent “Battle” Martin, the person responsible for approving every single beer label at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, in Meet the Beer Bottle Dictator. I’d heard of Martin — um, Battle, I mean — before, but didn’t realize he was the only person approving or denying label applications. I think I assumed he was simply part of a larger staff. I can’t say having a single person in charge of interpreting a fairly vague set of laws in a particularly good idea. There have been some very strange, seemingly nonsensical and contradictory decisions over the years, and I’d always thought that was because those were made by various people interpreting the regulations differently, the way the California ABC does, or the arbitrary way that movie ratings are given. I have to say, I don’t think that should be left to just one individual, no matter how dedicated or hard-working, as Battle apparently is, according to the article.

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The Heart & Health & Beer

heart
I can’t tell you how sick I am of the unscrupulous tactics of prohibitionists; the way they bend the truth to suit their agenda, the way they play so fast and loose with the truth and the way they demonize those of us in the alcohol industry. I find their hypocrisy more than a little unsettling, especially when they claim to be “watchdogs,” keeping the alcohol industry honest, while being so dishonest in the process. Why they continue to receive positive press is bewildering to me. Here’s the latest example of this, from one of the most egregious of the bunch, Alcohol Justice. Here’s what they’ve recently added to their daily tweetings.

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Oh, Alcohol Justice, how do I hate thee, let me count the ways.

  1. Alcohol no benefit to the heart, even light use: You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that clicking on the subsequent link takes you to a story that says roughly the same thing, but that the study’s conclusion requires a great leap from one conclusion to another, with no obvious causation or relation of one to the other, as you’ll see below. AJ happily picks up on bad and sloppy reporting, and an apparently agenda promoting press release without ever noticing that the basis for all of it does not support the headline.
  2. Refutes bogus industry claims: Okay, this one really pisses me off. The claims about how moderate alcohol consumption can benefit heart health are not “industry claims,” but comes from numerous scientific studies, and dismissing them all as “bogus” with a wave of the hand over one so-called study, even if right on point, is so mindbogglingly disingenuous and dishonest to make them utterly fundamentalist prohibitionist wingnuts with absolutely no regard for honesty or truth whatsoever.

Unfortunately they’re lead down this rabbit hole partly by one media outlet, a press release by one of the universities involved in the study and even a weird, untrue statement by one of the researchers.

So let’s start with the news media report. Alcohol does not benefit the heart, claims new study is on the website Medical News Today, which in the past has also used misleading headlines and twisted analysis of studies to misrepresent the results. The article is written by a Catharine Paddock, who apparently has a PhD and despite writing numerous times about medical and health topics, has a background as a “technical writer in the computer and electronics industry.” She also “enjoys keeping fit, yoga, reading, [and] walking,” so she’s obviously qualified to write about complex medical studies. But to be fair, she pretty much uncritically reports and reworks the press release on the study. Despite Medical New Today helpfully providing links to both the press release and the original study, she appears not to have read or looked at the study itself, otherwise she might have noticed that the two don’t really agree.

Next, let’s look at the “news release” from Penn Medicine, titled New Study Shows Drinking Alcohol, Even Light-to-Moderate Amounts, Provides No Heart Health Benefit, subtitled “Results Call into Question Previous Studies Suggesting One Drink Per Day May Promote Cardiovascular Health,” so it’s obvious that’s where the mischaracterizations begin. Curiously, they don’t even provide a link to the study that’s the subject of their news release. But given that they’re pushing this study to toot their own horn, to promote the work of their own Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, it’s not too surprising that they’d oversell its accomplishments. It’s slightly more surprising that the mainstream news media would not critically question it, but it’s still troubling and more than a little annoying given that most people expect that a news story has been vetted and checked for accuracy. But more often what happens is overworked journalists simply rework a press release into a story and often don’t bother investigating its veracity or interview anyone with a contrary opinion or even someone simply outside or not involved in the organization who put out the press release itself.

But let’s go first to the study itself, titled simply Association between alcohol and cardiovascular disease: Mendelian randomisation analysis based on individual participant data. Here’s the abstract:

Objective To use the rs1229984 variant in the alcohol dehydrogenase 1B gene (ADH1B) as an instrument to investigate the causal role of alcohol in cardiovascular disease.

Design Mendelian randomisation meta-analysis of 56 epidemiological studies.

Participants 261 991 individuals of European descent, including 20 259 coronary heart disease cases and 10 164 stroke events. Data were available on ADH1B rs1229984 variant, alcohol phenotypes, and cardiovascular biomarkers.

Main outcome measures Odds ratio for coronary heart disease and stroke associated with the ADH1B variant in all individuals and by categories of alcohol consumption.

Results Carriers of the A-allele of ADH1B rs1229984 consumed 17.2% fewer units of alcohol per week (95% confidence interval 15.6% to 18.9%), had a lower prevalence of binge drinking (odds ratio 0.78 (95% CI 0.73 to 0.84)), and had higher abstention (odds ratio 1.27 (1.21 to 1.34)) than non-carriers. Rs1229984 A-allele carriers had lower systolic blood pressure (−0.88 (−1.19 to −0.56) mm Hg), interleukin-6 levels (−5.2% (−7.8 to −2.4%)), waist circumference (−0.3 (−0.6 to −0.1) cm), and body mass index (−0.17 (−0.24 to −0.10) kg/m2). Rs1229984 A-allele carriers had lower odds of coronary heart disease (odds ratio 0.90 (0.84 to 0.96)). The protective association of the ADH1B rs1229984 A-allele variant remained the same across all categories of alcohol consumption (P=0.83 for heterogeneity). Although no association of rs1229984 was identified with the combined subtypes of stroke, carriers of the A-allele had lower odds of ischaemic stroke (odds ratio 0.83 (0.72 to 0.95)).

Conclusions Individuals with a genetic variant associated with non-drinking and lower alcohol consumption had a more favourable cardiovascular profile and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease than those without the genetic variant. This suggests that reduction of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, is beneficial for cardiovascular health.

So in this case, after all the scary headlines and statements like “[t]he latest findings call into question previous studies which suggest that consuming light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol (0.6-0.8 fluid ounces/day) may have a protective effect on cardiovascular health” they finally get to the truth, of sorts, well after many people probably stopped reading. Here it is: “Researchers found that individuals who carry a specific gene which typically leads to lower alcohol consumption over time have, on average, superior cardiovascular health records. Specifically, the results show that individuals who consume 17 percent less alcohol per week have on average a 10 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure and a lower Body Mass Index.” That’s right, the conclusion is about people with a specific gene.

In the study’s abstract conclusion, they go from stating that those people who have the specific genetic variant drink less and also had “a reduced risk of coronary heart disease than those without the genetic variant” to a conclusion that therefore “reduction of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, is beneficial for cardiovascular health.” But that makes no sense whatsoever.

But perhaps more annoying is a comment by one of the researchers at Penn, Co-lead author Michael Holmes, who essentially dismisses every study before his own as worthless as he arrogantly mansplains that those were all observational studies, just mere “observations,” unlike his study. His tone is clearer when you watch the video, but essentially it’s this, from the media report:

He explains how for some time, observational studies have suggested only heavy drinking is bad for the heart, and that light drinking might even provide some benefit, and this has led some people to believe moderate consumption is good for their health, even lowering their risk of heart disease.

And from the press release:

“These new results are critically important to our understanding of how alcohol affects heart disease. Contrary to what earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol has a negative impact upon heart health,” says co-lead author Michael Holmes, MD, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of Transplant Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “For some time, observational studies have suggested that only heavy drinking was detrimental to cardiovascular health, and that light consumption may actually be beneficial. This has led some people to drink moderately based on the belief that it would lower their risk of heart disease. However, what we’re seeing with this new study, which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomized clinical trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health.”

In addition, his statement that people have been taking up drinking alcohol because previous studies showed a positive association between moderate drinking and heart health is utterly obnoxious. I’ve read a lot of these studies and every single one is overly careful to make sure nobody should ever take their study’s conclusion as a catalyst to start drinking. Between that and the incessant chorus in our society about the dangers of drinking or the idea that drinking’s a sin, this statement, I think, tells us more about his own personal issues with alcohol than any objective reality.

But despite the dismissive tone, waving aside every other study on this topic, suggesting this one study somehow supersedes and replaces them all, there have been perhaps hundreds, or more, studies around the world on the association between alcohol consumption and heart health. I have a hard time accepting that every one of them was “observational” or that they’re all now meaningless now that he’s done this one.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in U.S., but moderate drinking can reduce risks 40-60% [Journal, Alcoholism, 2004] and the benefits of alcohol on the heart has been known since 1904 [Journal of the AMA, 1904].

The Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wrote that “Numerous well-designed studies have concluded that moderate drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health” and a Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that “the lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day.” On top of that, the World Health Organization Technical Committee on Cardiovascular Disease asserted that the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced death from heart disease could no longer be doubted. [AIM Digest (Supplement), June 1997].

And here’s just a sample of previous studies, taken from Alcohol Problems and Solutions. And none of them are bogus industry claims, either.

Heart Health

Medical research has demonstrated a strong relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduction in cardiovascular disease in general and coronary artery disease in particular. [Moore, R., and Pearson, T. Moderate alcohol consumption and coronary artery disease. Medicine, 1986, 65 (4), 242-267.]

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health, resulting in a sharp decrease in heart disease risk (40%-60%). [Highlights of the NIAAA position paper on moderate alcohol consumption. Press release from the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, June 14, 2004; Berman, Jessica. Moderate alcohol consumption benefits heart, U.S. government says. Voice of America News, June 16, 2004.] This is important because cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and heart disease kills about one million Americans each and every year. [American Heart Association web site.]

The Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wrote that “Numerous well-designed studies have concluded that moderate drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health,” and the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that “The lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day.” [Pearson, T.A. (for the American Heart Association). Alcohol and heart disease. Circulation, 1996, 94, 3023-3025.] A World Health Organization Technical Committee on Cardiovascular Disease asserted that the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced death from heart disease can no longer be doubted. [Wilkie, S. Global overview of drinking recommendations and guidelines. AIM Digest (Supplement), June, 1997, 2-4, 4.]

  • Researchers studied volunteers in seven European countries and found that people who have a daily drink of beer, wine or distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, tequila, etc.) have significantly better arterial elasticity, a strong indicator of of heart health and cardiovascular health, than nondrinkers. Moderate drinkers also had significantly better pulse rates than those of abstainers from alcohol.
  • A study of 1,795 subjects found that “the risk of extensive coronary calcification was 50% lower in individuals who consumed one to two alcoholic drinks per day than in nondrinkers.” [Vliegenthart, R., et al. Alcohol consumption and coronary calcification in a general population. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004 (November 22), 164, 2355-2360.]
  • Research demonstrates that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better endothelial function, which contributes to better heart health and lowers risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. [Suzuki, K., et al. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better endothelial function: a cross sectional study. BMC Cardiovasc. Discord., 2009, 9, 8.]
  • A study of over 3,000 men and women found that those who never drank alcohol were at a greater risk of having high levels of CRP and IL-6 (excellent predictors of heart attack) than were those who consumed alcoholic beverages in moderation. [Price, J.H. Light drinking lowers bad proteins. The Washington Times, February 11, 2004.]

Moderate Drinkers are Less Likely to Suffer Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attacks (Acute Myocardial Infarctions) than are Abstainers or Heavy Drinkers.

  • A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism review of research studies from at least 20 countries around the world demonstrate a 20- to 40-percent lower coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence among drinkers compared to nondrinkers. It asserts that “The totality of evidence on moderate alcohol and CHD supports a judgment of a cause-effect relationship… there are cardioprotective benefits associated with responsible, moderate alcohol intake.” [Hennekens, C. H. Alcohol and Risk of Coronary Events. In: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol and the Cardiovascular System. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996.]
  • Harvard researchers have identified the moderate consumption of alcohol as a proven way to reduce coronary heart disease risk.[Manson, J. E., et al. The primary prevention of myocardial infarction. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1992, 326(21), 1406-1416.]
  • A study of 18,455 males from the Physicians Health Study revealed that those originally consuming one drink per week or less who increased their consumption up to to six drinks per week had a 29% reduction in CVD risk compared to those who did not increase their consumption. Men originally consuming 1-6 drinks per week who increased their consumption moderately had an additional 15% decrease in CVD risk. [Sesso, H.D., et al. Seven -year changes in alcohol consumption and subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease in men. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2001, 160, 2505-2612.]
  • The Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of over 44,000 men found moderate alcohol consumption to be associated with a 37% reduction in coronary disease. [Rimm, E., et al. Prospective study of alcohol consumption and risk of coronary disease in men. The Lancet. 1991, 338, 464-468.]
  • A British study of women found moderate consumption of alcohol to be associated with lower levels of cardiovascular risk factors. [Razay, G., et al. Alcohol consumption and its relation to cardiovascular risk factors in British women. British Medical Journal, 1992, 304, 80-83.]
  • A study of over 5,000 women with type 2 diabetes mellitus found that coronary heart disease rates “were significantly lower in women who reported moderate alcohol intake than in those who reported drinking no alcohol.” Women who drank more than 5 grams (about one-third glass) a day reduced their risk of CHD (fatal or nonfatal) by more than half. [Solomon, C. G., et al. Moderate alcohol consumption and risk of coronary heart disease among women with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Circulation, 2000, 102, 494-499.]
  • In a study of nearly 88,000 men, researchers found that drinking reduced risk of coronary heart disease risk among both diabetics and non-diabetics. Weekly consumption of alcohol reduced CHD risk by one-third (33%) while daily consumption reduced the risk by over half (58%) among diabetics. For non-diabetics, weekly consumption reduced CHD risk by 18% while daily consumption reduced the risk by 39%. [Ajani, U. A., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of coronary heart disease by diabetic status. Circulation, 2000, 102, 500.]
  • Light to moderate consumption of alcohol appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by as much as 80% among individuals with older-onset diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. [Valmidrid, C. T., et al. Alcohol intake and the risk of coronary heart disease mortality in persons with older-onset diabetes mellitus. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999, 282(3), 239-246.]
  • The Honolulu Heart Study found a 49% reduction in coronary heart disease among men who drank alcohol in moderation. [Blackwelder, W. C., et al. Alcohol and mortality. The Honolulu Heart Study. American Journal of Medicine, 1980, 68(2), 164-169.]
  • Harvard researchers concluded about coronary heart disease that “Consumption of one or two drinks of beer, wine, or liquor per day has corresponded to a reduction in risk of approximately 20-40%.” [Manson, J. E., et al. Prevention of Myocardial Infarction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.]
  • At a scientific conference, researchers from Korea, Italy, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States reported finding striking reductions in death among moderate drinkers, with heart disease and total mortality rates about one half or less compared to non-drinkers. [Trevisan, M., et al. Drinking pattern and mortality: a longitudinal study; Gaziano, J. M., et al. A prospective cohort study of moderate alcohol consumption and sudden death in the Physicians' Health Study; Keil, U., et al. The relation of alcohol to coronary heart disease and total mortality in a beer drinking population in Southern Germany; Waskiewicz, A., et al. Alcohol consumption and l l-year total and CVD mortality among men in Pol-MONICA study; Grobbee, D. E., et al. Alcohol and cardiovascular risk in the elderly. All presented at the 4th International Conference on Preventive Cardiology, Montreal, Canada, June 29-July 3, 1997, and published in Abstracts from the 4th International Conference on Preventive Cardiology. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology, June, 1997, volume 13, Supplement B.]
  • After over 6,000 participants in the Framingham Heart Study were followed for a period of six to ten years, researchers found that “when consumed in moderation, alcohol appears to protect against congestive heart failure.” [Walsh, C. R., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk for congestive heart failure in the Framingham Heart Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2002, 136(3), 181-191.]
  • The American Heart Association, based on the research evidence, concludes that the “Consumption of one or two drinks per day is associated with a [CHD] reduction in risk of approximately 30% to 50%.” [Pearson, Thomas A. (for the American Heart Association). Alcohol and heart disease. Circulation, 1996, 94, 3023-3025.]
  • After reviewing the research, Dr. David Whitten reported that “The studies that have been done show pretty clearly that the chances of suffering cardiac death are dramatically reduced by drinking” one or two drinks a day and asserted that “We don’t have any drugs that are as good as alcohol.” [Whitten, D. Wine Institute Seminar. San Francisco, CA: 1987. Quoted in Ford, G. The French Paradox and Drinking for Health. San Francisco, CA: Wine Appreciation Guild, 1993. Pp. 26-27.]
  • Based on the medical evidence, noted investigator Dr. Curtis Ellison asserted that “abstinence from alcohol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.” [Vin, sante & societe. AIM, 1995, 4(2), 7-10, p. 9.]

The Moderate Consumption of Alcohol Increases the Survivability of Heart Attacks

  • Drinking alcohol in moderation throughout the year before a heart attack or acute myocardial infarction (AMI) has been found to reduce the risk of dying afterward. Moderate drinkers had the lowest mortality rate, reducing their risk by 32%, compared to abstainers. The health benefits were virtually identical for beer, distilled spirits, and wine. [Mulcamel, K.J., et al. Alcohol consumption after myocardial infarction. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, 285(15), 1965-1970; Alcohol and AMI: Benefits from beer, wine, and liquor. American Journal of Nursing, 2001, 101(8), 18.]
  • Men who consume two to four drinks of alcohol after a heart attack are less likely to experience a second heart attack than are abstainers, according to a study of 353 male heart attack survivors. Researchers found that men who consumed an average of two drinks of alcohol per day were 59% less likely than non-drinkers to have another heart attack. Those who drank an average of four drinks per day experienced a risk reduction of 52% compared to abstainers. [de Lorgeril, M., et al. Wine drinking and risks of cardiovascular complications after recent acute myocardial infarction. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2002, 106, 1465-1469.]
  • Research at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that drinking alcohol (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) in moderation reduced the damage to effected tissue following a heart attack. [Dayton C, DC Gute, P Carter, and RJ Korthuis. Antecedent ethanol prevents postischemic P-selectin expression in murine small intestine. Microcirculation, 2004, 11, 709-718.]
  • A study for a five year period of over 85,000 men who had suffered previous heart attacks found that “moderate alcohol intake was associated with a significant decrease in total mortality” compared to nondrinkers. [Gaziano, J., et al. Potential mortality benefits for drinkers with previous heart attacks. The Lancet, 1998, 352, M 1882-1885.]

Alcohol Abstainers Who Begin Drinking Reduce Their Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

  • During a ten year study of 7,697 non-drinkers, investigators found that 6% began consuming alcohol in moderation. After four years of follow-up, new moderate drinkers had a 38% lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease than did those who continued abstaining. Even after adjusting for physical activity, Body Mass Index (BMI), demographic and cardiac risk factors, this difference persisted.
      
    This study is important because it provides additional strong evidence that the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease among moderate drinkers is a result of the alcohol itself rather than any differences in lifestyle, genetics, or other factors. [King, Dana E., Mainous, III, Arch G. and Geesey, Mark E. Adopting moderate alcohol consumption in middle-age: Subsequent cardiovascular events. American Journal of Medicine, 2008 (March), 121(3).]
  • A study of men with high blood pressure found that those who averaged one to six drinks per week has a 39% lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes than were abstainers. Those who averaged more (one or two drinks each day) were 44% less likely to experience such death. [Malinski, M.K., Sesso, H.D., Lopez-Jimenez, F., Buring, J.E., and Gaziano, M. Alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease mortality in hypertensive men. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004, 164(6), 623.]
  • Frequent Drinkers Enjoy Greater Heart-Health Benefits than Those Who Drink Less Often
    In a study of nearly 88,000 men, researchers found reductions in coronary heart disease risk with increasing frequency of drinking alcohol for both diabetics and non-diabetics. Weekly consumption of alcohol reduced CHD risk by one-third (33%) while daily consumption reduced the risk by over half (58%) among diabetics. For non-diabetics, weekly consumption reduced CHD risk by 18% while daily consumption reduced the risk by 39%. [Anani, U. A., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of coronary heart disease by diabetes status. Circulation, 2000, 102, 500-505.]

And that’s just a sample, obviously. While this new study is interesting, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the rs1229984 variant in the alcohol dehydrogenase 1B gene (ADH1B), it’s seems more than a little premature to throw out everything that’s come before it. But back to ADH1B. How many people have that gene variant. How can people know if they have it? Although curiously, it’s mentioned in passing that people with the gene variant are also slightly more likely to smoke. Doesn’t it seem at least as likely that the while the gene variant may have a positive effect on heart health, that not having ADH1B isn’t automatically a negative, but the norm? Without knowing the percentage of the population that has this gene variant, it seems odd to me that the conclusion is that the rest of us are somehow negatively impacted by not having what’s by definition a mutation. If having it is good for your heart, can it be synthesized?

Also, in their conclusions, they found that people with the ADH1B gene variant, in addition to drinking less, also “exhibited lower levels of blood pressure, inflammatory biomarkers, adiposity measures, and non-HDL cholesterol,” which could also be contributing to their heart health, couldn’t they? The most confounding conclusion, that simply because they used mendelian randomisation “that reduction of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, is beneficial for cardiovascular health” I confess I don’t fully understand. Not being a scientist, and not having come across mendelian randomisation before, I don’t fully understand how it can provide results that are so certain, despite it apparently being prone to misleading conclusions from “linkage disequilibrium, genetic heterogeneity, pleiotropy, or population stratification” or any of the biases or problems that you’d have with any study. Almost every preliminary study, or whenever one is the first of its kind, the researchers are always careful not to make too much of their results. They always caution people from drawing too many conclusions and usually state that further research is necessary to confirm or invalidate their findings. That’s how the scientific method is supposed to work, I always thought. But in this instance, one study is being touted as the be all, end all in understanding the relationship between alcohol and your heart. That seems very strange to me. Maybe that’s my ignorance, but neither the press release nor the news report on the study has done anything to clear it up. Considering that those are aimed at the general public, that seems like a big failure. But it certainly makes it easier for Alcohol Justice to jump in and claim victory that alcohol is now completely bad for everyone, no exceptions, despite society having endured quite well since the dawn of time with alcohol playing a fairly prominent role.

heart-beer

Blaming Alcohol For Rape

rape
Despite the title of this post, this is not about rape, it’s about alcohol, and prohibitionists. Okay, that’s not exactly true. It’s a little bit about rape, but it’s more about how alcohol is being blamed for it. Rape is without question one of the worst crimes there is, in some ways worse than murder because its effect on the victim never really goes away. Our society, however, doesn’t really take it as seriously as it should, especially if the rapist is from a prominent family, or plays sports. Having a mother, a wife and a daughter, I don’t really understand why we treat it so cavalierly, and often blame the victim, too. Since every man has a mother, and almost every one of them also has at least an aunt, sister, wife, daughter, niece, female cousin, etc., I really don’t get our society’s casualness with rape.

Yes, some other countries are even worse they we are, but that shouldn’t really matter, or excuse it. Time magazine recently put the topic on the cover of their magazine, in their May 26, 2014 issue, focusing on rape on college campuses. It’s a start. And at least it’s getting more attention, which it definitely should. I’ve seen a number of news outlets discussing it. And even the White House weighed in with a report, Not Alone, subtitled “The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault.”

Unfortunately, it’s not all good. For example, it’s increasingly true that George Will is not just an out-of-touch old white man, but an asshole, too. But worse still, others are using the increased awareness of this abhorrent phenomenon for their own terrible purpose. Enter Alcohol Justice (AJ), who can’t help but see rape as alcohol’s fault, not as a crime of violence and power, like it actually is. Here’s what they’re tweeting:

aj-tweet-rape

To be fair, they didn’t come up with the title “Colleges can’t discount role of drinking in sexual assault,” but they certainly jumped on it to flog their faithful with more tales of the scourge of alcohol. They took it from an internal UB Reporter website and spread it far wider, in order to further their agenda. The “new data from UB,” as if anybody would know who UB is, comes from the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).

What’s upsetting the RIA, and by extension AJ, is that the White House report didn’t focus enough attention on binge drinking, which they believe is the heart of the problem. Just stop people binge drinking, and that will solve the rape issue on college campuses, goes the thinking.

“Research consistently shows that heavy alcohol use is a factor in a majority of college sexual assault cases,” Livingston says. “Therefore, reduction of binge drinking on campuses must be recognized as a crucial goal in assault prevention efforts.”

Not everybody agrees, of course, and the lone comment to the UB article is from an Anne Taylor, who takes exception:

The researchers are going about this wrong. Men who commit acts of rape and sexual assault will commit these crimes regardless of whether or not alcohol is present. Clearly, these researchers are ignorant about rape culture and its effects on society at large. Men who are rapists use alcohol (and drugs) as an aid to committing acts of rape. Do these researchers honestly believe that reducing binge drinking will reduce the number of men who are rapists? No, these men will simply find another way to prey on their chosen victims.

Maybe these researchers ought to do a little research on rape culture and the patriarchy before conducting their study? As a survivor of sexual assault myself, I am absolutely livid at these researchers for perpetuating one of the many myths of rape culture (i.e., that alcohol and “drunk women” are the only reasons why men rape, never mind the fact we live in an extremely sexist society that devalues women’s bodily autonomy).

The RIA does seem to acknowledge some of what Taylor expresses, when they say. “Some advocates worry that acknowledging the role of binge drinking in assaults is tantamount to blaming the victim, but our common goal here is to prevent sexual assaults by better understanding the conditions under which they are likely to occur.” But I think blaming the alcohol is exactly what they’re doing. At a minimum, that’s the result of shifting the focus from the crime to the question of whether anyone had been drinking. Not only does it blame the victim, but it also provides an excuse for the rapist. And while I’m certain that some students do use drinking alcohol as their way to take advantage of another person, making it about the alcohol removes the responsibility of the rapist, allowing him, and society, to blame it all on binge drinking. Whether binge drinking, or any drinking, is involved muddies the waters and shifts the focus of the rape away from where it belongs: on the heinous crime itself.

The RIA has apparently “conducted groundbreaking research on the association between binge drinking and college sexual assault,” and there’s a link to a fact sheet entitled Alcohol and Sexual Assault. Unfortunately, and not to take away from their efforts, there’s nothing “groundbreaking” here, it’s just an overview of some research and factoids addressing their displeasure with the White House report not making enough of drinking. Even if some of it were true, which no doubt some of it is, it ends up being an excuse for why it was acceptable in the mind of, in some cases, both parties. But this is one of the instances where there should be no ambiguity, a strict liability. Drinks or no drinks, it’s completely unacceptable, so why make it about the drinking?

Blaming alcohol, as RIA and AJ seem to be doing, is doing exactly what they’re claiming not to be doing, making the “role of alcohol” a “stumbling block when discussing prevention efforts.” Because a crime is a crime, whether someone’s been drinking or not. If we discovered that more robberies were perpetrated by people who’d been drinking, would we focus our attention on stopping everyone from drinking, or continue trying to stop robbers from committing the crime? If it was found that criminals who’d been drinking considered robbery more acceptable morally than sober criminals, would that in any way change our view of the crime? And I think that’s why the more serious reports, including the White House’s, are concentrating on stopping the crime, not looking for a bogeyman.

Here’s another way in which one of the rape myths is addressed, from Chapter 7: Violent Crimes Committed Against Women and Children of the Office of the Attorney General for the State of California Department of Justice.

Many people have the wrong idea about sexual assault. They mistakenly believe that rapists are overcome with sexual desire or that a woman who is raped may have dressed too seductively or “asked for it” in some manner. These ideas assume that rape is only a sexual act, a crime that is motivated by desire. It is not. Rape is a violent crime, a hostile act, and an attempt to hurt and humiliate another person. Sex is used as a weapon, and rapists use that weapon against women, strangers and acquaintances of all ages, races and body types.

People may think of it as somehow “okay,” but that doesn’t change what it really is: a terrible crime. You can find information about rape being a violent crime all over the place, from Abstract Nonsense, the Minnesota State University and even the National Institute of Justice. Anybody claiming that they thought it was okay, or was okay if they were drunk, is a Neanderthal that should be removed from society, period. I know that’s not how our society currently approaches rape and sexual assault, but making this a question about how alcohol does or doesn’t contribute to the state of mind of either party to this crime is not helping. In fact I think it’s doing more harm, because not everyone who drinks, or even binge drinks, is a rapist, or thinks sexual assault is acceptable. But that’s the most common prohibitionist tactic. If anything bad ever happens, even just once or twice, and someone involved had been drinking, then the only possible response is for everyone to stop drinking. It must be the alcohol’s fault, and personal responsibility apparently doesn’t really exist. If one person can’t handle their booze, then no one should ever be allowed to drink. The fact that we don’t approach any other societal problem in this manner never seems to matter, and there’s always some excuse about “alcohol” being somehow different because it has, well, alcohol in it. Or it’s a sin, or toxic, or some other ridiculous notion. Oh, and did you hear? It’s made with antifreeze, too, because brewers want to kill all their customers.

When you read more about this, it’s clear that there are a minority of sexual predators on college campuses, and some of them use alcohol as a weapon. According to research as early as 2002, we’ve known this to be the case. In a respected study at the University of Massachusetts, they found that rapes were perpetrated by only 6.4% of the male college students, but that each of them was a serial rapist, with an average of almost six sexual assaults. As is the case with a lot of social problems, alcohol included, a small number of people are making it awful for the rest of us. And our usual response it to let those bad actors determine our response, which inevitably punishes everyone. The White House was right, I think, in focusing on the crime itself, and not on any of the weapons, or on other distractions.

What AJ, and possibly the RIA conveniently seems to forget, is that one of the major causes of binge drinking on college campuses is that prohibitionists forced the minimum age from 18 to 21 by getting Congress to tie it public highway funds. In a sense, binge drinking on college campuses was an unintended consequence of trying to curb drunk driving. The RIA does acknowledge that “underage drinkers who are victimized may fear legal or disciplinary consequences for alcohol use.” That’s what drives college drinking underground, and into secret, and creates the conditions where binge drinking can flourish, and so can sexual predators. So if their real goal was to stop binge drinking in college, they should at the very least be questioning the minimum age and talking about how it would help bring drinking into the open, and thereby possibly reducing many of the negative aspects of binge drinking that they believe are increasing sexual assaults. That’s the entire point of the Amethyst Initiative, which has 136 chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States signed up to change the law for that very reason. I understand why AJ would never entertain that idea. It’s simply not possible for them to view alcohol in anything but the most negative way imaginable, but I’m baffled why the RIA wouldn’t at least suggest it as one possible solution.

Obviously, education is suggested by everybody, but alcohol education is all but nonexistent, apart from the “just say no” variety, which does no good whatsoever. In some states, it’s actually illegal to teach children about alcohol, even by their own parents. Changing the age from 21 back to 18, along with allowing parents (or others) to give teens real information about alcohol and its effects might go a long way toward reducing binge drinking in college, though I suspect it would have only a minimal effect on sexual assault. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it, or at least just talk about it.

According to RAINN (The Rape, Assault, Incest National Network), in 30% of sexual assaults the perpetrator was intoxicated with alcohol. That also means in 70% of cases, the rapist was not drunk. I accept that it’s possible that the figure is higher among assaults on college campuses. I’m not trying to downplay the crime here; just the opposite in fact. The point I’m trying to make is that the drinking should be beside the point. It should definitely not be the focus, because it simply shouldn’t matter if either victim or rapist was drinking, or drunk. And that’s what pisses me off about Alcohol Justice. In their rush to highlight anything negative about alcohol, they’re shamelessly blaming alcohol for rapes on college campuses, when it’s clear that bad people are are responsible for them. Good people don’t turn into rapists by drinking too much. Bad people are already bad, whether they drink alcohol or give it to their victims. I just wish Alcohol Justice, and the other prohibitionists, would stop blaming alcohol for every problem facing society.

The New Yellow Journalism

yellow-journalism
While to a certain extent it’s easy to understand the reaction of the big brewers, it’s still just sad. It’s the equivalent of negotiating with terrorists, in this case the food terrorists, so to speak. If you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about yet, it’s the so-called Food Babe, and her weird crusade against beer, among many other foodstuffs. She’s the modern version of yellow journalism, all sensationalism and almost no substance. It’s described as “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.”

Her first salvo was last year when she sensationally claimed to expose The Shocking Ingredients in Beer. Almost every one was as un-shocking as it gets, especially if you understand the brewing process. But that’s the new yellow journalism, and unfortunately you see it all over the internet. A provocative headline to grab page views, link bait or something just overly sensational is all you need. It’s happened so many times since I’ve been writing online that I’ve lost count. And it works. The beer community rushes in to correct egregious mistakes, faulty reasoning, uninformed opinion while the hit count spikes, advertisers smile and websites raise their advertising rates. It rarely matters that what’s written is often wrong, sometimes so utterly wrong that it should be embarrassing for not only the author, but the publication, too. And yet curiously, it’s not. And for me, that’s why it’s yellow journalism. It’s not intended to be factual, or well-researched or reasoned. It’s sole purpose is to get eyeballs on the page. And facts apparently are boring. The truth is somnambulistic. Controversy, even the manufactured kind, is what brings the traffic.

food-babe
The “Food Babe” with her comically large magnifying glass.

I don’t need to rehash all that was wrong with the original missive by the Food Babe, The Shocking Ingredients in Beer. Plenty of people dissected it at the time, though none better than Ambitious Brew author Maureen Ogle, who enlisted the help of several respected brewers in her lengthy, comprehensive denunciation What’s In YOUR Beer? Or, The Dangers of Dumbassery, which she later summarized in All About Beer Magazine as Don’t Be A Knee-Jerk, Research the Facts. As Ogle notes, the Food Babe started her “research” with a “baseline list of ‘legal’ additives allowed in beer from the book ‘Chemicals Additives in Beer’ by the Center of Science and Public Interest.” Despite its name, the CSPI is a prohibitionist organization that rarely has anything to do with actual science. It’s one of the most egregiously dishonest of the bunch, in my opinion, an opinion assembled from following them for many years. They’re hardly a good place to begin an honest attempt to look at the ingredients in beer. Plus she begins by stating she’s not even a beer drinker, but prefers wine, even though many of the process chemicals she accuses beer of being composed of are also used in making wine.

A close second, there was also Thomas Cizauskas’ take in Beer Wars: The Calumny of The Food Babe. But others, before and since, have noted that Vani Hari (the Food Babe’s given name) has zero credentials in food sciences, or any other science, apparently. See, for example the RationalWiki or Joe Schwarcz: The Food Babe is anything but an expert on GMOs, writing in the Montreal Gazette. There’s no shortage of people writing about what she’s saying — pro and con — and that, of course, is the point. She’s so out there that people can’t help it; the Ann Coulter of food punditry. Despite so many people crying foul, it’s had no effect whatsoever, which is exactly what you’d expect if truth was never really the goal.

So yesterday, she doubled down and penned an open letter and petition: Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors: Tell Us What’s In Your Beer! This, despite the fact that beer is hardly a mystery, and its ingredients and processes are not only well know, but readily available to anyone who wants to learn about them. But learning about what’s really in beer has apparently no interest to Hari whatsoever. There’s no angle she can sell in that. But ignorance is indeed blissful, and over 40,000 possibly well-meaning but similarly misguided people signed her petition, despite not really understanding the current law regarding alcohol is different for most other food products.

And she even contradicts herself with the basic premise. In her ridiculous graphic, she says that we know what’s in Coca-Cola and Windex, but not beer (even though she claimed to unearth what’s in beer last year) even though anyone paying attention already knows what’s in beer, how it’s made and the process chemicals that are not in the finished product. It’s hardly the #MysteryBeer she claims it to be. That’s a joke, a lie and a very effective way to drum up visitors. There’s no mystery to end, and she knows it. But it’s a fabulous way to get more attention for herself. And boy is it working.

But worst of all, earlier today ABI quickly caved. As a public company, I presume they concluded that the publicity was bad for their image, despite the absurdity of it. Of course, if she’d done even a modicum of actual research, she would have known that since at least 2012, ABI created a website (probably in response to the watering down claims) called tapintoyourbeer.com , which lists for every product they make, the ABV, fat, energy, carbohydrates and proteins. Now they’ve begun listing the primary ingredients for some of their products. For example, for Budweiser they list: “Water, Barley Malt, Rice, Yeast, Hops (ingredient listing is consistent with the FD&C Act).” In their official statement, they say they’ll be expanding that information with additional beer ingredients.

We provide significant information about our beer and their nutritional content through both our consumer hotline (1-800-DIAL-BUD) and our global consumer-information website www.tapintoyourbeer.com, which we have expanded over the years. This exceeds what is required of alcohol producers and is beyond what many other beer, wine and hard liquor producers provide. However, as American consumer needs evolve, we want to meet their expectations. Therefore, we are working to list our beer ingredients on our website, just as you would see for other food and non-alcohol beverage producers. We are beginning immediately, having incorporated this information earlier today on www.tapintoyourbeer.com for our flagship brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, and will be listing this for our other brands in the coming days.

To which, the Food Babe is claiming victory for her and her “Food Babe Army,” which is apparently what she calls her followers or fans, and states that they have “change[d] the policies of a multi-billion dollar company overnight.” But she’s not done, not until every brewery falls in line with her demands. She’s now posted a new graphic crowing about ABI caving in to her demands and asks what MillerCoors is hiding now that they’re “drinking in the dark,” whatever that means.

FB_AnheiserBuschHappyBeer
It’s curious how she had this photo of herself in front of a wall of beer cans all ready to go.

But according to Brewbound, MillerCoors also listed their primary ingredients on their Facebook page earlier today.

At MillerCoors, we put quality and safety above all else. Our beers are regulated by the TTB and every one of our products meets all federal and state regulatory requirements.

We’re proud of the care that goes into the production of all of our beers and have been brewing great-tasting beers with the highest quality ingredients for more than 440 combined years.

From the purity of the water we use to the highest-quality hops and malted barley, our brewmasters go to great lengths to ensure the quality and consistency of our beers.

We also value transparency and are happy to comply with the request for additional information. Earlier this year, we led all alcohol companies by voluntarily placing a nutritional label on our Miller64 brand and we will be putting more ingredient information online in the days ahead.

We will be including the ingredient list starting with our most popular brands, representing the overwhelming majority of our brand volume:

Coors Light, Miller Lite, Blue Moon Belgian White, Coors Banquet, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, Keystone Light and Miller Fortune.
Coors Light: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Lite: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller High Life: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Keystone Light: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Blue Moon Belgian White: Water, barley malt, wheat, oats, yeast, hops, orange peel and coriander
Coors Banquet: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Genuine Draft: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Fortune: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops

Maybe she didn’t have time to update her graphics again. Certainly she knows Miller Coors posted these, because she’s posted on their Facebook page, with this:

I have an email from you that says you use “corn syrup” and it’s a main ingredient in your beer – also – you said via email that bluemoon and banquet both have corn syrup. Where’s the full list of ingredients?

They replied, trying to explain that “the corn we use is a liquid corn brewing adjunct, but it is not high fructose corn syrup.” The ignorance about brewing displayed in the comments, presumably by her Food Babe Army, is as alarming as it is remarkable.

The problem is with the first expose, where the Food Babe brought up many different chemicals and items which are used in the brewing process but are not ingredients. Some are used to cool the beer through the process, some for cleaning, and some for other purposes that don’t end up in the beer you drink, some of which never touch the beer at all. For just one example, she claimed glycol was in beer. But that’s merely a coolant used to chill beer in the brewing process. It never touches the beer … ever. If it did, it would ruin the beer. But it’s still there in her list, displaying either a comic ignorance or a malicious intent to mislead. But that’s the irony. She’s claiming to be holding brewers’ feet to the fire to be truthful and transparent, while she herself is being completely dishonest. If her intent was honest, by now she would have modified her earlier attack to reflect the reality she would have, or should have, learned in the year since she first made her absurd claims about what’s in beer. If she was being honest, she’d admit some, if not all, of what she’d claimed was in beer, really wasn’t, for the simple fact that it’s not. That she appears to have learned nothing in the year since she first made her sensationalist claims, and stands by every one of her absurd statements, tells us everything we need to know about her veracity and her real intentions.

Most brewers I know don’t have a problem rattling off their beers’ ingredients nor would they probably mind listing them on the bottle or can, if they were required to do so. It’s not a conspiracy that they don’t have to currently. They do have to list them when they submit each beer for approval to the TTB, who regulate beer and other alcohol at the federal level. There’s already been discussions about listing nutritional information and/or alcohol and servings information. So nobody’s getting away with anything, or trying to poison you with chemicals, as the Food Babe suggests. That’s just bullshit. Whether or not you like the beers made by the big brewers, they’re very well made and modern breweries are industrial and technological marvels. For the most part, they’ve perfected the science of brewing. It’s too bad the fizzy yellow color of their beer is now the same color of the journalism attacking the beer industry.


UPDATE (6.13): To further prove my point, throughout the day, several people have commented that the Food Babe does not allow any dissenting opinions on her Facebook page, removing and banning anything challenging her point of view. And I’m not talking about anything insulting or harassing, I’m talking about science that refutes her. For example, the gentleman who writes the Facebook page Science Corner told me he was “blocked when I pointed out her inconsistencies and lack of fact checking. As a scientist I referenced my comments with actual facts taken from peer reviewed scientific journals.” Nothing says “honesty” like not allowing any debate. To makes matters worse, apparently her minions are now attacking me personally. Not my arguments, mind you, just my character. For example, one Food Babe Army soldier asked me if I was “bought & sold by Monsanto” or speculated that perhaps “Most of [my] investments [are] in big AG.” Hilarious, they really know me so well. I’m not exactly sure why dissent is so assiduously forbidden, if — as her followers insist — she’s just trying to get at the truth. As one commenter claims, “she’s trying to help WE THE PEOPLE make better decisions so we don’t become sick.” Apparently her plan to help these people with their decision-making will be accomplished by not allowing honest debate. Yet I’m the one who is “the YELLOW JOURNALIST,” as one of her wingnuts spat at me. It’s simply amazing.

Big Chin Superhero

UPDATE 2 (6.17): Several other rants about how dishonest Hari is being with her anti-beer campaign are worth taking a look at. First, Maureen Ogle wrote some new observations in Beware the Dangers of [Profit-Driven] Dumbassery. A couple more include Trevor Butterworth writing in Forbes, Quackmail: Why You Shouldn’t Fall For The Internet’s Newest Fool, The Food Babe, and Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe): The Jenny McCarthy of Food by David Gorski, writing in Science-Based Medicine. We’re all continuing to get trolled by the Food Babe Army, which is almost funny. One interesting troll tried to find fault with my take on glycol as a coolant, but mistook propylene glycol for another similar-sounding food safe compound used in salad dressing, among other things. For him it was a “gotcha” moment and (despite being wrong) he then declared (again) that I was “the yellow journalist.” This brings up two points in my mind. First, what the hell is wrong with these people? Why are they even using the term “the yellow journalist,” as if that’s a thing? They clearly don’t understand what yellow journalism is. I helpfully included a link to an overview of yellow journalism so that anyone unfamiliar with the more than 100-year-old term (almost everybody, one presumes) could see what I was talking about. The second point, and the more troubling of the two, is the idea that if Vani’s Army found one mistake in what I’ve written then that invalidates my entire argument and means that I’m the one engaging in yellow journalism. It’s a curious argument. They’re holding Vani’s critics to a standard of perfection that they’re not willing to impose on her. As far as I can tell, this has become about emotions and belief, and the facts no longer seem to matter, if indeed they ever did. That’s a scary prospect, but how else to explain why so many people seem to believe what she’s saying so uncritically and continue to do so when faced with numerous refutations disproving what she’s saying, and which are actually backed up with real science or expertise or experience. And speaking of being uncritical, it’s quite remarkable how many mainstream media outlets have given Hari a forum, and are passing on her misinformation without ever doing any fact-checking or maybe getting a second or contrary opinion. So much for being fair and balanced. But again it comes down to sensationalism, and the fact that controversy is what people what to see, the truth be damned.

UPDATE (7.14): Maureen Ogle today mentioned a new piece about the Food Babe in the Charlotte Observer, ostensibly the Food Babe’s home paper, Charlotte’s Food Babe has lots of fans – and some critics. Unsurprisingly, it’s mostly a fluff piece although at least it does address some of the criticisms leveled at Vani Hari. But it lets her get away with more than a few howlers, such as “Hari says she is simply trying to help people understand what’s in their food and hold companies accountable. She says she has researched her critics and that they attack anyone who opposes alternative nutrition.” Really, she’s “researched her critics?” I’d feel a lot better if she’d research their arguments and the science behind her original absurd claims.

Interestingly, the article mentions that she, and her husband, left lucrative “six-figure incomes” to run the website full-time, one that’s “packed with advertising and product endorsements. You can even buy an eating-plan subscription for $17.99 a month.” As someone who makes zero from writing this blog (and that’s on purpose I should add), I’d say you have to sell an awful lot of snake oil to make that work. Of course, the “babe” in food babe all but guarantees that she’ll get television time since we love people who are telegenic over substance so you’ll not be surprised in the least that she also has a “William Morris Endeavor agent to handle her TV appearances.” Frighteningly, a publisher is even putting out a book, “The Food Babe Way,” so that doesn’t sound like a cult or anything scary.

As to where she makes her money, something her “Army” loves to level at her critics (for example, commenters asked if I was being paid by Monsanto, oddly enough), it’s been revealed that she was a paid consultant to Chick-fil-A, but also claimed victory over the fast food chain when they announced they’d “use chicken that was free of antibiotics within five years,” posting “We Did It Again!” According to the Charlotte Observer, “Hari has confirmed that she was paid by Chick-fil-A for her work as a consultant on their ingredients, a fact she appears to have not mentioned on her website.” Yet none of her followers apparently have a problem with or see any contradiction in that.

Then there’s this headline: “Debate is her sport.” That’s almost funny, if it wasn’t so crucial to what’s wrong with someone like like Hari. She may claim to love debate, but she assiduously avoids it by banning anyone who questions her “findings,” even politely. The comments section of any piece written about her is rife with people telling tales of being banned, even this post.

Under “Science or silliness?,” the Observer brings up the nonsense about glycol, thusly:

Her claim about “an ingredient found in antifreeze” being added to beer also draws criticism. Actually, the ingredient used is propylene glycol alginate, a kelp derivative used to stabilize head foam, not propylene glycol, a coolant. She later clarified this on her website.

While she sort of updated information about her original claim, under Big Update: The Truth That Beer Companies Have Not Made Public Yet, under the subheading “‘Propylene Glycol Alginate’ is added to beer as a foam stabilizer,” she continues to mistake Propylene Glycol Alginate, or PGA, for “Propylene Glycol” that’s used in antifreeze, even though they’re two completely different animals. And in the original post, The Shocking Ingredients of Beer, still lists “Propylene Glycol (an ingredient found in anti-freeze)” exactly the same way as when it was first posted last fall. So the that misinformation is still being disseminated, despite her claim to have “clarified” it. Considering she keeps talking about “transparency,” why not update the original post? Well, the real reason is she’s still not even close to understanding what she’s talking about, and as far as I can tell she no intention of even trying to.