A little long-form reading for your weekend

I’m going to be doing a little traveling this weekend, for some R&R in the Twin Cities and also to do a public lecture on Sunday, so you need some good stuff to read. I recommend:

  • The Wetsuitman. A couple of bodies in wetsuits wash ashore in the Netherlands and Norway. Who are they? And the pursuit of that information leads to a tragic story about desperate immigrants, so desperate that they tried to swim across the English channel.

  • The Sugar Conspiracy. How an agricultural system that is really good at making immense amounts of sugar persuaded the world to ignore what it does to our bodies. Also includes bonus examples of scientists behaving badly.

  • We don’t know why it came to this. Did you know there is an epidemic of white women between 25 and 55 dying prematurely? The cause: economic disparity, poverty, and despair.

    White women between 25 and 55 have been dying at accelerating rates over the past decade, a spike in mortality not seen since the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. According to recent studies of death certificates, the trend is worse for women in the center of the United States, worse still in rural areas, and worst of all for those in the lower middle class. Drug and alcohol overdose rates for working-age white women have quadrupled. Suicides are up by as much as 50 percent.

  • “Free, white, and 21”. There’s a phrase that has happily faded away into obscurity…until you start watching old movies and discover all these people in Hollywood proudly announcing their skin color as a triumph.

There. You should probably be able to find something to talk about in all that.


  1. raven says

    Did you know there is an epidemic of white women between 25 and 55 dying prematurely? The cause: economic disparity, poverty, and despair.

    1. Not the only demographic group. It’s also true for middle aged white men in the heartland with low education and low socioeconomic status. And older rural white women as well.
    2. All three of these demographics are fundie xian demographics.
    3. They also tend to vote GOP and are the base of…Donald Trump.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    MIT recently published a comparison of two maps, one of mortality rate compared to a map of income disparities, and the mortality vs income is an alarming correlation (of low income correlates with high mortality rate).
    unsurprising anecdotally, but alarming epidemiologically. also that it isn’t a simple linear relationship, but a higher order equation relationship. The second order analysis is that regions with greater disparity has higher mortality rate for the low income group than an equivalent income group in areas with smaller disparities.
    In other words, An income at median cost-of-living in a region where extremely few residents are >3sigma+median, has a lower risk of mortality than if a large percentage of residents of the region was in the (median+3sigma) income range. [pardon the use of jargon (eg: sigma), to avoid throwing hypothetical numbers around]

    in conclusion: income (net worth) is a much more significant factor in overall health than just allowing one to afford better food or more supplements.

  3. drizzt says

    Is the 3rd one real ? I’ve looked around and didn’t see any parody markers or anything. If it’s real omfg…

  4. Ed Seedhouse says

    I grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s and I remember it being in common use. Being a kid I thought nothing of it until I got a little older and realized the racism in that phrase.

    It’s not a parody.

    But you know, we are human beings and we can learn better. History like this may help us in that.

  5. says

    We don’t know why it came to this

    Ohhhhh ow. I know a couple women and that’s their future. Or at least, that’s what it looks like from here.

    “Invisible hand of the market” motherfuckers. It’s the silent despair that doesn’t breed revolutions. Gotta anger up.

  6. Andrew Dalke says

    I had no clue that was a popular phrase. A quick Google Books search shows it was indeed popular. https://books.google.com/books?id=bbcBCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA911&dq=free+white+and+twenty-one&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false cites it in a Raymond Chandler book, among others. A 1914 editorial in the NAACP’s “The Crisis” suggests, for those who are now “free, white, and twenty-one”, that their first duty should be to join the NAACP ( https://books.google.com/books?id=4lkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA134&dq=free+white+and+twenty-one&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false ).

    It seems the phrase even made it to Australia as well, though there the “21” meant the legal drinking age and not the franchise. ( https://books.google.com/books?id=JqYwVOuunGsC&pg=PA198&dq=free+white+and+twenty-one&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false ).

  7. says

    There is a picture at the bottom of the wetsuit story – of refugees in Syria waiting for food in the destroyed remains of their city. All I could thonk was “this is the reality of the US’ maneuvering for ‘regime change’ in Syria.” They did not ask for this ‘liberation’ – It’s America’s ideology in action.

    No doubt they hate us for our liberties.

  8. Menyambal says

    Yeah, “Free, white and twenty-one” was a phrase. I haven’t heard it since the ’70s. Nobody seemed to mean it as racist, but I think they realized it was. I wonder about the word “free” in it.

    Sugar and a conspiracy. It seems plausible. I know sugar messes me up – I got a bag of candy for Christmas, and I have a piece only rarely, so I can feel the twitch. White flour may well do the same – I think it metabolizes to sugar. A friend does the paleo diet, and the food was good.

  9. redwood says

    The article about sugar was fascinating–it’s long seemed logical to me that sugar is more a cause of obesity than fat, simply because when obesity increased, people weren’t eating more fat, they were drinking more sugary drinks and eating more foods with sugar (including high-fructose corn syrup). The article also talks about the power of personality, how the scientist who shouts the loudest isn’t always right, but tends to get the most attention and followers. Now, why does that seem familiar these days . . . something about the upcoming election . . .

  10. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Did you know there is an epidemic of white women between 25 and 55 dying prematurely? The cause: economic disparity, poverty, and despair.

    I’d be amazed if the intensifying cult of body-hate wasn’t a major factor.

  11. kaleberg says

    “Free, white and 21” wasn’t the worst. They used to say, “That’s very white of you.” without any irony. Ouch!

    The epidemic of working class men and women dying is not all that different from what happened in Russia when communism collapsed.

  12. Numenaster says

    I have heard “Free, white and 21” used non-ironically in about 2007, but it was at Sturgis as the Bike Week exodus was getting underway and that’s a pretty specific demographic. I’ve also heard “Mighty white of you” used only semi-ironically by a guy in his 60’s who was raised in the rural city of Spokane, Washington. They were both a surprise to me.