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It's not morality; it's a response to a public-health emergency

Barnaby Joyce Australian Nationals leader, defending the interests of the sugar industry, instead of public health.Australian political leader Barnaby Joyce (above) came across my screen today, and I couldn’t let him go.

An institute study argues that a national anti-obesity effort should be funded by a tax on sugary beverages, and Joyce decried it as “another moralistic tax.” [Link includes video of interview.]

Joyce calls the idea “bonkers mad” because it would create “massive problems” for the sugar industry. He says the Australian Tax Office isn’t going to make people lose weight, going for a run and cutting portion sizes will. You may be saying, “Yeah, so what? This is how conservatives react to this proposed public-health response to an evident public-health problem.” I would respond that you’re correct.

The reason for writing is to poke at this idea of a “moralistic tax.” There’s nothing moral about it. The ubiquity of refined sugar, most notoriously in sugary beverages, threatens public health. Substantial societal costs result from this threat, and it is the job of government to meet public-health threats.

To say that we should leave public-health threats to personal responsibility — now that's “bonkers mad.”


A guy at the women's march

An impressive number of people attended the Women's March in Boston.

I spent time with a friend Sunday morning, and searching for a metaphor, I mentioned that Joey, Georgie, and I had attended the Women’s March in Boston the day before. My friend, an older, right-leaning, white woman seemed puzzled. Experiencing the march with neighbors and family, and demonstrating civic engagement to our son, enriched our time at the march.

“It was for women, wasn’t it?”

Yes, and no. Yes, so-called women’s issues were clearly front of mind for a great many people there, so it would be both wrong and insulting to suggest otherwise. But I could easily have been there “only” to support issues such as freedom to choose, gender-pay equality, and others.

Several Boston statues were adorned with pussy-ear hats, as were tens of thousands of marchersThe reason I used “so-called” above is that these issues affect women more, but they are not women’s issues. As a number of signs at the rally said, women’s rights are human rights. I’m for human rights, so why would my attendance surprise anyone?


Anger, without a better plan

Nobody needs my view of the election, but I won’t be the first publisher to misuse his platform for personal expression.

I saw a neighbor walking to school today with her children, sobbing as if she’d lost a loved one. But she was sobbing for her view of her country. It gave me had a brief window of empathy for those who awoke to what seemed like a horrible result eight years ago.


"Fed Up": Klobuchar and Harkin, distant neighbors

Amy Klobuchar, major disappointment

An interesting contrast that arises from “Fed Up,” the new documentary pitched as the “Inconvenient Truth” for food that had its Boston premiere on Wednesday at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) and Tom Harkin (Iowa) are Senate Democrats from neighboring Farm Belt states. Harkin is accorded sainthood status after decades-long efforts against childhood obesity. Of industry mouthpieces who come before him in committee and swear that, for example, that sugary beverages have no ill effect on children who drink them: “Sometimes I just want to ask: Do you have any shame at all? … How could these people sleep at night, knowing they were lying through their teeth? … How do they live with themselves?”

He also observes, “The Federal Trade Commission has less authority to regulate ads for kids than adults. You’d think it would be the other way around.”

But Klobuchar, who is included in the film’s closing graphics as one of a long list of voices who refused to be interviewed for the film, comes in for — as it seemed to me — a level of opprobrium slightly higher than she deserved, expressly because she was such a disappointment. As in, we expect Big Food to be this way, but you were supposed to be with us, with your female, progressive-leaning self.


Food-manufacturer responsibility: "It is not zero."

I do not have permission to post the following, and if the author, Paul McDonald — a lawyer, no less — wants me to take it down, I will. But I'm entirely in agreement with his views, and want to extend their reach by whatever small measure I can provide. This article was published on politico.com (maybe they'll object, too?), and I saw it via Michele Simon, a public-interest advocate I admire.

Opinion: Big Food bears some responsibility


Another pitch for the Rootstrikers

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I've posted this before, and about this topic several times before, and may well again: I believe it's the No. 1 issue facing all Americans, and I believe it will only be solved when we demand that it be solved. Yes, that's somewhat unlikely in present-day America, but it's going to happen, because it has to.


Fix Congress first

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Here's the problem: As I'm sitting here at my "coffice," about to tap out this post, and I hear a guy at the bar, vapidly chatting with the coffee stirrer to his left: "Yeah, I try not to turn on the news too much." No context, of course, but his solution is just not to listen. It's the "solution" for tens of millions of Americans.

But it's not a solution, because it doesn't solve.


What can the RD designation be worth?

[I originally published this post a year (and three days) ago, but I'm bumping it to the top because it fits the thread of discussion kindled by Michele Simon's Eat Drink Politics report of last week.]

Based on my early experience with them, and on what I've heard from others of their experiences, I have long held opprobrium for registered dietitians. But it has recently bubbled over again.


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