Wash. Monthly ag story illustrates the corruption of our politics

In Washington Monthly, reporter Lina Khan lays bare the scandalous treatment of the nation's farmers at the hands of Big Ag. The story shows that we've been here before, with a handful of meat companies controlling their suppliers' markets, which gives hope that we can escape this stranglehold again, as we did in the '20a.

How governments are trying to fight obesity

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I subscribe to the news service operated by the International Association for the Study of Obesity, and I think you should, too. But the purpose of this post is not to pimp but to promote a couple of related stories on this week's report.

The first is by amednews.com that highlights what four states are doing to address obesity among their residents. The four include Colorado (the least obese state) and Mississippi (the most); a prevailing strategy is to target youngsters.

It's enough to offend and anger; why doesn't it?

A persistent theme in my topics lately has been the hypocrisy and rank dishonesty of corporations and their spokesman, such as when they insist on the standard of personal responsibility, but refuse to take the same responsibility for their own actions.

On my way to another installment of that, I really want to ask: Why aren’t more people — most people! — offended when they are lied to and manipulated? Most people are, when they realize it, but somehow, when corporations do it ... all the time, it’s just business as normal.

Tax dollars underwrite junk-food marketing to kids

Ask anyone, and “protecting our kids” is one of our highest values — we have child endangerment laws, and even well into their teens, we ignore their “consent” for some behaviors because we don’t think they’re old enough to know better.

But we only worry about intrusions on their bodies, not their minds.

Why ask for what we don't want?

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I was talking politically with someone recently who advised me to back off on my desires and especially my expectations of what policies people will go for, and that raises a pretty fundamental question of advocacy.

Is it better to ask for what you want, or for what you think you can get?

I’m sure community and issue organizers have explored the question exhaustively. that they have concluded that no answer is always correct, and that they know when to zig and when to zag.

But I ain’t them.

Again: Is there a problem or not?

As an editor of 30 years and a paid wordsmith for even longer, I am sensitized to the use of language, and I continue to be tickled by the way Big Food twists the words of others to make their arguments seem absurd.

A case in point is how the soda industry is reacting to New York City's ban on super-large sodas. They proclaim the unfairness of putting all of obesity's blame on soda alone, for example, when no is doing that.

Tax would help, but could it ever pass?

I’m reminded of the “lock box,” which was a largely unsuccessful political gambit promoted by Al Gore during his 2000 presidential run as a way to make Social Security tax increases more palatable. The idea was that we would ensure that taxes collected for this purpose would not be redirected, making it just one more tax increase.

Oh no! The food industry could go under!

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A proposed standard for nutrition claims in New Zealand and Australia is being opposed by an industry group.

Yes, I know, that's hardly news. After seeing the US food industry insist on no more than voluntary guidelines and then using tens of millions and all its other muscle to defeat those, it's clear that the industry will truck no curb, no matter how innocuous.

Who needs our protection?

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A question that keeps recurring: Why are the free-speech rights of corporations more important than our shared imperative to protect children?

No rights are absolute, as exemplified by falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, as expressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes in a 1919 Supreme Court case. In the larger sense, there are very few absolutes in a world colored in shades of gray, anyway.


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