Archive for the “Government Foolishness” Category

The topic of so-called “food deserts” came up in comments on a recent post.  A reader included a link to a Eureka Alert article that included these quotes:

An analysis of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults reveals that access to healthy foods in a supermarket does not hinder Americans’ consumption of empty calories. In fact, the study found, U.S. adults buy the bulk of their sugar-sweetened beverages and nutrient-poor discretionary foods at supermarkets and grocery stores.

The new findings challenge the “food desert” hypothesis, which posits that a lack of access to supermarkets and grocery stores in some communities worsens the obesity crisis by restricting people’s access to healthy foods.

As part of their never-ending quest to create a better society by spending other people’s money and/or restricting other people’s freedoms, The Anointed decided to take on the (ahem) “problem” of food deserts some years ago.  And boy, the Grand Plan they came up with to fix it is such a fine example of The Anointed in action, I decided to write a full post on the topic.

I haven’t discussed The Anointed for a while, so I’ll start with a brief review of how they operate.  This is my crib-sheet version of Thomas Sowell’s terrific book The Vision of The Anointed:

  • The Anointed identify a problem in society.
  • The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem.  Strangely, the Grand Plan nearly always requires spending other people’s money and/or restricting other people’s freedom to make their own decisions.
  • Because they are so supremely confident in their ideas, The Anointed don’t bother with proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work.  In fact, they cheerfully ignore any evidence that the Grand Plan won’t work.
  • If possible, The Anointed will use government coercion to impose the Grand Plan on other people (for their own good, of course).
  • Because the problem they’ve identified is The Bad, The Anointed assume whatever Grand Plan they design to fix it is The Good.  Therefore, anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is opposing Good itself … which can only mean those people are either evil or stupid.
  • If the Grand Plan fails (which it usually does), The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit the Grand Plan was wrong.  They will instead conclude that 1) the plan was good, but was undermined by people who are evil or stupid, or 2) the plan didn’t go far enough … which means we need to do the same thing again, ONLY BIGGER.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some examples of The Anointed identifying the “food desert” problem in America.

We’ll start with a USDA Today article titled Millions of Food Desert Dwellers Struggle to Get Fresh Groceries.  Heck, you don’t even need to read the article after seeing that title.  It tells you everything you need to know.  Millions of people are struggling to get fresh groceries.  Clearly they want those fresh fruits and vegetables, but find the task nearly impossible.  Here are some quotes:

There’s been little improvement in the country’s food accessibility in recent years, and that’s bad news for millions of Americans.

“Efforts to encourage Americans to improve their diets and to eat more nutritious foods presume that a wide variety of these foods are accessible to everyone. But, for some Americans and in some communities, access to healthy foods may be limited,” said a 2012 USDA report, which found that nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population lived in a low-income area more than a mile from a supermarket.

Other research suggests healthier food options are typically limited in low-income regions, as a team of Yale University professors concluded after a regional supermarket analysis that “lower-income neighborhoods (compared to those in higher-income neighborhoods) stock fewer healthier varieties of foods and have fresh produce of much lower quality.”

So there you have it.  We’re encouraging Americans to improve their diets, but nutritious food just isn’t available in many areas, especially poor areas.  Isn’t that odd?  Nobody talks about “athletic shoe deserts” or “flat-screen TV deserts” or “chicken-nugget deserts” in any of America’s big cities.  But for some reason, the same class of greedy capitalists who profit from those products apparently don’t want to swoop in and make a buck selling nutritious fruits and vegetables.

The USDA Today article was written by someone with the title of Economy Reporter.  That ought to scare you.  A little knowledge of basic economics should be a requirement for the job.

We can be a bit more forgiving of a group called DoSomething.org, since it describes itself as “young people + social change.”  When I hear that young people are motivated by “social change,” I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) they don’t know diddly about economics — which is why they’re often in love with Grand Plans that promise to DoSomething!  Anyway, here are portions of their deep analysis of the problem:

“Food deserts” are geographic areas where access to affordable, healthy food options (aka fresh fruits and veggies) is limited or nonexistent because grocery stores are too far away.

Residents living in food deserts also have a hard time finding foods that are culturally relevant and that meet their dietary restrictions.

People living in the poorest SES (social-economic status) areas have 2.5 times the exposure to fast-food restaurants as those living in the wealthiest areas.

With limited options, many people living in food deserts get meals from fast-food restaurants.

Food insecurity has a high correlation with increased diabetes rates.

Ain’t it awful?  Once again, for reasons nobody can explain, greedy capitalists apparently aren’t interested in turning a profit by selling nutritious (or even culturally relevant) foods to people who are struggling to find them.  So with those limited options, people living in food deserts turn to fast food (despite its lack of cultural relevance) and then develop diabetes.  Man, somebody needs to jump in and DoSomething!

It’s not just young people interested in social change who believe this nonsense.  Here’s part of a comment on a PBS article about food deserts (which we’ll revisit shortly):

I remember sitting in a seminar while attending Hopkins school of public health many years ago when this issue was gaining momentum and the speaker (a community advocate) believed there was some sort of conspiracy or concerted effort to keep healthy foods out of low-income, urban neighborhoods. He believed that corner store owners could make more money selling fruits and vegetables than junk food but just simply didn’t do it.

Yup, a community activist actually believes there’s a conspiracy NOT to sell fruits and vegetables in urban neighborhoods, even though the store owners would make more money.  Hey, maybe someday we’ll elect a former community activist as our president.  Then we’ll really see some brilliant economic programs.  Perhaps one that jacks insurance premiums through the roof while simultaneously chasing the major insurers and providers out of the market. In the meantime, I’d love to have a secret conversation with one of those store owners conspiring to keep fruits and vegetables out of urban neighborhoods.

“Listen, you know you’d actually make more money selling healthy food to these people, right?”

“Yeah, but I still don’t want to do it.”

“Why not?”

“I figure if my customers keep dying of diabetes, that’s good for business in the long run.”

With the problem identified, The Anointed of course proposed a Grand Plan.  Here’s what the PBS article had to say about it:

To change the situation in these areas — known as “food deserts” — Mrs. Obama called for action. “This is happening all across the country. We’re setting people up for failure if we don’t fix this.”

Notice the attitude:  it’s a problem and the government must fix it – by spending other people’s money, of course.  As usual, The Anointed didn’t bother looking for evidence that the plan would work.  They didn’t start by spending, say, $100,000 to open fruit and vegetable stands in a few “food deserts” to determine whether or not the desert-dwellers would actually buy them.  Nope, the plan must always be Grand.  The article on Eureka Alert explains just how Grand this one was:

The food desert hypothesis led the U.S. government to spend almost $500 million since 2011 to improve access to supermarkets and grocery stores in underserved communities. States and municipalities also have made efforts to increase the supply of healthy foods, offering financial incentives to build new grocery stores or to increase the amount of fresh food available in convenience stores and gas stations, for example.

And from the PBS article:

Pennsylvania has launched a program whereby 88 new or expanded food retail outlets have been created, giving healthy food access to around 500,000 children and adults. And in fact, when the House passed the long-awaited farm bill on Wednesday, it included a provision for the HealthyFood Financing Initiative, which would allocate $125 million for expanding food resources in underserved communities across the nation.

That’s more than a half-billion of your dollars.  So how’s it working?  I’m sure you can guess, but let’s look at some quotes from the PBS article:

Fast forward to 2014, though, and the problem of food deserts — and their effect on diet and health — still persists.

Really?  After a half-billion spent by the feds and millions more spent by states? How can that be?

The problem may not lie solely with food accessibility; it could also be due to people’s shopping and eating habits.

Gee, do ya think?

Steven Cummins, a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggests that merely adding a new grocery store to a neighborhood won’t be enough to motivate individuals to shop there for healthier foods.

In other words, the Grand Plan isn’t working for the same reason those wunnerful, wunnerful fruits and vegetables weren’t available in “food deserts” in the first place:  THE LOCALS AREN’T INTERESTED IN BUYING THEM.  HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THIS COMING A HALF-BILLION DOLLARS AGO, YOU @#$%ING MORONS?!

Here’s the really fun part:  The USDA is aware of research negating the hypothesis that people don’t buy fruits and vegetables because they “struggle” to find them.  Look at these quotes from a USDA document, which explains (among other things) that most people living in “food deserts” actually travel to a superstore to buy groceries:

If poor food access affects consumers’ food choices, then the dietary quality of consumers with limited food shopping options should improve when they shop farther from home, where their choices are less constrained. Nielsen data confirm that the dietary quality of their purchases did improve, but just slightly. By driving an extra mile to the store, low-access consumers purchased 0.42 percent more fruits, 0.55 percent more vegetables, 0.61 percent more low-fat milk products, and 0.33 percent less nondiet drinks.

They travel to big stores, but buy perhaps one-half of one percent more fruits and vegetables than people who don’t travel to big stores.  So much for the struggle.

But what about people living in a neighborhood where a new (government-subsidized) store was built to make sure resident have easy access to fruits and vegetables?  Here’s what the USDA document says:

In Pittsburgh, the share of residents in the new-store neighborhood who were regular users of the new store was much higher—68 percent—but their diet quality was not different from their neighbors who were not regular users of the new store.

These results suggest that improving access to healthful foods by itself will likely not have a major impact on consumer diets or generate major reductions in diet-related disease.

No change in diet.  Big fat fail.  Another Grand Plan bites the dust.

Well, not really.  Grand Plans never bite the dust.  When a Grand Plan fails, The Anointed always conclude that it was undermined by people who are stupid or evil, or it didn’t go far enough.  Here’s what one economics genius commenting on the PBS article has to say:

Healthy food must become affordable and that means unhealthy food must become more expensive. A RISK tax’s – akin to the excise tax on tobacco – time has come.

Incentives to purchase vegetables and low glycemic fruit must be made part of the SNAP program and sugar (including refined grains) must be restricted or denied.

In-store marketing could be cooking demonstrations by folks savvy in nutrition using healthy food – limited ingredients, mostly plants – show them and they will buy SANE – Sustainable, Affordable, Nutritious food for Everyone.

Right.  The answer, of course, is to spend even more of other people’s money and restrict more of other’s people’s freedoms.  Restrict and deny choices, raise taxes, and spend more money to demonstrate how to cook healthy food.  Because by gosh, THEN the urban “food desert” dwellers will finally decide they want more fruits and vegetables.

What is so hard to try these approaches?

I dunno, but I bet someone who’s either evil or stupid is undermining them.

Ah! sorry, I know. It is that corporations such as Coca-Cola have infiltrated the first lady’s program to promote “let’s move” and forget the nutrition part of the obesity epidemic.

Well, that explains it.  The feds spent a half-billion dollars to make fruits and vegetables more accessible, but people aren’t buying them because the evil corporation Coca-Cola infiltrated Ms. Obama’s awesome Grand Plan.

Professor Cummins, who conducted the study covered in the PBS article, has this to say:

I want to stress that supermarket interventions — even though I don’t think they’re necessarily effective in the way people think they’ll be effective — are very important, and I am actually quite supportive of them.

Excuse me?  Your own study says supermarket interventions don’t change eating habits, but you still think they’re important and support them?!

In addition to improving physical access to food in disadvantaged neighborhoods, you also need to think about policies that help bridge this gap between perception and action. These might include things such as economic initiatives — like taxes or subsidies for healthy foods — but could also include harnessing in-store marketing to promote the purchase of healthy foods as opposed to unhealthy foods.

I see.  We need even more government action.  The Grand Plan obviously didn’t go far enough.

Here’s a thought to consider, Professor:  when people in some neighborhoods don’t buy fruits and vegetables even when the feds spend millions of dollars to bring them in, it’s not because they’re disadvantaged.  It’s because they buy what they prefer to eat.

So how about you just leave them (and the rest of us) alone?

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The most recent Dietary Guidelines declared that cholesterol is “no longer a nutrient of concern.”  Yup, after nearly 40 years of warning people away from egg yolks, the government folks finally checked the actual science and then sort of admitted being wrong.  It was a step forward.  But, government being what it is, I suppose a corresponding step backwards was inevitable.  Here are some quotes from a recent article in The Chicago  Tribune:

The Obama administration is pressuring the food industry to make foods from breads to sliced turkey less salty, proposing long-awaited sodium guidelines in an effort to prevent thousands of deaths each year from heart disease and stroke.

So the Obama administration must have solid scientific evidence that reducing sodium in food products will prevent heart attacks and strokes … just like the First Lady must have solid evidence that telling kids “Let’s Move!” and cutting the fat and calories in their school lunches will reduce obesity.  But we’ll come back to the salt-cardiovascular disease evidence.

The guidelines released Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration are voluntary, so food companies won’t be required to comply, and it could be a year or more before they are final. But the idea is to persuade companies and restaurants — many of which have already lowered sodium levels in their products — to take a more consistent approach.

Ah, I see: the guidelines are voluntary.  Based on government history, here’s how that will work:

“Hey, food companies, we’d like you volunteer to reduce the sodium in food.”

“No thanks.  People don’t like the food as much when we lower the sodium.”

“You don’t seem to understand.  We’re asking you to do this voluntarily.”

“Got it.  Voluntary guidelines.  So we choose not to follow them.”

“Well, then, we’ll have to force you to follow them.”

“But you said the guidelines were voluntary.”

“Yes, but you didn’t volunteer, so now we’re imposing them.”

Sodium content already is included on existing food labels, but the government has not set specific sodium recommendations. The guidelines suggest limits for about 150 categories of foods, from cereals to pizzas and sandwiches. There are two-year and 10-year goals.

And a five-year plan issued by the Kremlin.

Health officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said overwhelming scientific evidence shows that blood pressure increases when sodium intake increases, increasing the chances of heart disease and stroke.

Overwhelming evidence, eh?  That would mean 1) the science shows that high sodium intake leads to heart attacks and strokes, and 2) the science also shows that most Americans have a high sodium intake that puts them at risk.  And let’s add a third point: before issuing a “voluntary” guideline for lowering the sodium in food, we’d want to be sure that people don’t respond to low-sodium foods by reaching for the salt shaker – which is what I do.

So how much sodium are we consuming, anyway?

Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily, or 3,400 milligrams. That amount hasn’t gone down over the years, and it’s about a third more than the government recommends for good health. Most of that sodium is hidden inside common processed foods and restaurant meals, making it harder for consumers to control how much they eat.

I just explained that I have no trouble controlling how much sodium I eat.  Give me low-sodium food, I reach for the salt shaker.  That’s because 1) I like salt on my food, and 2) I’ve actually looked at the science – something regulators at the FDA apparently haven’t. Here’s a quote from a 2011 article in Scientific American:

A meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.

And here are some quotes from a recent article about a new meta-analysis:

 A controversial new study contends that a low-salt diet could be dangerous for your heart health.

Notice how it’s only “controversial” if a study concludes that government advice is wrong?

Restricting dietary salt to below 3,000 milligrams a day appears to increase the risk for heart disease similar to that of high blood pressure patients who eat too much salt, said lead researcher Andrew Mente.

He said his study results showed that a low-salt diet increases the risk of heart attack or stroke 26 percent for people without high blood pressure and 34 percent for people with high blood pressure.

For those with high blood pressure, too much dietary salt increases their risk 23 percent, the study said.

On the other hand, a diet with excess salt doesn’t increase the risk at all if blood pressure is normal, the study reported.

“Most of the population eats what they’re supposed to eat, based on the data,” Mente said. “They fall in the middle and that’s actually the sweet spot — the safest range of intake.”

Mente’s study is observational, and you know what I think of observational studies are far as demonstrating cause and effect.  But keep in mind that if A causes B, A and B will be correlated.  So if A isn’t correlated with B, A doesn’t cause B.  Mente found that a normal sodium intake – the 3400 milligrams the government says is too much – isn’t associated with heart attacks of strokes.  But a lower sodium intake is.  So naturally, the FDA wants us to cut back.  And they’re (ahem) “asking” food companies to volunteer to help.

Back to the Tribune article:

Some companies have worried that though the limits will be voluntary, the FDA is at heart a regulatory agency, and the guidelines are more warning than suggestion.

Gee, do you think?

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Greetings Fatheads,

Well, it’s sure been an eventful year in Illinois politics, what with the veto-proof Democratic legislature and the Republican governor putting together a surprise last-minute deal for an honest-to-goodness balanced budget that will get the 100+ billion pension debt paid down over the next ten years, AND address the unfunded state retiree health benefit obligations ($56 B), while knocking down the $5+ billion backlog of bills to vendors dating back over a year now, and simultaneously restoring state services to the indigent, and even finally opening our state museum and public parks again.

PSYCH!

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Man, if you could see the look on your face! Sometimes, I just crack myself up.

Actually the unfunded pension liability rose over $6 billion last year to over $111 billion (in a record up market), retiree health beneficiaries are one year closer to insolvency, and state vendors (including social service NFP’s) are still registering red on the “How Screwed Are We?” meter, but at least according to the budget — …

Oh wait, there is no budget.

I don’t mean a budget for this year. I mean the fiscal year 2015 budget, that started July 1, 2015 and is ending in less than two months. They haven’t finished passing a budget for that. It’s not looking so good for 2016 either.

Not to worry — welfare checks and state worker checks (including the legislators who haven’t passed a law to pay anything) are still going out. Just not the ones for if you, say, sold the state some office supplies; or rent a building to them; or provide care to the mentally disabled. Little stuff like that.

You would be forgiven for thinking that our elected officials, who are demonstrably incapable of discharging even their most basic, simple tasks, are just absolutely useless. You couldn’t be more wrong — they’re much worse than useless.

They may not be able to do things like pass a budget and allocate funds for things like taking care of poor people, funding schools, building roads, and sundry other basics that even libertarians like me understand people now want government to do (not agree, of course, but understand); but that doesn’t mean they aren’t busy.

Sorry. I know I didn’t give you a “Politics!” trigger warning, but that’s not the real point of this post. Here’s the point:

As I confidently predicted here and reiterated here, the bureaucrats have completed their inevitable march to addressing one of the most dangerous health scourges facing our nation…

… yes, after three years, the $100,000 a year, state-employed lick-spittle turds who are being funded by the USDA to get raw milk out of the market apparently wore down the mom-and-pop operators who had to take time off (lose income) every time they (re-)proposed new regulations.

Remember kids — regulators never get you with brains, competence, or results. They always win by exhaustion.

As elaborated in my prior posts, they can’t just make raw milk illegal. When they want to take away something the Bigs (Ag, Pharma, Banking, or in this case Milk) don’t want to have to compete with, they just regulate you to death.

[Here’s the short version if you didn’t read those previous posts:

“after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

‘I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.’

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

‘I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.’

It’s what they do.]

The first posts were after a 2013 hearing. The followup was from 2014. Our betters had to lay in the weeds for over another year, but then they did exactly what I said they’d do. It’s like Gravity.

Right again. Dammit.

So starting in July, when I go to Linda’s farm — where I can always walk around and see the cows my milk comes from, and see the operation, and walk through the barn she milks in, there will be a few other things in place.

For my protection, of course.

Like, she’ll have to get a permit from the insolvent Illinois government. But first,she’ll have to complete an inspection by the incompetent Illinois government. She’ll have to take samples and pay for a lab to test the milk for a few weeks to get the permit, then do regular ongoing tests. Any day anyone buys milk, she’ll have to store a sample of the milk for two weeks. If the department doesn’t like the way her barn looks, they can shut her down until she makes it look nice to them and they re-inspect her. Getting an inspection rescheduled could be difficult as the state doesn’t have a budget, so they can’t hire more inspectors, and even if it did they don’t have any money to pay for more inspectors.

[They can also shut her down if one of her free-ranging egg chickens walks through the milk barn. Hey, it sounds harsh, but you have to be cautious about  the whole “avian flu” thing that used to wipe out whole geographic areas of birds and spread disease until we started safely housing hundreds of thousands of chickens in legal, government approved and inspected warehouses; cutting their beaks off; and force feeding them antibiotics. Hmmm, I may have that backwards.]

Every time I buy a gallon of her delicious “creamy milk” (as The Grandkids call it), she’ll have to write my name, address, and phone number in a log that she has to keep for six months and make available to the egregiously misnamed Department of Public Health. She’ll have to have a placard up (in letters at least 2 inches high) that states:

“”Warning: Milk that is not pasteurized is sold or distributed here. This dairy farm is not inspected routinely by the Illinois Department of Public Health”

Wooooooo. Scary. It’s supposed to be, anyway.

Also, she’ll have to provide me with “Department-approved consumer awareness information.” It will say things like:

“”WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain pathogens that cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly, women who are pregnant and persons with weakened immune systems.”

Plus, it’s now illegal for any raw milk producer to sell yogurt or cheese made with their raw milk, even if they pasteurize it as part of the process. Wouldn’t want any of these folks being able to earn a value-added premium for their products.

One of the last items in the new reg states that the Department can suspend or revoke the dairy farm permit whenever:

“the Department has reason to believe that a public hazard exists”

So since “the Department” is being funded by the USDA, and the USDA’s position is that there is absolutely no such thing as a safe glass of raw milk, somewhere down the line, you can bet “the Department” will determine that they have reason to believe that anyone producing and selling raw milk constitutes a public hazard.

I’ll say it again,

“It’s what they do.”

I feel so much safer.

Tom should be back next week, hopefully with highlights of the Low Carb Cruise. Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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As you probably know, the USDA released its newest dietary guidelines last week. Here’s what Medscape online had to say:

Watch your sugar, use caution with the salt shaker, and limit those saturated fats.

That’s the advice from the updated U.S. nutritional guidelines, released Thursday by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The guidelines are published every 5 years and aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat.

If the guidelines aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence, then the committee members have a lousy aim. Several recent studies have concluded that saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease, and yet the USDA still tells us to restrict saturated fat. The committee also tells us to restrict salt, even though a study commissioned by the Centers For Disease Control concluded that following those guidelines isn’t necessary and might even be harmful.

“Diet is one of the most powerful tools we have to take control of our own health,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters at a briefing Thursday. “There are many ways to stay healthy, but nutrition will always be at the foundation of good health.”

That’s true. Too bad we have the USDA telling people what to eat. I seem to recall that Americans were leaner and healthier before the USDA got involved.

While some groups like the American Medical Association praise and support the guidelines, critics say the recommendations don’t go far enough — and they’ve accused the government of playing politics with Americans’ health.

“It really is a betrayal of science to politics,” says David Katz, MD, founding director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, a federally funded program that studies how changes to lifestyle can prevent disease. “Public health, which means the lives of real people, is being thrown under the political bus.”

I agree with Dr. Katz that the USDA guidelines have little to do with real science – but then neither do the guidelines developed by Dr. Katz. As you may or may not recall, Katz is the goofball behind a nutrition-rating system called NuVal.  I wrote about it back in 2010.  You can read that post, but here’s all you really need to know: according to Katz, these are excellent choices:

Shredded Wheat
Chocolate Soy Milk (30 grams of sugar)

And these are lousy choices:

Chicken breast
Turkey breast
Ham
Coconuts

Frankly, I’m amazed media reporters are still running to Dr. Katz for (ahem) “expert” commentary. Once a guy’s proved himself a fraud, that ought to disqualify him – and yes, Katz proved himself a fraud awhile back. He wrote glowing reviews of his own book reVision, which he published under a pseudonym. Here’s a quote from the Yale Daily News:

In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded. “The most opportune comparison may be to a fine wine.” Katz had used similar language two days earlier in a five-star product review he posted on the book’s page on Amazon.

When a guy 1) writes a review of his own book without explaining that it’s his own book and 2) compares himself to Plato, Milton and Dickens, it’s pretty obvious we’re talking a giant egomaniac.

Katz said the reviews conveyed his honest opinion and that he concealed the true authorship of reVision because he preferred to keep his professional life separate from his fiction writing.

Ahh, I see. It’s your honest opinion that you’re in the same league as Plato, Milton and Dickens. Well, sheeoot, that makes it okay, then … although here’s a alternate suggestion for keeping your professional life separate from your fiction writing: go ahead and write your novels under pseudonym – but then don’t write glowing reviews under your real name. That way, you won’t look like a giant egomaniac (and a bit of a moron).  Either way, I kind of doubt literature majors of the future will be mentioning Plato, Milton, Dickens and Katz in the same sentence.

Anyway, Katz is apparently upset that the guidelines didn’t place specific limits on eating meat.  (Remember, we’re talking about a guy who thinks chocolate soy milk is health food, but turkey and chicken will kill you.)

The guidance does recommend we eat lean meats and poultry, and it notes that eating less meat, including processed meat and processed poultry, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. But it doesn’t offer specific instructions or limits around red and processed meats. Choices can include processed meats and processed poultry, as long as eating patterns stay within the limits for sodium, saturated fats, added sugar, and calories recommended by the new guidelines.

“The science on the link between cancer and diet is extensive,” says Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “By omitting specific diet recommendations, such as eating less red and processed meat, these guidelines miss a critical and significant opportunity to reduce suffering and death from cancer.”

The “science” on the link between cancer and diet may be extensive, but it’s also mostly garbage.  People who want to blame meat (a food humans have been eating forever) for causing cancer (a “disease of civilization” that was exceedingly rare among hunter-gatherers) simply cherry-pick the observational studies where a link exists, no matter how weak it is.  There are plenty of observational studies that don’t show a link.  There are even studies where rates of colon cancer go up as people eat meat, then go down again as they eat even more meat.  I wrote about those here.

Well, never mind those studies.  Katz is still convinced them (ahem) “science” linking meat to cancer was ignored:

“This is a sad day for nutrition policy in America,” he [Katz] writes. “It is a sad day for public health. It is a day of shame.” In a social media post, he calls the guidelines “a national embarrassment.”

As embarrassing as being caught reviewing your own novel and comparing yourself to Plato, Milton and Dickens?

There was one significant change in the USDA guidelines:

For the first time, the 2015 guidelines tackle added sugars, recommending they make up less than 10% of Americans’ diets. Those do not include naturally-occurring sugars, like those in milk or fruit.

Stop for a moment and let that one sink in. The USDA has been producing these guidelines every five years since 1980. And yet this is the first time they’ve ever recommended restricting added sugars. All those years, yammering on and on about cutting back on red meat, fat and cholesterol, but sugar got a pass.  Meanwhile, rates of type diabetes skyrocketed in America … even among kids.

This is also the first time the committee FINALLY admitted they got it wrong about dietary cholesterol, which they now say isn’t a “nutrient of concern.” So at this rate, I suppose they’ll admit they got it wrong about artercloggingsaturatedfat! in the 2050 guidelines. But for now, they still recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 10% of calories … which happens to be the same limit they put on added sugars. So in the minds of committee, added sugars and naturally occurring saturated fats are equally dangerous.  Yeah, that’s science-based stuff there.

I believe Nina Teicholz, author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, summed up the new guidelines pretty well:

With the exception of a cap on sugar, these DGAs are virtually identical to those of the past 35 years, during which time obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed. Given the same advice, it’s not clear why we should expect different outcomes, especially when consumption data shows that over the past decades, Americans have, in fact, followed USDA advice, cutting back on butter by 14%, whole milk by 73%, and red meat by 17%, while increasing consumption of grains by 41% and oils by more than 90%.

Due to high-level concern about the failure of our nutrition policy to improve health, Congress recently mandated the first-ever peer review of the Guidelines, by the National Academy of Medicine. This is a critical first step towards ensuring that our nation’s policy is indeed based on rigorous science.

I have one minor disagreement with Teicholz: I’m not convinced mandatory peer review will make much of a difference.  A better first step (and last step) would be to get the USDA out of the nutrition-advice business completely.  After all, we’re talking about a federal government that has demonstrated over and over that it possesses something akin to a reverse Midas touch:  nearly everything it touches turns into @#$%.

These guidelines are no exception.

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Decades ago, The Older Brother opined that when the loony lefties want to violate someone’s constitutional rights, they just claim it’s to save the children. Then if you oppose the loony lefties, they claim you don’t care about children.

Apparently that strategy was limited in its usefulness, because eventually the loony lefties replaced “it’s to save the children!” with “it’s to save the planet!” That’s why Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, eventually quit the organization. He saw environmentalism being hijacked (as he put it) by the political and social causes of the left.  Science took a back seat to politics.  As Dr. Moore put it in an essay he wrote back in March:

There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.

You’ve got to hand it to the loons; they know a useful weapon when they see it. I mean, heck, it’s one thing not to care about children, but who wants to be accused of not caring about THE ENTIRE PLANET?!

Want to achieve your lifelong goal of transferring wealth from rich countries to poor countries? No problem. Just claim the rich countries are damaging the poor countries by warming the planet, then demand compensation. The U.N. will happily back you on the idea. Want to use the power of government to discourage people from eating meat? Again, no problem. Just claim that the meat-eaters are causing global warmi—er, climate change.

If you’ve read any of my posts about The Anointed, you’ve likely already spotted the pattern. But as a refresher, here’s how The Anointed go about their business (as described by Thomas Sowell in his terrific book The Vision of the Anointed):

  • The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD.
  • The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. This is now automatically THE GOOD. (By sheer coincidence, the Grand Plan almost always involves restricting other people’s freedoms and/or confiscating more of their money.)
  • Because they are so supremely confident in their own theories, The Anointed don’t believe they should be required to provide evidence that the Grand Plan will work.  In fact, The Anointed are always so sure the Grand Plan will work, they will happily impose it on other people — for their own good, of course.
  • Because the Grand Plan is THE GOOD, The Anointed are sure anyone who opposes it is either evil or stupid.
  • When the Grand Plan fails, it can’t possibly mean The Anointed were wrong, because The Anointed are never wrong. Failure can only mean the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough — so we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.

So with that in mind, let’s take a peek at an article on the BBC News site titled Can eating less meat help reduce climate change?

As the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) draws near, the international spotlight is more focused on climate change than at any time since the Copenhagen talks of 2009.

But amid all the talk of decarbonising energy and transport systems, one crucial area remains in the shadows. The livestock sector produces about 15% of global greenhouse gases, roughly equivalent to all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet.

Wait a second … that would mean every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet combined produce just 15% of greenhouses gases, right? And yet you people expect me to believe if you force me to buy fluorescent bulbs for my house, we’ll stop global warmi— er, climate change?

Who is eating all this meat?

Bad people, no doubt.

The US has one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world at about 250g per person per day, almost four times the amount deemed healthy by experts.

That would explain why Native Americans who lived primarily on buffalo meat were always dropping dead of heart disease and cancer.

At the other end of the scale, Indians average less than 10g of meat per day.

They also have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. Somebody should inform those health experts of yours.

Left unchecked, shifting diets, coupled with a growing population, would see global consumption increase by more than 75% by 2050. What is being done about it? Very little.

Mean consumption is unchecked?!  You mean nobody is applying force to stop it?!  Oh, nooooooo! Please, tell me somebody in government is going to do something!!

Why not? Governments fear a backlash from voters over interference in such a personal choice as diet.

Naww, they shouldn’t fear a backlash if they try to take away our meat. Armed revolution, maybe, but not a simple backlash.  But what would be really cool is if governments left this whole thing “unchecked” not out of fear, but because they decided it’s none of their business how much meat we eat.

And because public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is so low, there is very little pressure on governments to do anything about it.

Boy, I just don’t know what’s wrong with the voters these days. You’d think they’d stop worrying about high unemployment, runaway government debts, runaway college costs, insurance premiums being doubled because of the “Affordable” Care Act, terrorism, etc., etc., and put that whole meat-causes-global-warmi-er-climate-change issue at the top of their “government needs to do something!!” list.

Are there any grounds for optimism? Yes.

You mean governments are going to finally admit they’re generally incompetent and stop mucking around in our lives?

Even though COP21 is highlighting the need for climate action and, though a deal seems likely, the pledges made in advance of the summit would put us on a path to warming of about 3C by the end of the century, leaving much work to be done if we are to get to 2C.

Riiiiiiiight. Because those models that predict worldwide temperatures decades into the future have turned out to be so darned accurate.

But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.

I’m sorry, but for a second there, I thought you put the words credible and affordable in the same sentence with governments – you know, like the government that gave us the Food Pyramid and the “Affordable” Care Act.  Surely I was mistaken.

But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Governments should seize this opportunity.

If seizing the opportunity means seizing more taxpayer money, you’ll have no problem selling them on the idea.

The first priority is to increase public awareness – both to allow people to make informed choices about what they eat and to build support for further action.

Ah, I see.  So you’re not advocating for the use of force.  You’re all about allowing us to make our own choices. Well, no problem, then.

But it is clear that information campaigns alone will not suffice.

Uh … meaning?

Governments should use the full range of policy levers available to them.

Doncha just love the Orwellian rhetoric of the loony left? We need information campaigns so people can make informed choices – and then we need to force them to make the decisions we know are best.

Changing the food served in public organisations – to offer a greater share of vegetarian and vegan options – would provide a boost to sustainable suppliers and issue a powerful signal to the millions of people who eat in public offices, schools, the armed forces, hospitals and prisons.

And when the “powerful signal” doesn’t do the trick …

Price reform will also be needed to reflect environmental costs and incentivise behaviour change at the scale needed.

In other words: @#$% FREE CHOICE! WE NEED TO TAX THE @#$% OUT OF MEAT SO PEOPLE WILL EAT LESS OF IT.

Will the public accept government intervention in our food choices? Focus groups carried out by Chatham House in four countries suggested that as long as the public could see a strong rationale for change, they would come to accept government intervention on diets.

Great. Fabulous. Awesome. Individual rights? Naww, who the heck needs those? Ya see, if we can convince most people that taxing the @#$% out of meat is a good idea, then it’s okay … even if it means people who don’t want to eat less meat have to cut back because they can’t afford it anymore. Remember, folks, when The Anointed impose their will on you, it’s for your own good – and the good of the planet, of course.

What’s more, the public appears to expect that governments will take action in the public good.

Excuse me while I go laugh my ass off at that one ….

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!

… Okay, I’m back.

With a strong enough signal from governments and the media about why we need to change our eating habits, the public is likely to come to accept initially unpopular policies.

Riiiiiiight. Once The Anointed in government and The Anointed in the media convince enough people that eating meat is bad, they’ll want you to use force to make them eat less of it. I mean, it’s not as if they’d just make that informed decision for themselves.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make an informed decision and choose to eat a burger for dinner.

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Since I’m in the middle of writing a book for kids, articles about kids and health that land in my inbox receive special attention. Two recent articles illustrate what’s wrong with the prevailing advice on how to reduce rates of childhood obesity.

That advice, of course, is to cajole, harass, or possibly shame kids into eating less and exercising more. (Strangely, there were few fat kids in my grade school despite a lack of cajoling and harassing.) The USDA-approved lunches are lower in fat and calories than in previous years, and we’ve got federal campaigns like Let’s Move! to promote exercise.

Again, nobody had to cajole kids into moving when I was growing up. Playing outside with friends is what we lived for. If anything, our moms had to yell out the back door and demand we stop playing and come inside for dinner. I’m pretty sure once kids reach the point where they don’t naturally want to move, cajoling won’t make much of a difference.

A recent study supports that point. Here are some quotes from a Science Daily article titled Guilting teens into exercise won’t increase activity:

Just like attempts at influencing hairstyles or clothing can backfire, adults who try to guilt middle-schoolers into exercising won’t get them to be any more active, according to a new study by University of Georgia researchers.

The study, which appears in the September issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found students who don’t feel in control of their exercise choices or who feel pressured by adults to be more active typically aren’t. Middle-schoolers who feel they can make their own decisions about exercising are more likely to see themselves as a person who exercises, which in turn makes them more likely to exercise.

Hmmm … it would be easy to read that and conclude that if you put pressure on kids, they don’t want to exercise, but if you don’t put pressure on them, they do want to exercise.  Defiant little tykes, eh?

I think the more likely explanation is that kids who don’t enjoy being active end up being pressured to exercise (because people think they’re lazy), while kids who naturally want to move aren’t pressured.  So the associations show up as pressured = less active, not pressured = active.

This age is a critical juncture in a child’s life, as kids typically decrease their activity levels by 50 percent between fifth and sixth grades, said Rod Dishman, the study’s lead author and a professor of kinesiology in the UGA College of Education.

“Our results confirm that the beliefs these kids hold are related to physical activity levels,” Dishman said. “But can we put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active?”

Dishman and colleagues at the University of South Carolina are now looking at ways to help kids identify with exercise at a younger age, so that by the time they reach middle school they are more likely to identify as someone who exercises.

I seriously doubt kids exercise because they identify themselves as someone who exercises. I think it’s likely the other way around: they identify themselves as someone who exercises because they enjoy being active.  I identify myself as a disc golfer because I enjoy the game, so I play it.  I didn’t take up disc golf because I identified myself as a disc golfer.

What parents and teachers don’t want to create, Dishman cautioned, is a sense of guilt for not exercising. The research overwhelmingly found that students who felt obligated to be more active were less likely to embrace activity overall.

“The best thing is to do it because it’s fun,” Dishman said. “It’s the kids who say they are intrinsically motivated who are more active than the kids who aren’t.”

BINGO. The kids who are intrinsically motivated are feeling what Gary Taubes calls the compulsion to move. Their bodies would rather burn calories than store them, so they feel full of energy. They want to be active.

The kids whose bodies are in calorie-storage mode, on the other hand, don’t feel like moving. They don’t have the energy. Exercise feels like a chore. The research is clear on the chicken-or-the-egg question: kids don’t get fat because they stop moving. They start getting fat first, then stop moving.

That means the problem is diet, which brings us to the other interesting article to land in my inbox. Here are some quotes from an article published by the University of Missouri School of Medicine:

Although health experts recommend breakfast as a strategy to reduce an individual’s chance of obesity, little research has examined if the actual type of breakfast consumed plays a significant role in one’s health and weight management.

Of course the type of breakfast plays a significant role. Does anyone think Pop-Tarts and eggs produce the same hormonal effects?

University of Missouri researchers compared the benefits of consuming a normal-protein breakfast to a high-protein breakfast and found the high-protein breakfast — which contained 35 grams of protein — prevented gains of body fat, reduced daily food intake and feelings of hunger, and stabilized glucose levels among overweight teens who would normally skip breakfast.

Heather Leidy, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said the key to eating 35 grams of protein is to consume a combination of high-quality proteins including milk, eggs, lean meats and Greek yogurt.

I don’t think the meat necessarily has to be lean, but a big YES on the protein. Protein intake has a strong effect on appetite.

Leidy and her colleagues fed two groups of overweight teens ,who reported skipping breakfast between five and seven times a week, either normal-protein breakfast meals or high-protein breakfast meals. A third group of teens continued to skip breakfast for 12 weeks.

“The group of teens who ate high-protein breakfasts reduced their daily food intake by 400 calories and lost body fat mass, while the groups who ate normal-protein breakfast or continued to skip breakfast gained additional body fat,” Leidy said. “These results show that when individuals eat a high-protein breakfast, they voluntarily consume less food the rest of the day. In addition, teens who ate high-protein breakfast had more stable glucose levels than the other groups.”

Give kids more protein, and they spontaneously eat less. No cajoling or harassing required. They eat less because they’re not as hungry, period. Same goes for adults, by the way. That shows up in the research over and over.

So let’s take a look at what the geniuses behind the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (championed by The First Lady, as the USDA site informs us right at the top) require for federally-approved school breakfasts.

A cup of fruit per day is required. Grains are required. A cup of milk is required, but of course that would be skim milk – although it can be “flavored,” according to a different document.  That means chocolate or strawberry milk with sugar.  There’s no meat or even a meat alternative required – although in the footnotes, you can find this gem:

Beginning July 1, 2013 (SY 2013-2014), schools may substitute 1 oz. eq. of meat/meat alternate for 1 oz. eq. of grains after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.

Well, that is just damned generous of the feds to allow schools to swap an ounce of meat for an ounce of grains … after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.  Kids just can’t be healthy without those grains, ya know.

So according to the USDA, this is the breakfast that will give us healthy, hunger-free kids: fruit, grains, and fat-free milk with sugar. No meat or eggs required.

And that’s why people think kids need to be pressured into eating less and moving more: they’re put on diets that make them want to eat more and move less. Then people blame the kids.

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