This cartoon has generated predictable comments about being about a "silly" subject. I get it; a lot of people, including many progressives, are opposed to NYC's proposed measures to cap soda sizes at 16 oz. Never mind that the chief scientist for the American Diabetes Association predicts that up to one in three American adults will have diabetes by the year 2050. And silly me, paying attention to conclusive studies proving that excessive sugar (with sodas being the primary culprit) is killing people.
"Educate consumers, don't engage in Prohibition!" some readers have commented. Well, education efforts in situations like this don't work, especially when competing with billions of dollars in marketing from multinationals. Also, the sugary drink restrictions aren't prohibition -- they're regulation. You're still free to swig as many 16-oz. Cokes as you like.
This isn't about "controlling" or "feeling superior to" other people. This is about challenging shifting cultural norms that are being driven by super-sized industry profits. But hey, keep drinking that corporate Kool-Aid! No one's stopping you.
Hmm... so according to this 2-1 appeals court ruling, speech added to cigarette packaging limits speech. I guess the "individual liberties" of li'l old corporate persons like RJ Reynolds outweigh a democratically-elected government's right to add a message on behalf of the public interest. Never mind that we're talking about the packaging of a deadly commercial product with a history of being marketed to kids. Actually showing a kid being harmed on the package would interfere with whatever those Marlboros are trying to express.
Via Raw Story:
In a dissent, Judge Judith Rogers said that the regulation ordering the label “does not restrict the information conveyed to consumers, but requires additional information to be conveyed with the aid of graphic images.”
Rogers, who was appointed by former president Bill Clinton, said that tobacco companies had engaged in “decades of deception” over health risks and had no legal basis to complain about “emotional reactions” to graphic warnings.
You may recall that Judge Janice Rogers Brown, the author of the majority opinion, was one of the radical George W. Bush appointees whom the Dems tried to filibuster, until the Gang of 14 came along and opened the floodgates of nutballery. She's an extreme libertarian who invokes Ayn Rand in speeches to the Federalist Society, and calls government a "leviathan" prone to "crushing everything in its path." You know the type. She and Paul Ryan would make great drinking buddies.
I've been surprised by the number of commenters on Daily Kos who say "Oh, the labeling won't work anyway." To which I responded:
I think some of the labels would work, such as the one shown in the cartoon, saying "Tobacco smoke can harm your children." Some people have no regard for their own bodies, but they care about their kids, and could use the reminder to smoke away from them.
If the warnings have no effect, then why are companies fighting them so vigorously? Why does Judge Brown say the labels are against the business interest of the companies if, as she also says, there's "not one shred of evidence" that they work?
Congratulations, America! Decades upon decades of struggle for a more civilized health insurance system now rest in the hands of your smug, Newsmax-reading uncle. Or his highly-trained, yet no less ignorant equivalents.
A report from 2010 suggests that 275,000 will die due to lack of health insurance over the following decade. Harvard puts the number at 45,000 per year. That's far, far greater than the number who perished on September 11. And the judges who will be deciding the fate of those hundreds of thousands of lives -- most of whom I suspect have never had to deal with the incredible cruelties faced by those whose jobs do not provide insurance -- cannot distinguish a health insurance system from a cruciferous vegetable. I didn't have room to go into the more complex economic issues about risk-sharing which make broccoli an especially poor analogy, but hey, you can only do so much in a cartoon.
I spent way too much time last weekend reading about pink slime. I really wanted to get to the bottom of the slimebucket, if you will. This particular controversy has been burbling (and oozing and gurgling) ever since celebrity chef Jamie Oliver did a segment trashing the stuff last year (it's a little melodramatic, but the basic sentiment is sound). McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Burger King proceeded to drop it from their beef. More recently, a couple microbiologists condemned the goop as nutritionally-deficient, woefully-unlabeled Not Meat.
Now, I've traveled enough and watched enough cable-network food shows to know that gross-seeming animal parts are edible, and possibly even a delicacy, depending on the palate of the beholder. So I wanted to mentally separate the unappetizing aspect of pink slime from the food safety/nutrition issues. Here's what I've discerned:
There's a case to be made that ammoniated meat is safer because pathogens are reduced. But at the high levels of ammonia that may be required to effectively kill bacteria, the meat starts to reek of ammonia. The Times has a lengthy report on the iffy history of this particular technology. This Prevention article also raises some good questions about what we don't know.
Personally, I don't want to be a human guinea pig for ammonia ingestion. It seems intuitive that schoolkids shouldn't be, either. The fact that they have to use ammonia in the first place is a symptom of the larger problem of industrial meat production. That these scraps are teeming with deadly bacteria in the first place is a result of the appalling conditions in feedlots (or CAFOs). The meat industry, in defense of pink slime, laughably touts the "sustainability" of using all parts of the cow, as though these people give one whit about environmentally-friendly farming practices. And then there's the fact that the stuff is just low-quality, non-nutritious crap, the logical endpoint of a system built on layers and layers of crap. Is this really the best we can do for our kids?
Few things are as grating as watching pundits like David Brooks get on a sanctimonious high horse about contraception and religious freedom, as though they were one with the salt-of-the-earth faithfolk. No matter that religious groups can be quite energetic about dictating public policy for those who believe differently than they do. If anything, forcing employees to conform to your religious beliefs seems to violate their freedom of conscience. It's not like the owners of Catholic hospitals and universities are being forced to pop the Pill themselves, or shtup with a government-mandated jimmy hat. Somewhere high above, the aliens are laughing at us.
And yes, my rendering of the Fallopitarian bishop is partly inspired by the Church Lady.
I actually wrote this before M.I.A. flipped the bird at the Super Bowl halftime show, causing everyone to bring up Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction again. Such are the happy accidents of cartooning.
The blowback against Komen has been so impressive, I keep thinking of the March For Women's Lives that I attended in DC in 2004. It was a massive and awe-inspiring demonstration (though it barely registered a blip in the media). Hard to believe that was nearly eight years ago now.
To give credit where credit is due, my colleague Ward Sutton (whose work appeared on Daily Kos Comics a few months ago) drew a cartoon after the Janet Jackson incident that involved a chestal inscription. That image, unfortunately not online, is permanently seared into my brain. So he's kinda the Original Breastwriter.
As you've probably heard, Congress recently blocked new USDA rules intended to improve nutrition in school lunches. Among them was a requirement that pizza slices have more than a 1/4 cup of tomato paste in order to qualify as containing a vegetable. Big food heavies such as Coca-Cola, Del Monte, the American Frozen Food Institute, and the National Potato Council weighed in to preserve the school-lunch status quo.
What you may not have heard about is how large companies and industry groups have also managed to infiltrate conferences for nutrition professionals. The biggest one -- the American Dietetic Association conference -- is now sponsored by the likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Mars. I highly recommend this entertaining and appalling report on Food Safety News, which comes complete with photos of a giant can of Goldfish crackers dangling from the trade show ceiling and a Coca-Cola booth bearing the slogan "Promoting the Registered Dietician." Panels included -- I kid you not -- one called "A Fresh Look at Processed Foods."
The "Protect Life Act" was back with a vengeance last week, not that you'd know it given the scant amount of attention it seemed to get. Maybe Republicans are trying to bore us with their never-ending displays of unborn baby-kissing so that we simply stop noticing when they pass bills deeming women's lives expendable.
Even though the bill would face an Obama veto, House Republicans apparently considered it a higher priority than a jobs bill. But here's the real kicker: just one week earlier, the House passed H.R. 2681, which exempts cement plants from the Clean Air Act and encourages the burning of industrial waste. Via Earthjustice:
"Does the House of Representatives think that not enough babies are being born with developmental damage due to mercury poisoning?" asked Earthjustice attorney James Pew. "The House essentially just opened up all the doors and windows in homes across the country and urged polluters to blow their toxic emissions right in.
So evidently we should sacrifice a mother to save a fetus, but pumping that fetus full of heavy metals is just dandy. Okay, then! I really wanted to work this point into the cartoon, but there's only so much inanity you can address in four panels.