Chris Christie and the Future of Fat Politicians

Here’s a quick hit, a really fair and fat-positive article on Reason.com: http://reason.com/archives/2009/11/02/a-big-fat-political-mistake

The comments are a mix of fatphobic and reasonable.

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Rush Limbaugh Spreads ‘Fat is Genetic’ Message

On Rush Limbaugh’s radio show today, he quoted at length from the Newsweek article that obesity is genetic, as heritable as height. Millions of people listen to this show every day.

I know many of my readers here don’t agree with Rush’s politics, but spreading the message that fat has been shown to be as heritable as height, and is not under a person’s control in the long run, is extremely important. Rush was responding to Michael Pollan, who argued in the New York Times on September 9 that Obama should go after Big Food first before going after Big Insurance, because — you guessed it — fat people are the reason why health costs are going up, and they’re going to keep going up unless you go after Big Food (i.e., eradicate fat people).

(as a note, many Sanity Points are required to read the article — it contains the usual myths about the costs of fat people. It also, aggravatingly, euphemizes the ‘obesity epidemic’ with phrases like ‘a result of the Western diet’ — because, yanno, there aren’t any people who eat a non-Western diet that are fat!, and ‘fast-food diet’ — because, yanno, all us fatties do is chow on McWhatevers. Additionally, it assumes all diabetics are diabetic because of what they eat and how they exercise)

Rush has been notably up and down on the issue of fat in a personal sense — a fat man himself, he has regularly undergone diets and then regained the weight (he’s on a diet right now in fact). However, he’s been fairly consistent with his message that it’s no one else’s business but your own what goes into your mouth, and certainly isn’t something that should be regulated by some Nanny-state. He’s also been the brunt of much fat-stigmatization (his opponents regularly take cheap shots at his weight before they go on to explain why they disagree with this-or-that message, or even use his weight as a symbol for what they perceive as his moral failings), and has said surprisingly refreshing things about fat:

The Left’s New Villain: Fat People where he takes some delightful shots at MeMeMeMe Roth:

Did you catch what this Roth b-i-itch said at the beginning of the bite?  You’re supposed to be working out every day?  You’re supposed to be working out. You’re supposed to eat fruits and vegetables, you’re supposed to be.  And MeMe Roth, who nobody has ever heard of, is now the sole authority on what you ought to be doing.  I tried to warn people.  This is the SUV all over again.

“People who regularly exercise….are the ones getting regularly injured. …. you’re the ones putting stress on the healthcare system.” link is to audio, not text

Of course, his track record isn’t perfect. But he’s regularly saying a lot more fat-positive things, especially in the context of body autonomy, than the vast majority of media with his kind of audience. And that’s important, regardless of how you view his politics.

Here’s to you, Rush, and I hope that your journey becomes personally fat accepting with time, though I thank you for a few sane points about “the obese” in a chaos of illogic, hate, and blame!

Obesity Tax proposed in New York

Governor Paterson proposes ‘Obesity Tax,’ a tax on non-diet sodas

Continuing in the theme of creating a deviant class out of fat people, Governor Paterson of New York will now punish a fat person’s perceived deviance by taxing that fat person’s apparently precious full-sugar sodas.

Gov. Paterson, as part of a $121 billion budget to be unveiled Tuesday, will propose an “obesity tax” of about 15% on nondiet drinks.

Guess the revenue from the cigarette taxes has begun to dry up, eh?

The so-called obesity tax would generate an estimated $404 million a year. Milk, juice, diet soda and bottled water would be exempt from the tax.

There are, of course, many problems with this proposition.

Phrasing it as an ‘Obesity tax’ is problematic on its face, because although it does take advantage of the popular act of getting a good jab at a deviant class, not all people who drink soda regularly are fat.

This is in contrast to the cigarette tax, which was meant to take a jab at the deviant class of smokers. Regular smokers are most certainly addicted to nicotine. Regular soda drinkers are fat, thin, and in-between. Not to mention that there hasn’t been any convincing, rigorous proof that sugar is addictive like nicotine. The only evidence that could possibly be put forward is that people who eat sugar are likely to do so again at some point, since it can stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain (as many enjoyable activities, including the ‘runner’s high,’ do).

This leads to another glaring problem with this proposed tax: while the cigarette tax banked on the addiction to nicotine to ensure a steady revenue stream, true sugar addicts are rare. This means this tax is going to generate little or no additional revenue, and might even cause a deficit, as the tax has to be enforced administratively.

“I’ll just buy less,” said Victor Lopez, 55, of Manhattan, as he drank a Coke at a midtown Subway store.

“I don’t like to buy Diet Coke,” said Amaury Garcia, 16, who works at a flower shop in Penn Station. “I’ll just not buy any sodas if it goes up.”

Good for you, Victor and Amaury. Let’s hope your state doesn’t go ahead with this fascist measure, so you can drink whatever the hell you want without the elitist judgmentalism of the State picking your pockets in an attempt to control your behavior.

Public health advocates welcomed news of the tax, saying it would help the fight against childhood obesity.

“Raising the price of this liquid candy will put children and teens on a path to a healthier diet,” said Elie Ward of the American Academy of Pediatrics of New York State.

Good thing I don’t believe in ‘public health.’ Get your goddamned nannying out of my refrigerator.

Albany Soda Party, anyone?

We are, indeed, in a new age of Intolerable Acts.

I call on all people who believe in liberty, freedom, and the right to do whatever the damned hell you want for or against your body without intrusion by the State. The ultimate weapon of the government against the right to govern your own body is the belief in so-called ‘public health.’

Once the idea of personal health is tied into the fate of one’s neighbors, you lose your body autonomy, your most fundamental individual right.

Speak out against the ‘Obesity Tax,’ and its inevitable sons and daughters. Nip that idea in the bud now, before you wake up one day and discover that you’ve sacrificed your body autonomy on the alter of ‘public health.’

To Write To The Governor:
David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

518-474-8390

To Email The Governor:
Click here to email the Governor.

PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS.
Responses may be sent via the U.S. Mail.

For Information on Legislation:
Please access the New York State Legislative
Session Information page at
http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us

Big dogs, and watchdogs, or: diversity makes us strong.

Hits count for a lot on the old internetz, but brother, they don’t count for everything. There’s something to be said for remaining critical and objective, but it’s not a trench in which to hide your biases while you fire at others. You’d think there’d be a low-tolerance for Baloney in the Fatosphere — I mean, we’re constantly getting the line, “Diets don’t work, but ~+~lifestyle changes~+~ do!” but apparently not.

Hit counts expose you in good and bad ways. And we all flub — maybe we don’t think about a particular political sect’s potential protests to that which we link, and perhaps we’re thinking one thing when we link and someone else is thinking an entirely different thing when they read that to which we linked.

No one is perfect. Especially not those who attempt to rip down a monolith with one out-of-context swipe. Constantly trying to find the keystone, those who desire to fell the monolith probe and pull, probe and pull. Finding a loose stone, they yank feverishly and, most of the time, are left with a heavy stone crushing them to the ground, the monolith still standing soundly.

It takes a lot of energy, that kind of hate, that kind of focus. Energy better directed where it can do the best good — like myth-busting the fat-haters — than trying (badly, and largely in vain) to paint another fellow blogger in the movement to be some evil word (fill in the blank. This word was: racist. We know that’s a loaded one around here. )

Here are some good posts which deal with the aftermath of this most recent in(fought?) hullaballo:

1. Shocking revelations about the Fatosphere (by Lindsay)

2. The Fatosphere is not a Hive Mind (by goodbyemyboy)

3. In a World Gone Mad (by Limor)

and a response — with a neat recent real-world example! — to the *real* issue at hand, which is the fight between those in the Fatosphere who support universal healthcare, and those who do not.

4. Taking a step back and thinking about the real story (by Sandy)

Healthcare decisions will no longer be those for individuals and their personal healthcare providers to make. Workers found to have high BMIs, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, or blood pressures will be required to enroll into wellness programs with their integrated disease management, along with weight loss targeting those with BMIs ≥35, and be given one year to improve, or be penalized $25/month. Those who are thin and have approved numbers will be exempt.

Diets aren’t ~+~lifestyle choices~+~, and government dictation is not the common good. Capisce?*

* An’ that ain’t racist, cuz I’m Italian. And you know what? It wouldn’t be if I weren’t.

Libertarians don’t care if you’re fat.

Libertarians don’t care if you’re fat. But they do care about your civil liberties.

So the topic of libertarianism and fat came up at BFB (a little off-topic though, sorry Paul!). Specifically, richie79, AnnieMcPhee, and DebraSY discussed how the libertarian philosophy intersects with fat liberation.

Now, we’ve talked about the common misconceptions non-libertarians have of libertarian beliefs (as did AnnieMcPhee), and we’ve also explained how libertarians can (and have) misinterpreted their own tenets to support fat discrimination (no political movement is devoid of its ignoramuses, I’m afraid).

To summarize for those who are new to this blog and the idea of libertarianism, libertarians believe, first and foremost, that granting individuals as much autonomy as possible will create the best possible society. While at some level most of us will admit there have been many examples of fascism and statism, the antitheses of libertarianism, going wrong and contributing to the great suffering of a society, we’re still brought up to believe that, at bottom, the greatest moral virtue is altruism for altruism’s sake. In other words, we’re brought up to believe that self-sacrifice — giving with the express desire not to get anything, not even happiness of moral satisfaction, in return — is the true moral spirit.

Tit-for-tat, or an eye for an eye, is considered to be a cold game of strategy between wheeler-dealers, a distasteful reality of the business world. However, it has been shown that giving with the express desire of receiving an equal return, or in other words cooperating with another in order to achieve some kind of personal reward not shared or owned by others, is the most stable societal strategy.

So just giving, and giving, and giving, will do nothing except keep you poor and keep your exploiters rich, until they are exploited by others, and society eventually collapses when there’s no one left to exploit. This is seen evidenced by the history of the income tax, which was originally initiated at a small percentage only for the very rich. Exploitation has a racheting effect — it begins at the expense of the few to the benefit of the many, and ends up preying on those who initially benefited, when everyone else has been sucked dry (or taxed at just a low enough percentage to still not unseat the status quo).

Libertarians believe firmly in the success of the tit-for-tat strategy: they believe that individuals should not be exploited, and if there are taxes, services for all should be rendered (yes, even the rich) – like defense, roads, a fair and balanced justice system, police, fire, jails, and the maintenance of basic government.

What does this have to do with fat people? Very much, in fact. One of the main tenets of libertarianism is “Hands off!” That is, if an individual is doing something that doesn’t infringe on the liberty of anybody else, that individual is free to keep doing it, regardless of whether it is “moral,” “successful,” or “healthy.”

And this brings us to the topic of universal healthcare.

Libertarians are not in favor of universal healthcare for the following (and possibly additional) reasons:
1. It costs more per person than private healthcare.
2. It delivers a lower quality of care than private healthcare.
3. It infringes upon the patient’s liberty and body autonomy in all cases.
4. It infringes upon the doctor’s liberty and financial autonomy in all cases.

(As a note: What the United States currently has is not private healthcare, it is mixed — heavy regulation, strictures, oversight, and bureaucracy.)

As such, it would follow that an individual being fat, thin, short, tall, male, female, and so forth, whether that be healthy, unhealthy, risky, or whatever — is completely a matter between the individual and his or her healthcare provider and doctor.

Body autonomy, some would suggest, is the most important part of the libertarian philosophy. As long as you are not infringing upon the liberty of others, you are free to make every and all choices for your body. I don’t care what you put in your mouth, how you feel about it, how tight or loose your pants fit, and so forth. It is not my business.

Ah, but there is a caveat, of course. Many modern societies have accepted the idea of body autonomy to some extent, but it seems as if the long arm of the government have found its gateway into your private lives in the form of concern for children.

Children are powerful political tools. Since that statement sounded rather strange, I’ll explain: many moral crusades and moral panics gain foothold with an appeal to others that, in their current state, children are somehow being neglected/abused by their parents and hence need the neighborhood/state/feds to step in. It turns the home from a sanctuary to a social welfare center, where interested parties can gain access at whim.

Libertarians love children; they are our future. But libertarians also know that government needs heavy checks and balances. The natural function of government (no pun) and its institutions is self-perpetuation. That is why it is so difficult to abolish an institution once it has been established by law and budgeted from the tax pool. It follows that governments, without proper checks and balances, often run amok, with the first thing lost by its citizens their individual autonomy and family rights.

There’s also the question of efficiency. Can governments parent your children, on average, better than you can? It would seem, on its face, inefficient: children go from having one or more adults concerned with their and possibly one or two other children’s welfare their whole life long, to one adult concerned with their paycheck first and then the welfare of twenty to thirty other children for at most one year at a time. And while there are exceptionally good and exceptionally bad parents, there are also exceptionally good and exceptionally bad teachers. In the end, mass parenting is less efficient and results in a lower quality of life for the average child.

That’s not to say that true neglect and abuse should be allowed. Children are citizens too, and have certain rights. However, the care of children is best left up to parents at large, with neglect and abuse dealt with by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

A widely successful tool of political manipulation is to claim that children are in harm’s way, and hence it is necessary for the state to step in. Those making this claim would go to any lengths to persuade you of its veracity, for if they are successful, they will wield immense power over the lives of not only the children, but their parents.

It is not a surprise that the concern over “obese” children has led to pressed charges, requirements, and regulation of the parents. What do you think would be in your, as a representative of institutionalized government, best interests once you have successfully invaded a fat person’s home? Why, set it up so that you can invade as many homes as you desire. Create an “obesity epidemic” by lowering the BMI cutoffs for obesity, support faulty studies creating the notion that “obesity kills” so the voters won’t be horrified when you rob them of their civil liberties, and create a funding pool in the form of interested parties who will profit from the fear you’re creating so that the programs which steal the civil liberties of your citizens become institutionalized, and hence almost impossible to abolish.

It’s a fast ride on that gravy train.

What is the number one concern of libertarians? Civil liberties, of course. Hence, who is on the front lines, fighting against the slippery slope described above? Libertarians. Libertarians recognize your fundamental right to your body, your right within reasonable limits to parent your child as you see fit (“reasonable” being whatever doesn’t infringe upon the civil liberties of your child), and to make damned sure that before any new law or regulation is enacted, the rationale behind the law/regulation is airtight (as we know the ant-obesity scientific rationale is most certainly not).

Of course, none of this is to say that I agree with the idea that the vast majority of fat people are fat because they’re stuffing their face all the time and not exercising (we all know I do not!), but that it doesn’t matter if that is indeed the case. It does not matter if one man stuffs his face to 500-lb newsworthy headless infamy, or if another man believes his thinness to be due to his constant heroic feats of self-control.

None of that matters, because someone being fat, thin, tall, short, male, female, white, black, Jew, Muslim, healthy, unhealthy, is no one’s damned business but his/her own. It makes NO DIFFERENCE to their legal protected status as citizens, it makes NO DIFFERENCE to their ability to add to their country productively, it makes NO DIFFERENCE to their ability to raise future generations of citizens. And yes, I know that the “unhealthy” label is extremely loaded these days. Being “unhealthy,” especially perceived as actively so, is often perceived as somehow actively infringing upon the rights of your fellow citizen. I hope, having read the argument above, you’ll realize why that’s moral panicked nonsense.

Language as a Smoke-Screen

It’s long been accepted that political language is often filled with obfuscatory phraseology, meant to deceive people into believing one thing is true when, in fact, the actions behind the language imply the opposite. Vagueness in language is often employed in order to serve as a smoke-screen for deceit. For instance, take the following passage:

Plan for a Healthy America

“We now face an opportunity — and an obligation — to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates… My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”

— Barack Obama, Speech in Iowa City, IA, May 29, 2007

There are various forms of obfuscation employed in this speech snippet, taken from Obama’s campaign website. First, he begins stating we have an “opportunity” that is in fact an “obligation” to do such-and-such. Opportunities are not obligations: opportunities can be taken or ignored, signifying they are, in fact, optional. By beginning with the word “opportunity,” Obama makes what is in fact going to be mandatory seem optional, which is a much nicer state of things than mandatory compulsion. It is a trick to make people believe they still have freedom to choose when, in fact, choice will be taken away from them.

The next obfuscation is the phrase “to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s healthcare debates.” It is a phrase characterized by opacity: what does “failed politics of yesterday’s healthcare debates” mean, anyway? Does it mean we’ve been talking about it too much? Too little? In the wrong way? When was “yesterday”? In context, one might realize he is likely speaking about Hillary Clinton’s failure to get a single-payer healthcare system in place during her husband’s presidency. So the phrase was meant to mudsling without naming names, so that Obama could engage in character-bashing without being pinned as a character-basher. Again, language has been used to deceive.

The rest of the speech is an exercise in half-truths. His plan covers every American (false: some Americans will be covering other Americans who do not currently cover themselves and fall under some income demarcation, while some Americans who choose not to be covered will be forced to cover themselves. A “plan” cannot actively ‘do’ anything). He asserts your premiums shall be less — leaving out the hidden costs of co-pays, waiting lists, lower-quality care, intrusive programs into lifestyle and diet to be employed to make sure you’re not costing the system ‘too much,’ higher prescription prices, lower financial incentive by professionals to do research, higher costs of ‘optional’ care, etc.

If you are one of the “45 million Americans” (likely an inflated, rounded-up number) who doesn’t have health insurance, you shall ‘get it’ after Obama’s plan becomes law. You shall get it, indeed—some shall be getting a large bill they before with which they chose not to be burdened, for whatever reason.

Language has long been used in this fashion, and shall likely continue to be so used. Language plays a large part in how far we allow the government to intrude into our lives — if we are made to believe we still have freedom, our civil liberties can be degraded, one by one, and no one will notice until it’s too late.

That’s why Sandy’s reporting on the degradation of the Second Amendment taking place in the lead-up to the Supreme Court hearing on the latter is so very important. Allowing the government to search and seize without a formal warrant is a dangerous precedent. It can have implications, the most frightening of which do not involve arms: the government feeling free to break and enter as long as lip service is paid to public health and welfare.

We must be vigilant. And we must understand that our civil liberties were laid down as such for well-thought-out reasons, by people with experiential and/or academic knowledge on the darker nature of government power-mongering.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’ve been listening to the Good/Bad fattie debate with a bit of detachment. I haven’t thrown my hat into the ring yet, since I feel the Good/Bad division is a historically natural human response, a sort of boundary/structure-seeking inherent in finding one’s place within a group. Perhaps my detachment comes from not feeling any need to be a part of a group, per se, which comes from my slightly different neurological profile. But I recognize the human, or typical, urge to find one’s place within a society in which they’ve accepted as their own.

Hell, we see this dynamic all around us. It’s part of what we’re fighting against; we’ve become the victims of a war of attrition, the wearing down of our equal status as individuals and, when it comes down to it, as full-status humans. Many groups have historically undergone similar warfare. Political and religious structures, some long-lasting and some not, have cropped up throughout history which reflect this desire to structure society so that it can be more easily navigated and controlled. Caste systems, racial classification, economic classification, fat classification, &etc.

That we seek to similarly divide ourselves is, therefore, natural. It is not, however, in any way, shape, or form, desirable. It is an impulse we must fight against, at all costs. And that’s why I think there was such a furor this week over the Good/Bad fattie classification. It’s not because the majority of us think in such terms, but because the majority of us know that groups have the tendency to divide their members into such categories, and we know that we must reject this tendency if we are to really change anything.

Are we changing anything if we get fat accepted, but now there are strict guidelines about how much one should exercise because it’s been determined that activity level, and not fat, are what most closely correlate to good health? Are we changing anything if we just put everyone else on another diet, namely, some particular person’s (not everyone’s) definition of HAES? Are we changing anything if, instead of keeping quiet about the size-control methodology of some private insurers and their interested diet industry sponsors, we give that power to the government and their interested lobbyists instead? Are we changing anything by buying fat-hiding clothes, and wearing skirts to the beach, because we’re afraid of being heckled by teenage boys? Are we changing anything if we feel the need to list what we ate that day and our activity levels to people who are anyone except our doctor? Are we changing anything by supporting others’ decisions to mutilate their bodies by amputating their stomachs, starving their bodies, cutting off parts of their bodies, &etc instead of trying our very best to educate, and then support them only in recovery from that disordered thinking and not during it?

Recently I was “outed.” Just today, I received a comment on my blog from someone who knows me personally; I have no idea how she got the link here. I have had to struggle with my own anonymity, since every fiber of my being screams against it, wants to be open and honest and unafraid of the consequences. I have much to fear, honestly: retribution from a previous abuser, misunderstanding of my posts by family and friends, frowning-upon by employers who might find my confessions unprofessional and ‘unhinged;’ personal and professional doom is very possible if this blog is truly “outed.”

The point is, the truth, to some, is Ugly. Not ugly, Ugly. Disgusting. Horrifying. Makes one quake with fear and loathing.

Ugly is a concept we’re all familiar with; Ugly is Bad, Ugly is a characteristic held by one person which ensures all the rest of us who aren’t Ugly are automatically better than that person. Beauty is the opposite of Ugly. Beauty connotes automatic superiority. Many things can be beautiful in different ways. It is harder to be Ugly; Ugly isn’t open to interpretation. The Beautiful are protected from the Ugly by laws. The Ugly are put in cages, or jails, or eke out lives at the bottom of the totem pole, or succeed only as long as they remain invisible and anonymous.

Fat has become Ugly. Automatically inferior to non-Fat. Our voices have been suppressed, our bodies made invisible or the objects of jokes, our minds marginalized, our morality falsely interpreted as encompassing the historically-defined morality of Ugly persons (lazy, mean, stupid, crazy, unhealthy, contagious). It is interesting to note that the aforesaid Ugly morality has been, at times, attributed to most other oppressed groups (Jews, blacks, gays, &etc were all at some point labeled approximately thusly).

So while we’re discussing Good/Bad fatties, even if the Bad fattie is indeed a “straw” fattie, let’s keep in mind that there is a very good reason we must be vigilant about this dynamic infiltrating FA. The fact is, the war we’re fighting is being fought against All fatties, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, however they are defined within our ranks. It might even seem, to some, reasonable to compromise with anti-Fat warriors by throwing Bad fatties to the wolves, so that society can just transform its precious dichotomy of Beauty/Ugly : Thin/Fat to Beauty/Ugly : Healthy/Unhealthy.

Debunking the idea that some Ugly, automatically inferior group, even exists, is a difficult task that hasn’t been taken up by most any of the previously oppressed groups, with the exception of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—and his words have largely been spun by his successors to apply only to black people or only to racial relations, and not have the generality he originally intended.

I think the Good/Bad fattie debate isn’t spurious. In fact, it’s vitally important: in busting one false dichotomy (thin = Beauty, fat = Ugly) we must be careful not to simply transfer that dynamic to a whole new group of future oppressed people. That open racism is largely frowned upon is a great victory. There have been many other victories for historically oppressed groups. We aren’t the last group to be oppressed openly—the desire to oppress, to find one’s place in a class-conscious world, to assert one’s status using traits that are purely incidental and have nothing to do with the content of one’s character, will always be there. But we need to name this dynamic; like the courageous and brilliant Dr. King, we have to call it out for what it truly is, and we need to let people know that our struggle isn’t just about Fat, it’s about busting this highly destructive and oppressive dynamic.

It comes down to “Superiority by Birth”: because I was born to look/act/etc a certain way, I’m better. I didn’t have to do any work, or prove myself in any way — I’m just naturally better, and you’re naturally worse, there’s nothing you can do about it (though you should sacrifice your whole life trying).

This last statement is one of the most destructive and oppressive viewpoints in the history of mankind, and is at the root of all sorts of massacres and atrocities. Take your pick—the Crusades, the French Revolution, the Holocaust, the massacre of Native Americans, the rise of the Roman Empire, the fall of the Roman Empire—and so forth.

And maybe it is just human nature, and we must succumb to repeating history with different groups in power and poverty, for equally arbitrary reasons.

But perhaps, like Dr. King, we can step out of ourselves, and maybe — just maybe — evolve as a species beyond the arbitrary and hurtful definitions of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.