I wasn’t going to write about the new restrictions on extra-large sugary soft drink sales in New York City, and then MMJeff brought it up elsewhere, and so let’s thrash, shall we?

I don’t have strong feelings on it one way or another. The subject of obesity comes up from time to time here, and we’ve run through the usual reasons. The more I think about it, the more I look at photos from my youth and marvel at how few people, even among my parents’ friends, were seriously overweight — well, I don’t have any answers, just a few hunches. And I think portion size is a big part of it.

I think portion size is one of those insidious things. It creeps up a little at a time. We’re told to fill our plates, and we do — even though the plate is two inches bigger than the ones we grew up eating from. It’s bigger because kitchens are bigger, and kitchen tables are bigger, and everything is bigger because otherwise, what will motivate you to buy a new set of dishes? You need that stuff.

Anyway, as I’ve probably stated here a million times, I grew up drinking those little 6.5-ounce Cokes. Sometimes my mom would buy the 12-ounce six-packs, or the 16-ounce Pepsi six-packs. Returnable bottles. We had little plastic caps to reseal them. You never drank a whole bottle by yourself. A six-pack kept four of us happy for a week.

New York City is a small place, and even the millions who live there comprise only a fraction of the country’s population. But it’s the Temple Mount of our culture — almost everything starts there. I think Mayor Bloomberg knows this. I don’t think he’s doing this with any serious policy effect in mind; I think he’s just trying to start a conversation.

In 1979, I started my first newspaper job. I was in an seven-person department, and four of us smoked. A guy I walked by several times a day had an ashtray the size of a hubcap on his desk, and he filled that sucker up, every day. Alan and I went to New York 22 years later, when the city was the largest one in the country with a city-wide smoking ban. We saw the Mingus Big Band in a low-ceilinged, basement club, and left two hours later remarking on how nice it was to not be reeking of cigarettes. Michigan now bans smoking in nearly all public places. Who thinks this is a crazy intrusion of the nanny state now?

In my lifetime, we’ve vanquished cigarettes, or at least put them in full retreat. Bad food may be the next front in the war, and should be, given how disproportionately it effects affects the poor, the young and the powerless.

Does banning gigantic sody-pops look like a solution? No. But it’s a conversation-starter. I’m willing to have it.

Good lord, this plague is persistent. Every time I think I’m out of it? IT PULLS ME BACK IN. So I have no bloggage today. Do you?

Posted at 12:50 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

79 responses to “Extra-large.”

  1. Dexter said on June 7, 2012 at 2:46 am

    There were four of us, M and P, and brother Bobby and me, Little Dexter. I remember when once in a great while Dad brought home a regular size package of what we called sweet rolls, I think there were eight in a package. We’d make that package last two, three days. Nobody ever thought of eating more than one sweet roll. We usually got Pepsi only because it came in larger bottles than the little Cokes. http://www.bottlebooks.com/questions/March%202002/dale94zfeb2002.jpg
    Nobody was fat…Bobby was very thin, Mom always had a huge pail of lard to fry and bake with, we ate ham and bread and candy bars, mostly Wayne Buns and Baby Ruths, and Mom was a great cook and we never missed a meal…I mean never…I didn’t miss a meal until I left home at age 18 to go play baseball in the American South.
    We had total feasts every Sunday at Grandma’s house…she cooked huge meals, chicken and roast beef, mashed and gravy, several salads, pie and cake every time. Still, we stayed thin. Finally, at age 16 it caught up with me a bit and my basketball coach gave me hell for being too fat. I never was able to get thin again.
    When, at age 43, I quit alcohol , I thought I would quickly lose many pounds. Nope. Some humans have “set points”, a term I learned from a book years ago, which compels one to eat until satisfied, and nothing seems to slow the process.
    Still, we all know there is a problem, and it is availability.
    It’s easier to dine on HoHos and Co’Cola than it is to cook a nice pot of greens and a lean entree. Portions have gone crazy…buffets are bad for most Americans, but we want “to get our money’s worth.”
    My uncle’s family were all thin…they ate from small plates and were served tiny portions, but they remained thin all their lives; the “kids” are in their sixties now, still thin.
    Mom probably overfed us, I suppose that started my obesity tendencies. Oh well.
    Bloomberg simply stirred up the shit. Good luck with the 16 ounce maximum on the soda cups.
    I am grateful I am spared a lot of cigarette smoke , but when I go to Indiana everything stinks; it’s a throwback to the days of yore when smoke was omnipresent.

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  2. Cosmo Panzini said on June 7, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Let’s look at this soda pop thing this way: Cigarette smoke is harmful to human lungs, even when inhaled second-hand. Soda pop, on the other hand, is much less harmful, if at all, and then only to the person ingesting massive quantities of the stuff. So, Bloomy should shut his yap and tend to other more pressing issues affecting the residents of his town. Pretty simple, eh?

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  3. Brandon said on June 7, 2012 at 3:46 am

    I recommend a documentary called King Corn, which details the increasing role of corn, particularly high fructose corn syrup, in America’s food supply.

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  4. alex said on June 7, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I was fortunate never to have become a soda pop/junk food addict. Anymore, when I have no other options on the road, I realize how one has to develop a taste for that shit just like with booze or cigarettes. Pick your poison.

    If what Bloomberg’s doing is symbolic, then what the hell was Chicago doing when it banned foie gras? I understand California’s about to do the same. The rationale given for Chicago’s ban is that plumping up geese for their fatty livers is animal cruelty. Well then what the fuck do they call those animal prison camps at places like Tyson Foods where chickens are raised in such overcrowded conditions that they pluck out the chickens’ eyes and beaks so that they’re too impaired to kill each other? What about the slaughterhouses where they process beef and pork, driving forklifts right into live animals and shoving them to their deaths in a pit?

    I can’t say I’ve read any scholarly articles about it, but I know a lot of vegans and vegetarians and free-range livestock consumers who swear by this theory: That the levels of cortisol remaining in the flesh of animals raised in inhumane conditions is off the charts and that we’re ingesting enormous levels of this stress-induced hormone on top of that which we produce in our own bodies. These folks believe that there’s a correlation between anxiety disorders, stress, depression, etc. and consumption of animals that have spent the entirety of their abbreviated lives in fight-or-flight mode.

    Is this apocrypha or, like the voter roll shenanigans in Florida right now, a story that’s being overlooked by media, or even squelched by industry? There is plenty of evidence that the energy industry, pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, etc. use their clout to suppress any information that the public might find alarming, and in fact that’s where a lot of “scholarly” articles countering such discoveries come from. It almost sounds like the grand conspiracy theory stuff I’m always being assailed with by watchers of Fox News, except that big business is usually not the enemy in any of their fantasies, but rather Democrats. Maybe it’s the cortisol talking. Pass the chicken tenders please.

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  5. Suzanne said on June 7, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Not bloggage, really, but one great commencement speech: http://www.businessinsider.com/michael-lewis-princeton-commencement-remarks-2012-6

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  6. Deborah said on June 7, 2012 at 7:12 am

    When I was growing up we rarely had soda, maybe once a month we would have a six pack of those little coke bottles. Each day after school my sister and I would get to split a bottle until they were gone. Our big treat was lime aid, we had a lime tree and my dad made a concoction of fresh lime juice and lime Kool aid. Lord that was good. A pitcher of that would be gone in a second. When I make pasta I use bowls the size that I know are the same size as a serving bowl we had when I was a kid. The amount of pasta I eat now in one sitting would have fed my whole family back in the day. We only ever had the kind of spaghetti that came in a box that you augmented with tomato paste. My mother boiled the noodles for half an hour.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 7:47 am

    My son bowls. My wife and I, years before he was born, had largely given up on bowling because we just couldn’t deal anymore with with coming home drenched in cigarette smoke. When Ohio proposed a smoking ban in public places, bowling lanes were first to shriek that they would go broke if this happened.

    It happened, and while I’m aware some bars and such have reported declines in revenue, bowling alleys have found that their overall business is up. So in certain circumstances, outright bans work. Conceded.

    But the whole “big gulp” issue is such an extreme example of posturing, by way of (mis)using the coercive power of government, it pushes me to object, strongly. Look at the exemption list. It’s like trying to say we’re going to ban cigars in public only — what exactly is that point? And while I see the environmental issues around corn quite clearly, I have not been able to discern, when you look at what’s actually on the scientific table, how HFCS is the scourge it’s inferred to be, other than by some correlations that even the CSPI folks don’t really put their weight behind.

    Cultural changes have led to the obesity epidemic, and the Bloomberg initiative in NYC is an attempt to look like you’re doing something while actually pushing randomly at buttons on the control panel that you don’t really understand “because I’m the captain!” When diet sodas are shown to be, by an indirect biochemical mechanism reinforced by culture, to be a major culprit in triggering overeating, how’s that going to be remembered?

    The drug problem, from my POV, is a quiet stalking horse for obesity, or vice versa. We don’t really know why people get addicted, or why people “recover.” We have some models that work a little less rarely than others, but most of them are 7 to 20% effective, varying greatly depending on the nature of the person in treatment. AA isn’t beloved in the treatment & recovery community (for all sorts of reasons, a long comment in itself), but it’s got a place at the table because it has no worse, and often a better success rate, than the most high-end residential, intensive-therapied approaches. And meanwhile, the really dirty secret of the whole deal is that close to 90% of people in addiction, if they don’t die relatively young, get off of heroin or cocaine or sniffing glue entirely on their own, without relapse. Alcohol addiction has a very different sub-profile (due to legal status, of course), but most studies show a shocking number stop drinking without external interventions.

    So my point is that we really don’t understand compulsive, addictive behavior, and how to change it. Lots of treatment approaches that made good empirical sense turned out to be utterly ineffective, and created (as Prohibition did nationwide) side effects that were worse than the original problem. Then we have the rise of bath salts and synthetic marijuana, which seem to offer almost nothing to the user other than an altered state accompanied by immense discomfort and personal downsides. What’s up with that?

    All of which is why I think Bloomburg’s ban is a use of governmental authority for no purpose, with high potential for unintended consequences, along with an increased perception that governmental regulation and restrictions are not to be taken seriously. Yes, there’s plenty that must be regulated in modern society — this ain’t one of them. If Bloomberg had said “due to the major concern of your elected officials over obesity, and the social, personal, and financial costs that hurt families and burden taxpayers through the results of this situation, we are moving to dramatically increase city recreation programs and park maintenance, promoting everyday activity and mobility, with a plan for incentives offered for participation . . . to be paid for by an extra 30% tax on HFCS sweetened beverages” you wouldn’t hear a PEEP from me. I’d vote for that, I’d vote for the politician who suggested it. That’s what we need to do on the “War on Drugs” front, too; talk about why people want to do these things to their minds and bodies, and create & promote alternatives as much as trying to stop them from doing drugs.

    Sorry, another too-long comment, but since Nancy noted my commentary elsewhere, there’s my take. There’s more that could be said on the politics of the “big gulp” vs. lattes and capuchinos and so on, but I’ll leave it at this for now. Prosecutor’s office wants my pile of referrals that are unsuccessful due to parental drug involvement sent back, properly filed, by day’s end. Sigh.

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  8. Jeff Borden said on June 7, 2012 at 8:09 am

    The battle against cigarettes was won when the debate turned away from being a virtuous person and saying no to nicotine and toward public health, where it could be proven that MY exposure to YOUR smoke was very, very bad for my lungs.

    Now, every time I stand on the el because one fat person is taking up two seats. . .or I’m tortured in the middle seat of an airliner between two very large people. . .I’m uncomfortable or cramped. But I can’t say I’m being injured, which makes the battle against obesity even tougher to fight.

    I’ve always been thin and always been thankful for the metabolism that keeps me that way. And I’m more of a salt guy than a sugar guy, so it’s pretzels over ice cream every time, even though I’m quite aware of all the bad things salt does.

    Yeah, portion sizes are partly to blame. So, too, is pricing. (A year or so ago, the McDonald’s near me was selling double-cheeseburgers for $1.) Advertising, particularly the spots aimed at kids, is another factor. And let’s not forget politics and the worship of the marketplace. But there has been a cultural switch, too, where we allow ourselves indulgences too frequently.

    Personally, I think Bloomberg is pissing into the wind, but at least he’s doing something, even if it is ultimately ineffective. Limiting sodas to 16-ounces will simply mean a lot of people will just buy two, but at least we’re talking about it.

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  9. coozledad said on June 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Alex: Vegetarianism doesn’t seem to have reduced my anxiety levels any, but you’ve got to factor the genetic predisposition to the crazy in with it.

    I don’t know how much corticosteroids survive cooking, but heme iron does, and it may have more to do with arterial inflammation and the development of plaques than cholesterol. It might also trigger a low level immune response that corresponds to stress.
    There’s a cattle farmer across the road from us who has a company dump granulated sewage on his pasture. It looks like a gray vermiculite and smells like a Port-o-let. I’m sure his cattle scoop up a bit of it while grazing.
    Add the antibiotics they use to accelerate slaughter weight and you’re basically farming for zoonotic infections.
    He’s not all that big a producer, either. Scale that up three or four hundredfold, and that’s where most of the beef comes from. If I ate meat, I’d definitely want to look into the operation that produced it. Even a lot of the small producers are slimeballs.

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  10. Joe K said on June 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Portion size is big along with doing less activity, get out and walk,ride,run.
    Would have loved to have met the Polish banner pilot, The Germans were scared to death of the Poles.
    Still will be flying my 310,but the 421 is so nice to fly,a real pilots airplane
    Cheers from Thompsonville K.Y.
    Pilot Joe

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  11. Angela said on June 7, 2012 at 8:36 am

    The gigantic, name-brand plates and bowls we received as wedding gifts five years ago are chipping, and badly. I usually use the “salad” plates as dinner plates, and sometimes my hungry husband pleads with me, “Can I have a big plate?” Then lo, a voice comes from my mouth sounding like my mother’s: “Eat that, and then we’ll see if you’re still hungry.”

    I’ve already decided I’ll just hit up my antique and thrift stores for “new” ones when the time comes, in hope that if they’ve already survived several decades, they will survive my house. (Which really isn’t that rough a place.)

    Isn’t the generation we’re revering for thinness mostly responsible for this upsizing? I suppose there’s some sort of Great Depression correlation, but I haven’t had my coffee yet and can’t quite articulate what I’m thinking.

    ETA: I just measured my plates, just because I’d never really thought about this before. Dinner plate: 12 inches! Salad plate: 9 inches! I’m pretty sure the Corelle dinner plates of my childhood (which my parents still use) are two inches smaller.

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  12. Connie said on June 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Gigantic Pfaltzgraff Angela? We use the salad plates regularly. I don’t remember soft drinks as a kid but there were huge quantities of koolaid, how is that different?

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Alex, I neglected to offer a hat tip to you on the foie gras ban vs. the reality of pretty much every chicken breast we’ve all eaten as adults. I’m not anywhere near vegetarian (yet), but I’m eating much less and working on keeping that trend heading for Michael Pollan’s “meat as garnish, not as main course” approach. There’s just no just and humane and reasonable way to feed the planet in Homestyle Buffet fashion. And as we try to do it just in this country, we get exactly the kind of outcomes Cooze looks at across the road.

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  14. Angela said on June 7, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Yes, Connie. I love the colors, but that’s about it. (“Napoli,” or something like that.)

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  15. beb said on June 7, 2012 at 8:44 am

    What Jeff said. Basically.

    I draw a distinction between smoking which affects people around you and drinking large sugary drinks which don’t. Even back when restaurants were required to have a non-smoking section it was usually just a corner of the one large room with little to no effort make to keep the smoke-laden air from the rest of the room from infiltrating the non-smoking section. And if your lungs are at all compromised it is just impossible to eat in a smokey restaurant. So banning smoking in public buildings was a big step forward towards making us non-smokers equal citizens with smokers.

    I’m more conflicted b efforts to ban smoking out of doors. On the one hand there’s the usual cluster of smokers huddled just outside the door to some building you need to go into. We shouldn’t have to run that kind of a gauntlet. But smoking in a park? I kind of think that since there’s no concentration of the smoke going on then that should be OK. But also I’m so tired of being around smokers I wouldn’t want to be close to someone smoking even in a park.

    And I am not at all happy with the idea of “sin” taxes running up prices of cigarettes to $5 or $6 a pack. I don’t think such pricing actually discourages people from smoking, but only forces them to choose between fresh vegetables for the kids today or another pack of smokes.

    Big Gulps on the other hand hurts nobody but yourself. And people should have the right to make bad decisions. This is the sort of “nanny state” legislation that conservatives rail against. It’s also the sort of over-reach that liberals rail against, too.

    As for what makes us obese… I’m persuaded that it’s endocrine interrupters. That there are additives in our foods or food packaging that mangle our bodies feedback systems that tell us when we’re full. I’m not saying there aren’t other contributing factors like a lack of exercise, growing portion size and foods doctored with extra sugar to make them more palatable. But we’re also seeking spikes in other things, like autism, asthma and food allergies that can’t be blamed on bad eating habits but must have some biochemical source.

    For bloggage, I submit the following:

    I also find it odd that Yahoo has filed reports on Ray Bradbury’s death under “Science” rather than “Entertainment.” I would have thought a fiction writer would obviously be an “entertainer.”

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  16. JWfromNJ said on June 7, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Brandon – King Corn is a wonderful film, and the guys are funny and enlightening without being overbearing or smug to the viewers or the folks in their small Iowa town.

    As for Florida voter shennanigans. I’ve had a crash course these past few weeks as we gear up for the regular primary (we had the presidential one months ago). The law requiring third party organizations to register with the state and follow very restrictive guidelines on regsitering voters has been an issue. It drove the League of Women Voters away. I have to give a lot of credit to my county’s GOP Supervisor of Elections. Shes offended by the law and even though she’s up for re-election with a primary challenge, and she was an appointee of Gov. Scott, she has been running voter outreach efforts with her staff on our free county buses, and has been setting up the mobile units and teams from her staff in the largely African-American community we have in gifford, almost like she’s thumbing her nose at the legislature for their efforts to suppress the poor vote. She has been my local hero as of late.

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  17. brian stouder said on June 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

    MichaelG, as Joe indicates – that was a great post at the end of the last thread.

    A slight digression on the Big Gulp conversation: just the other day I read an article wherein the corn grower’s lobby group is pushing the FDA to allow it to refer to high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar”, and the sugar producers and their lobbyists are fighting to keep things as they are*. So far, the FDA still says that high fructose corn syrup is just that, and not sugar.

    One wonders if those lobby groups might someday change sides, and fight for some name other than “sugar”

    edit: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/05/30/154009682/fda-rules-corn-syrup-cant-change-its-name-to-corn-sugar

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  18. Julie Robinson said on June 7, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Bloggage? http://www.wane.com/dpp/news/local/longtime-fort-wayne-weatherman-dies Jay Walker has died. He was almost 75, so not all smokers die young.

    No link yet, but I heard a story on NPR about Tunisia, which has an official unemployment rate of 18% and an actual rate that is at least double that. In response to the government turning to stricter Islamic law one protester said, “we need jobs, but they give us God”. Sounds like the Republican platform to me–all will be right if we just outlaw gay marriage and contraception. For all they claim to hate Islam, the R’s are increasingly looking to it for their playbook.

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  19. brian stouder said on June 7, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Yes, and Imam Limbaugh’s fat ass issues fatwahs every day, when his listeners turn their radio dials in his direction, and bow to him.

    Uppity non-white people, uppity women in general, people from Chicago, and people who have no money all leap to mind.

    in a digression: before I went to bed last night, Lawrence O’Donnell got me laughing uproariously over a story that should be breaking today, about Governor Romney’s yen, back when he was in college, for dressing up as a policeman, putting a red light atop his white Rambler, and then actually going out and pulling people over!! ‘Course, when Obama was that age, he was busy in never-never land, being a “community organizer” – whatever that is, doncha know. It would have been much better for him to pretend he was a cop and harass people on the highways….right???!!

    PS – I heard Keith Edwards on the radio remembering Jay Walker, and he retold the story of the Blizzard of ’79, when they were all essentially trapped at the TV station.

    Eventually, they were pretty hungry, and Jay got a sledge hammer and smashed open a vending machine, so they could eat (and the fare was junkfood crap, presumably, but it beat having nothing!). They videoed that, and apparently the tape exists to this day…

    edit: http://www.nationalmemo.com/did-young-mitt-romney-impersonate-a-police-officer-another-witness-says-yes/

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  20. Jolene said on June 7, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Actually, beb, the evidence is pretty good that increasing the price of cigarettes does decrease smoking. This report is by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy organization. If you start reading at the bottom of the first page, you can get a quick overview of the findings.

    Lots of people have argued that soda should be taxed to discourage consumption as it is entirely devoid of nutritional value. I believe Bloomberg tried to push this through, but couldn’t get it approved at the state level.

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  21. Pam said on June 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

    We went to the granddaughter’s HS graduation Tuesday night at the Shot. It lasted 2 hours, starting at 7:00 pm. When we walked in, I was amazed that there were open concessions selling crap food – hot dogs, goopy cheese with chips, giant pretzels, big soft drinks – and many folks were standing in line. So I guess people can’t go 2 measly hours without food? Now that really surprises me! People would actually choose that type of faux food rather than wait a couple of hours to eat something better.

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  22. nancy said on June 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Making cigarettes more expensive discourages kids from starting the habit, because they have less money to spend. That’s a settled issue, in my understanding. Whether it takes food from their mouths I can’t say; it has certainly led to an explosion in lower-cost generic brands, not to mention cigarette superstores on state borders where the tax/price drops sharply, like Indiana/Michigan.

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  23. Randy said on June 7, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I agree that the soda ban is a conversation starter. The poor where I live are First Nations/Aboriginal/Indian depending on who is labelling them, and diabetes runs rampant among kids and adults, because Coke takes the place of milk in a kid’s diet from a very early age. It seems that being diabetic is a certainty, whether or not your feet and legs will be amputated later in life is the only variable. Sad.

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  24. Julie Robinson said on June 7, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Brian, to pick a few nits, the blizzard was in ’78, and Keith Edwards wasn’t here then. I came to the Fort in the fall of ’79, and I remember when Edwards arrived, to great ballyhoo. Perhaps he’s just relating the stories of others. At least that’s my charitable interpretation.

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  25. brian stouder said on June 7, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Julie – I am certain that any errors in what I said above are mine, and not Edwards’.

    I kid you not – I heard this on the radio they were playing on the PA in the Marathon station where I stopped to get a 44 ounce icy cold Diet Pepsi, this morning!

    Between negotiating the filling process (an art all its own, but we digress!), navigating between the other customers, and paying for it, I really only heard bits and pieces of what he was saying.

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  26. alex said on June 7, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Whether it takes food from their mouths I can’t say

    I can. I know someone who had the misfortune of living next to a rental house occupied by two single mothers and their respective broods. He had to put a lock on his garbage can because these neighbors would have it overflowing in no time flat. His water bill went through the ceiling because these neighbors didn’t have that service either. When DCFS finally came in and discovered filthy conditions with no utilities and not a crumb of food in the house, my friend was aghast, especially because he would see these mothers spending all day on the front stoop chainsmoking and chugging beers while their kids were evidently left to fend for themselves.

    Part of the rationale for alcohol prohibition was that breadwinners were squandering their paychecks on booze instead of feeding their families. Some parents who cannot even be called breadwinners seem to have similar priorities.

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  27. alex said on June 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

    In other nanny-state news, I just read that Chicago is banning minors from entering tanning salons. Now that’s something I can certainly abide. Probably spurred by that leathery lady in New Jersey who got her fifteen minutes of shame recently and looked like she was thoroughly enjoying it.

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  28. Bitter Scribe said on June 7, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Agree that portion size is to blame. The food and beverage companies make more money if people consume more of their stuff at one sitting, so they up the size. Not a complex concept.

    The “Nutrition Facts” panels on food packaging mitigate that somewhat, because serving sizes are regulated, but who looks at that? And if they do, do they ever say, “Oh, this bag of chips is actually two servings, I better just eat half and save the rest for later”?

    That said, I also agree with Cosmo and whoever was on his side downthread (just glanced through) that soda regulation isn’t the same as cigarettes, because soda only affects the person guzzling it.

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  29. Icarus said on June 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

    First I’m greatful that Illinois and finally Chicago banned cigarettes in public places — and embarrassed that it two years after the law technically went into effect.

    My take on the smoking ban has been this: if smokers would have policed themselves better and not blown their smoke at non-smokers so much, non-smokers would not have pushed politicans to count smoker votes versus non-smoker votes and things might still be as they were. It’s my theory and I’m probably very wrong about it.

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  30. Julie Robinson said on June 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Brian–no harm, no foul! Just my OCD.

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  31. Charlotte said on June 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Also old enough to remember when Cokes were a big treat. I grew up in the horse show world, and my parents had a deal with the guy who did concessions (Mr. Pasquesi, great guy). No cokes for us. He kept those little milk containers in the ice chest for my brother and me. Sigh. Also, McDonalds was a huge treat — we were well aware it was junk food.

    My mother is a lifelong chainsmoker, and she has no money as an older person — lives on Social Security and what I and her brother chip in. She moved a couple of years ago from Milwaukee to Lexington Kentucky, in part because smokes are cheap down there.

    I know that here in our wee little town there’s a move afoot from the school board to try to close the high school campus for lunch. They’ve gotten someone in the past couple of years who is cooking real food, much of it local, and they’d like to keep the kids out of the fast food and junk counter of the local grocery store (wings, potato wedges, huge cokes). The same group has also taken over the food at the local hospital, which is so good now that a lot of the older folks are going over for a good, clean, five-dollar lunch.

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Alex, I can, with no innate predictive powers whatsoever, tell you that both those mothers were likely molested as children, experienced failure at school which probably resulted in unsuccessful completion, had unprotected sex for the first time with a male 20-30% older than they were, have at least one STD, and are experiencing measurable untreated mental health issues (depression, chronic to severe; paranoia; or bipolar). You pretty much report that substance abuse/AOD issues are present already.

    So, send one of these moms to me as a prosecutor’s office referral, due to repeated calls to the police/911 for what is filed as an unruly complaint on their oldest, an 11 year old who is getting to be the size of Mom, and appears to have serious anger management & impulse control issues, with a total of 14 days in the last school year suspended (f-bombing a teacher who asked him to stop doing something distracting, punching a kid in the stomach in the lunch line for bumping into him from behind, refusal to answer or even respond to staff when his class was moving from one location to another). I have 60 to 90 minutes to gather a history, hear out their frustrations (“I moved here last year from the city and there are no services in this stupid county!” “That is true, ma’am.”), and craft a solution that doesn’t require Mom to either make more than two sequential phone calls or wait five to seven months for an assessment and possible ongoing counseling.

    On the other hand, if I tell her to suggest her son has threatened suicide, and take him to the ER, I might be able to get them assessment and intervention before the week is over. If he actually hurts a sibling or playmate, he can get charged and go official, and gain access that way, so telling him to break his sister’s nose is another option. Both of these plans are neither ethical, nor repeatable, given that I have four more virtually identical case files under the one I’m taking into the conference room.

    Mordancy aside, we ask ourselves: in a better world, what do we wish we had? Three times more newly-minted counselors nervously asking “how long has your, um, fiance been resident in the home, Ms. Complainant? And is your son comfortable around him?” Would that help? Do we wish there were more prescriptions available? More resident beds for AOD treatment? When the success rate is putrid as it is?

    Honestly, I don’t know what I wish we had. I just know the number of families like Alex’s friend’s neighbors is on the increase, and we don’t have answers. And I know not every molested, school-struggling child ends up in the tumbledown rental drinking Four Loco on the stoop sucking a blunt, so I’m less curious about why that is one outcome than to figure out: how do some folks find the resilience to NOT end up there? That’s what we need more research on.

    But I know the solution for the generic smoking woman trying to ignore her screaming kids inside an un-air-conditioned house isn’t to shout “what’s wrong with you?” Once you get past that impulse, the problem is what to say instead. I’m still working on that one.

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  33. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 11:03 am

    My usual starter is “So, what’s going on? Tell me about it.”

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  34. adrianne said on June 7, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Nance and I started in our newspapering days when we were the oddballs for NOT smoking. I still remembering emptying out multiple ashtrays at the Daily Free Press when I came in to work on Sunday. It was pretty gross. I’m positive that nearly all of the college smokers have given up the habit.

    Bloomberg annoys me with his nanny tendencies, but I am grateful for the smoking bans, and the Big Gulp ban has at least ignited a needed conversation about the ridiculous portion sizes that are a clear spur to obesity.

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  35. Sue said on June 7, 2012 at 11:20 am

    You can tell this is a commie lefty blog because we’re at comment 33+ and no one’s blamed working moms yet.

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  36. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

    CocaCola? Vending machines? Sledge hammers?


    My oversized servings tend to be Foster’s Lager oil cans, but I like 20 ounce Cherry Cokes too, particularly the morning after a few too many of the Australian big gulps.

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  37. brian stouder said on June 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Sue – if the women* would just put an aspirin between their knees, we’d be all** doing great!

    And forget the nanny state; I wanna see this homophobe/bully/cop-wanna-be presidential candidate reel a bit, for his thoughtless (and apparently numerous)descents into authoritarian, sadisitic fantasies.

    *aka – sluts

    **those of us who would actually have gotten the chance to be conceived, if our slutty mom’s aspirin had fallen away, that is

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  38. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 11:54 am

    RMoney’s robocop masquerades are right up there with Rand Paul’s Aqua Buddha abductions. One is as illegal as the other, and both are sociopathic. Have to wonder whether Mittens had barber shears hooked to his Sam Browne.

    First time I ever heard the term “nanny state” was from Neh Hampsha bikers that stormed the Massachusetts State House when the Bay State decided to intrude on their freedom by requiring murdercycle organ donors to wear helmets while riding. Scuse me, you live free or die ninnies, but the government has what courts call a “compelling interest”, as both riding hatless and gorging oneself are behaviors that have a clear deleterious effect on the general public, in keeping American health care costs on steroids. And if corticosteroids in meat affect human mental health, how ’bout the corticosteroid production that sleazy bastards like Rick Scott, whose Medicare fraud exploits should have his slimy ass permanently purged from voter rolls, and Scott Walker cause in people like me. One thing about the bikers that object to wearing helmets, the gene pool would be better off without them.

    If I were a collegiate track coach, I’d be on the phone this morning offering this great kid a full ride:


    (Check out the 15 year old local TV newsie.)

    Where we buy beef:


    These cattle live a very soothing and comfortable life.

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  39. Jolene said on June 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    In this very interesting interview, an NIH researcher argues that the increase in obesity in our society is due, simply, to the overproduction of food.

    He also makes some depressing observations re the feasibility of losing significant amounts of weight.

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  40. Connie said on June 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I was a lifetime heavy smoker until last fall. If you’re forced to quit smoking because you’re living in the hospital for a week you might as well keep going. So I say that I quit smoking unwillingly and I am still kind of grumpy about it. And I am still reaching for my smokes every time I start my car. (Soon to be a Chevy Cruse.)

    But I still have little patience with the complaints I hear. Yes, OK, not outside the doors of the building you are about to enter. But yesterday my SIL posted something on facebook in which she complained mightily about a person smoking on the next park bench over. Give me a break. Now flame me.

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  41. Jakash said on June 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I used to love a nice, icy cold fountain Coke from 7-11, McD’s or whatever gas station served them the cheapest. Unlike Brian, however, they were always full-cal, as I don’t trust the fake sugars. And, like Prospero, I found that one of the best times for one was after a night drinking too much of something else.

    I was up to the 44-ounce Super Big Gulp size and still, as I finished it, wished there was more. And I grew up even a couple years before Nancy, when neither pop nor eating out were taken for granted, so it’s not like I was conditioned into this behavior. Anyway, a couple years ago, I decided maybe this mindless infusion of empty calories wasn’t such a good idea and stopped drinking pop altogether.

    The point of this comment, (surprisingly, there is one) is that I weigh more now than I did then. Either my metabolism has continued to slow enough to compensate for the missing calories, or I’ve managed to replace them elsewhere in my diet, which really isn’t all that bad. The conclusion being, while pop may be a contributor to the obesity epidemic, there’s a heck of a lot more to it than just that. As Nancy and several others have noted, portion sizes of everything else and a comparative diminishment in the amount of activity engaged in seem to be an insidious double-whammy that has been tough to overcome.

    As for Bloomberg’s proposal, I agree with those who consider it an overreach. Fine, let’s have a conversation and raise awareness, but I don’t think that this suggested ban would be particularly effective or appropriate.

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  42. brian stouder said on June 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Not for nothing, I will add that adding ice to the cup very easily utilizes 12 ounces or more of the total volume.

    And indeed, I’m a bad parent because the girls always drink my icy cold Diet Pepsi, too.

    Just sayin’….

    PS – Connie, I like the aroma of a good cigar, from park bench distance. My dad was a 4-pack a day man, years ago (Winston 100’s). In fact, in a few months I will be older than he was, when he died.

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  43. Linda said on June 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Here’s a factor to consider in obesity: not only portions, but time eating. As in all. the. time. Every. place. There is no longer a start/stop on food. Whenever you are hungry, and wherever, you just tie on a feedbag. And people consider it their civil right to eat all over the place. There’s no hunger behind eating, and no brake, except when you are asleep.

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  44. nancy said on June 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    So true, Linda. Every time I watch “Mad Men” and someone pours a highball at 9 a.m., I think that in the modern office, they’d grab a donut.

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  45. Kirk said on June 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    People at work bring in crap (cookies, cupcakes, etc.) all the time, whether there’s anything to celebrate or not, and lots of people eat it.

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  46. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    It’s a matter of absolute faith to me that the smaller the container, the better Coca Cola tastes.

    I was riding on the Boston subway with my daughter years ago and realized we had become the subject of some snide hipster conversation nearby. Commenting on E’s diet coke, along the lines of how terrible it was to worry about little kids’ body image. Thanks to the keedo’s presence, I didn’t go ballistic. When we were leaving the train, I leaned over and said II guess neither one of you assholes ever had to pay for a kid to go to the dentist.” The rude pricks were suitably chagrined, and other passengers laughed at them.

    Back when I was teaching HS, kids would arrive with 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew which they would finish by the last bell. The thought of the calories consumed was fairly revolting, but the immediate effect of the monstrous caffeine jolts was far more worrisome. The Dew was invariably accompanied by a large bag of those hideous neon red, hotter than hell Cheetohs. As I recall them, school lunches looked neither more appetizing nor more nutritionally sound. Beatrice said ketchup and pizza were vegables, and R. Raygun and the GOPers bought the argument hook, line and sinker. After all, back in the day, if it wasn’t Beatrice, it was commoniss. Guess that would be ConAgra and Kraft nowadays.

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  47. beb said on June 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Brian Stouder’s dad smoked four packs of cigarettes a day? When did he have time to breath?

    Jeff comments at 32. The first paragraph describing the likely mental health issues of the woman sitting on her stoop smoking, drinking and ignoring her kids was like “wow!” Then to find out that Jeff’s entire day is spent trying to help these people.I don’t know how he does it, day after day. The man’s a saint.

    Actually, Prospero, the question of calling ketchup a vegetable is complicated by the fact that the main ingredient of ketchup is a vegetable. The real issue is portion size. How many ounces of ketchup must a kid eat before it’s considered a vegetable serving. Probably a lot more than kids would use dipping french fries.

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  48. Sherri said on June 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I’ve never gotten a Big Gulp in my life, nor had any desire for one, so I’m not going to be harmed by any ban in NYC or anywhere else other than in an abstract way. It would be interesting to hear what people who actually do regularly buy the things think about a ban, but since they either kids or poor, they’re invisible and aren’t allowed agency anyway.

    Whether the humongous sizes were banned or not, I do wish that small drink sizes would return to concession stands at sporting events. At most places, the smallest soda you can get is 16 oz, and if you want the souvenir cup, that’s at least 20 oz. Usually I just get water, but occasionally, I want a Coke in the hot sun with my hot dog, and I’d rather have a smaller one in a smaller cup.

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  49. alex said on June 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    People at work seem to re-gift a lot of Russel Stover and peanut brittle and that sort of stuff too.

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to be part of the generation swilling highballs and smoking like chimneys at the office. I’d likely be dead now, of course, but to retire on a fully funded pension with the best health insurance money could buy would have been way awesome.

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  50. Andrea said on June 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I disagree with the argument that drinking this crap has no effect on non-drinkers. It is not as strong or direct a correlation as the second-hand smoke issue, but we ALL pay for the increased costs associated with obesity in our health insurance premiums and other increased health care costs.

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  51. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    A Ray Bradbury memoir, regarding his childhood and inspirations:


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  52. Dexter said on June 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Jackie Gleason admitted to smoking six packs a day…I have known many people who smoked five packs a day, but only Jackie smoked six. 120 light-ups a day. jeezuss.
    One of my buddies from work had yellow-stained nicotine fingers, he was a five-pack-a-day guy.
    I smoked two packs in the time span from Monday to Friday, then a pack a day on the weekends. It was still such a hard thing to quit, with cravings lasting more than ten years. And yes, I still have strong desires for my tobacco pipe; Sir Walter Raleigh brand beckons me, well after I put my pipe away in 1986.
    The date I cherish is December 19, 1981, 9:30 PM, a Salem Light 100 I bummed from my wife, my last cigarette.

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  53. DellaDash said on June 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    “…an attempt to look like you’re doing something while actually pushing randomly at buttons on the control panel that you don’t really understand …”

    It’s my contention that the above Jeff(tmmo) quote is a fairly accurate description of all public policy legislation, conservative or liberal, once you’ve gone beyond local, or even tribal, government. You can analyze statistics, chart mathmatic fractals, or wage-war-to-end-war up the yinyang, and it’ll still be nothing more than a crap shoot. Doesn’t mean you don’t try lobbing longshots for the common good, if you’re in a position to do so…or, as David Simon said in his commencement address to the Georgetown U graduating class (see his blog ‘The Audacity of Despair’…don’t know how to do links), engage in a fight you already know you’ll lose.

    I got more than my daily quota of guffaws from Jon Stewart’s take on the the Bloomberg Big Gulp law. Ultimately, though, I don’t believe absurdity disqualifies it from being effective…if only to start a necessary conversation, as NN puts it; or to ‘stick a pin’, as my husband, a world-class ranconteur, used to say. The main beneficiaries of this conversation are surely children, who depend on adults to set boundaries…which they can then push and test (maybe with Big Gulp speak-easies)…but at least are on their radar.

    Ambient excess and obesity go hand-in-hand. Keeping up-to-date with all the possible contributing factors doesn’t make it any easier to tackle an eating disorder on a personal level, let alone a public one. As Dex pointed out about ‘set point’, I’ve been nurtured from babyhood to consume until my belly is full…clean my plate…help myself to seconds. I’ll continue to attempt, aspire to, and cultivate a French ‘stay hungry’ lifestyle whenever I’m centered enough to put in the extra effort…knowing full well by now that such concentration cannot be sustained indefinately, and that I’ll revert to ingrained behavior sooner or later. Thank goodness we walked two miles to grade school and back, even in Iowa winters…and were forced to explore a wide variety of activities in pys ed at an early age…because that also has always played a substantial role in providing internal lifelines.

    Ironically, I aggresively avoid most conversations about my own ongoing struggle with food (Weight Watchers *shudder*). It can only be excruciatingly tedious for someone else to hear about; and I strongly feel too much talking not only contributes to toxic self-indulgence, but dissipates the doing of whatever needs to get done. However, I couldn’t resist pursuing the following conversation with my current roommate:

    “Your rice always smells so good,”, she commented, while I was fluffing up an electric-cooker pot of brown jasmine rice that had indeed been perfuming the air with it’s nutty sweet aroma. “I’m too cheap,” she trilled, a familiar refrain by now.

    “But why save money on white rice, when you have a doctorate in nutrition?” I had to ask.

    After six months of hit-and-miss communication, she continues to confound me. I’ve always liked to consider myself open-minded and cosmopolitan, but throw me into a small apartment with a Chinese woman half my age, and I’m discovering retractable claws.

    “As long as I get my whole grains every day…,” she trailed off.

    Never quick on the uptake, I let it go at the moment. But it needled me, and fretted me, until a few days later. “You don’t really think white rice is a whole grain, do you?”

    Well, no, she really doesn’t. We then did have one of those rare conversations where we actually understood each other. I told her how they never liked it much when I brought brown rice in bulk down to Jamaica (my eventual compromise was basmati)…and how my grandma didn’t like the whole grain bread I baked (strictly white bread for her)…and how she, my roommate, could probably get away with her processed rice because she’s tiny, and runs; while I simply can’t afford to take in empty starch stripped of its nutrients. She responded that yes, perhaps she can get away with it now, but maybe sometime in the future her metabolism will change. So true…I can testify to how much resiliancy is lost with age.

    No big deal, but when I came into the kitchen last night while roomie and her boyfriend were out on the deck eating the meal she’d cooked, I took a peek into the rice cooker. Guess what? It made me smile.

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  54. Cara said on June 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Another factor we’ve not discussed is calorie usage. Back in the day we did not push a button to roll up the car windows, we turned a handle. If we needed a back window up or down, we parked and got out, opened the corresponding door, then physically turned the handle for that window, closed the door, opened the driver’s door, crawled back into the driver’s seat, then drove away.

    Televisions were not magically controlled by remotes; we got up and changed the channel. Every time. If we were kids fighting over the one TV available, we may have changed it five times in three minutes.

    Many of us helped to raise and preserve the food we ate, as well as prepare it and clean the kitchen afterward. That included sweeping the floor with a broom.

    Laundry was often hung on lines to dry, and ironed too. Today we pop our clothes into and out of our magic machines and hang them in our closets.

    Anybody raised in a one-car family knows how to walk to a nearby store and bring Mom back a can of baking powder.

    Our bikes didn’t have multiple gears, and one worked to feel the wind in our hair.

    Houses often had one bath room, and if it was upstairs, we romped through more calories a few times a day.

    We walked to band or sports practice, and walked home, without benefit of MickyDee’s, and most likely there were chores to do when one returned.

    I hear parents say, “I don’t want my kids to have to work as I did when I was a kid.” I understand, but some of us benefited greatly from our activity.

    Working off 500 calories a day in these little ways kept 50 lbs a year from hanging onto our sturdy bones.

    Along with portion size, additives, growth hormones and the habit of cleaning our plates, we’ve made ourselves a few challenges. We think differently about food, and sometimes have strange expectations of it. We eat to be thin, to be beautiful, to be strong, to enjoy time with friends.

    Julia Cameron,author of “The Artist’s Way” states that calories sneak in when we don’t pay attention to the word ‘HALT’, that we tend to overeat during times of being too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I think she is onto something there.

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  55. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    beb, you need to consult with my wife before you make sweeping statements like that. And in a very non-saintly manner, I want to say again (because I love the perspectives people have here), it’s too d4mn easy for me and my associates to say we wish we had more money for more services. Sure, and a pay raise would be nice (six years, nada), but that’s not my point.

    My question is: ideally, what would we do as referrals for these families? What should/would we have available for them? Because expanding the current set-up of sliding scale clinics with MA-Cs and LISW-LPCCs doesn’t actually cause me to think “oh ho, if we just had no waiting lists and more slots to fill immediately, then that kind of therapeutic intervention would change everything!” It ain’t feeling like it would.

    More staff in law enforcement, CS, and JFS being both able and willing to drop the worksheets and laptops and say “So, what’s going on?” would help, lots. Beyond that, I’m interested in inputs.

    Can you tell my 2 pm was a no-show?

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  56. 4dbirds said on June 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    When I was a kid, we never had snacks in the house. Coke/soda/pop was never in our house either. If I was starving and my mom couldn’t shut me up about it, she’d let me have an open-faced peanut butter sandwich. We also played outside and walked everywhere. My parents never drove us anywhere. If we couldn’t walk to it, we didn’t have any business going was their attitude.

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  57. Hattie said on June 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I think you have hit on something, Nancy. Everything has gotten bigger: houses, cars, people. This is the peasants’ vision of the good life and how rich people live. And god knows we Americans are peasants at heart.

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  58. Bitter Scribe said on June 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    “If we couldn’t walk to it, we didn’t have any business going was their attitude.”

    Not to judge your parents, but that seems a little harsh. For one thing, it would have precluded participation in most organized sports and other activities.

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  59. Bitter Scribe said on June 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Try working in the offices of trade publications that cover the food industry. We’re constantly bombarded by samples of this or that. It’s nice, but can require some major willpower to pass up. Right now, there’s a bag of absolutely delicious roasted almonds in my desk drawer…

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  60. alex said on June 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Jeff, you’re too modest. It takes real dedication to be a social worker. And it’s very easy for people who don’t see the dark underside of life up close and personal to either recommend throwing money at it, or to be dismissive of the poor as undeserving of help.

    There are no easy answers. The older generation says the military draft used to be the great equalizer in this country, lifting up the poor, humbling the rich, and teaching all a sense of shared responsibility. These days there’s enormous resistance to anything compulsory as an infringement on personal freedom. The belligerent people who extoll the Second Amendment would be amazed to learn that in our nation’s infancy, members of the so-called militia they fancy themselves a part of were the first to be conscripted. How many NRA members do you think would go for that?

    I think there’s probably something to be said for the idea of compulsory national service of some sort, not necessarily just being used as cannon fodder, but working in the other trenches, social work being one of them. It’ll never come to pass, any more than campaign finance reform, but it’s an idea certainly worthy of more consideration than it’s getting.

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  61. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    It’s well known that American health care costs, generally quantified as %age of GNP, dwarf costs in other countries, and are running away from them and hiding as time goes by. It seems obvious that American gluttony and obesity is a large contributing factor. More exceptionalism.

    Jeff (tmmo), Bob Dylan wrote a song about that:


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  62. Sue said on June 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    alex, linking your militia conscription comment to your compulsory national service comment brings me to a slow-day discussion topic suggestion here at NN.c – match the scary gun advocate to the national service job.
    We could start with Ted Nugent. I can’t think of anything he might be fit for and yet I’m already laughing at the idea.

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  63. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I think there’s probably something to be said for the idea of compulsory national service of some sort, not necessarily just being used as cannon fodder, but working in the other trenches, social work being one of them. It’ll never come to pass, any more than campaign finance reform, but it’s an idea certainly worthy of more consideration than it’s getting.

    Were Americans open to the idea that other countries might have figured some things out better than we have, health care particularly, but, assuredly, national service, too, we might all be better off. Unfortunately, raising such an idea subjects one to immediate labeling as unAmerican, appeasers and global apologizers for America, if not birth-faking Manchurian candidate socialist Mau Mau brown-skinned Presidents. From now on, every birther should be made to explain why RMoney should be allowed to run for President when, by his own admission, he used to break the law by impersonating a police officer and waylaying motorists (kidnapping), and why a career Medicare fraud criminal like Rick Scott should be allowed within infectious distance of voting rolls. I mean, these aholes are felons and people will vote for them.

    Ted Nugent should be sent into NYC sewers with bow and arrow, to track down and slaughter the giant albino gators Benny Profane didn’t get.

    Wonderful story about Boehner getting pantsed, repeatedly, while spending 3/4 of a $million the federal government doesn’t have on defending DOMA from common sense and the Constitution, as well as basic human dignity and common decency. In other words, Boehner and his GOPer cohorts are gay-bashing with federal cash. What a fracking tool.

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  64. Scout said on June 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I second Jeff’s nomination to sainthood. I feel really bad for the people he describes and wish more could be done. And then I read alex’s account of the beer guzzling smoker moms and wonder if I’d have the patience to care why they’d neglect small children like that. So yeah, Jeff, a big tip of the cap to you.

    After constantly talking about losing 10 pounds for years,I finally did it. I accidentally stumbled across the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone and decided to play with it. Next thing I knew I was entering everything I ate daily as well as logging exercise time. It was a huge shock to realize how much I used to mindlessly eat whatever, whenever. Now that I must account for what I eat I make better choices and have learned to limit portions. I not only lost the original 10 I wanted, I lost 14 lbs since January. My point in recounting this here is that we do need to have these conversations because it is way too easy to consume without thinking.

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  65. Jolene said on June 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Here’s a cheery thought: If we don’t kill ourselves off by overeating, we (or our offspring) will be around to experience the massive disruptions caused by climate change that, according to a new report, are increasingly likely. Worthwhile to spend two minutes listening to the linked video.

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  66. Sue said on June 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    “Hey, look at that, not only does your child have the power to break your heart, they also have the power to heal it”
    Today’s cool science, folks:

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  67. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to bedreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; andarmies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bring-ing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the dis-cretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealingout offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the meansof seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of thepeople. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced inthe inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud growing outof a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals en-gendered by both. No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.Those truths are well established. They are read in every page whichrecords the progression from a less arbitrary to a more arbitrary gov-ernment, or the transition from a popular government to an aristocracy or a monarchy.

    —James Madison, “Political Observations,” April 20, 1795

    quoted by R. Maddow at the beginning of her new book, Drift:


    Link for the Boehner and DOMA story:


    If there’s a nany state prohibition I find particularly stupid and galling, it’s marijuana laws (drug laws of any sort, actually, but pot, give me a break.). Fracking dumb as grunt. Legalize, administer, and tax like hell. That southren piedmont tobacco land would grow some great pot, American jails would be depopulated and jobs would be created.

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  68. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Scout — that was remarkable, reading your note having just read this last week:


    He’s clearly onto something. Now, if we can start applying this kind of approach to addiction . . . what will that Prentice guy in Malibu do? He’d have to get a job, or just call “Passages” a spa, which is what it is.

    Kind words, greatly appreciated, but I can’t tell you how many times a few hours after a mediation it hits me where I was assuming fault and blame, or how I was obtusely overlooking an obvious glitch in communication that we could have addressed. And it’s frightening how much I can tell in retrospect when my ability to calmly handle rude and and nastily unpleasant parents is tied to whether I’ve eaten intelligently, or slept well. This job has made me acutely aware of how important healthy habits are to professionalism and simple humanity. When I’m hungry, tired, or just hopped up on sugar and caffeine, I’m just enough less likely to manage the beast within, who wants to tell off a schmucktastic parent, to make the difference between getting through the schmuckitude to the real pain that’s motivating the attitude, or not.

    Darn it, we all should be telling Ray Bradbury stories. There’s a saint for our times: “I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”

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  69. beb said on June 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Jeff, I’m sure the Buddha’s wife (did he have one?) probably didn’t think he was all that. Anyone who can listen to all these people with their serious problems and not go crazy after a while is a saint in my book.

    I’ve some times wondered whether opening an branch of Social Services in inner city schools might be a help for failing students. I’ve heard that in many cases they have trouble focusing in their classwork because there is so much turmoil in their life. Maybe if the mother and child had some convenient place to go to they would seek help for their problems earlier. Of course it would cost money to create so many branch offices and money has always been the problem.

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  70. Jolene said on June 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    From my Twitter feed: An announcement re the Disney initiative to require that advertisers on its shows meet nutritional standards. This, it seems to me, is a big deal. If there’s more of this sort of thing, it’ll cause food companies to start making different stuff.

    Also want to draw your attention to some publications from my former employer. The “Research Brief” links take you to short, non-technocal reports written for policymakers. The last two are particularly relevant to the issue of what’s going on w/ our behavior and our environment that contributes to rising obesity.

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  71. Catherine said on June 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Beb, a friend of mine was a social worker in a local public middle school. Her position and the whole program was funded by grants. The idea was exactly as you say, intervene early and do so with the idea of improving their school experience. She did everything from holding group therapy to finding housing for the single mom + 8 kids who were living in a single motel room. It was a terrific program… of course the grants ran out and now the same school has one counselor per 400 students. Her stories of those kids made me cry I-can’t-tell-you-how-many times.

    Jeff, I think the reason I don’t ask often enough “What’s going on? Tell me about it,” is simply fear. What can of worms am I opening? Once I open it, how can I not feel that I have to help? How do I figure out how to help? Am I even able to help? And how am I going to manage my own response to the horrifying things that are probably happening in that family? Clearly, I do not have the courage to be social worker material…

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  72. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Illustration for today’s discussion.

    Today’s the birthday of the great Ojibwa novelist, Louise Erdrich. I think The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is one of the finest novels ever written by an American.

    Erdrich is also a gifted poet, IMO.

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  73. DellaDash said on June 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Erdrich is another favorite of mine as well, Pros. Haunting poem.

    Today is your day to get your props, Jeff(tmmo)…I’ll just add mine. I’m not easily impressed, nor a church-goer, and don’t like to be preached to. However, I’d plunk my ass down in a pew and take in a sermon if you were giving one within clunker driving distance. Nancy is the main draw here, but you are mos def a star NNside attraction. Just keep doing whatever it is you do to keep that wellspring of compassion bubbling. Big up…respect due.

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  74. Prospero said on June 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Another powerful poem by Louise Erdrich.

    Della, the poem reminds me of an excellent movie, Rabbit-Proof Fence.

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  75. DellaDash said on June 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Yes, powerful and excellent, Prospero.

    Oh yeah…congrats, Scout…well done!

    Am bookmarking some of those links, Jolene. Thanks.

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  76. 4dbirds said on June 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    It might have been harsh Scribe, but that’s how my folks rolled. I walked home from band practice, after all the buses had left lugging my encased french horn. I walked home from all my after school activities. I walked to and from movies, the swimming pool, my friends houses etc.

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  77. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Interesting parallel to the pot legalization conundrum: a friend of mine is working with the Oglala Lakota on the Pine Ridge Rez, which is a place where I know I would fear to ask “so, what’s going on?” They’re in the middle of a simultaneous tribal debate over the propiety of suing the bejeebers out of the beer companies which have actively aided and abetted marginally legal establishments ringing their reservation, which some elders think is unLakotan, and also contemplating ending (as they did in the 1960s, briefly) the complete official ban on booze & booze sales on tribal lands. The obvious arguments are a) if we sell it and tax it here, we’d have enough to then turn around and do more intervention & recovery programs, and b) people wouldn’t drive a hundred miles to get a case of Old Mil, drink half of it by the side of the Nebraska border, and then weave a hundred miles back, occasionally crumpling your vehicle and the lives of some people in oncoming traffic.

    But there are many elders who say alcohol should never be sold on tribal land. This is not a small factor. What the elders say, especially among the Plains nations, is weighty. The alcohol ban goes back not to Prohibition, but to the Ghost Dance, and the need to return to traditional ways to call on the White Buffalo to come and usher in a transformed age. The 1960s brief liberalization is seen as an imposition on The People by a tribal administration trying to curry favor while plundering the tribal accounts, which is not entirely inaccurate, so it’s not looked back at as a Golden Age (even though traffic deaths did plunge during that period).

    Prospero noting Louise Erdrich, and pot legalization, made me think this question might be of interest. She came here to Denison a couple of years ago, and promised to come back and see the local 2,000 year old earthworks (schedule didn’t permit that time). And I got my copy of “The Last Report…” signed by her, but I need her to return to sign “The Painted Drum,” too!

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  78. Deborah said on June 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I loved the Louise Erdich, “Last Report” novel. It’s truly the last novel that I’ve read that had me completely enthralled.

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  79. Crazycatlady said on June 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Just tonight Jon Stewart was saying Bloomberg was criminalizing large sugary sodas and De-criminalizing Marijuana. The fine for holding less than an ounce of weed is $100, the fine for serving a large soda to a customer is $200. One wonders if the weed would go good with the two Whoppers, extra large fries and huge diet coke. Mmmm, weed brownies sound good right now….

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