The attacks on Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama has done an excellent job in her role as the First Lady. Her efforts to curb obesity deserve nothing but praise. Being fat is terrible. The only thing worse is being proud of it – I’m looking at you, America.

Unfortunately, in its faux-libertarian, blatantly dishonest attacks, the right has been going after Obama. We have morons like Michele Bachmann who whine about efforts to make poor women aware of tax deductions they can claim in caring for their infants. Then we have the other side of the moron coin, Sarah Palin, claiming that it’s okay to eat, eat, eat all sorts of shit food – despite the heavy evidence that Americans are dying because of the crap they eat. (Do dead people have liberty?) And, of course, there’s Limbaugh. He attacked Obama for eating healthy by lying and claiming she was eating shitty food.

This almost all stems from Obama’s effort to push through a bill last year that decreased the number of hungry students while at the same time funding healthier food for public schools. Conservatives, more willing than ever to lie, keep saying over and over and over “I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot eat!” (Or maybe they’re just that fucking stupid. I don’t know.) The bill changed some government standards for food in public schools. If these people weren’t against the government giving kids shit food, then they shouldn’t be against the government giving them good food. The difference is in quality, not mandates or forced diets or any other nonsense.

What brings this on is the polemics of the argument. Limbaugh showed them perfectly: Michelle Obama had shitty food? SHE HATES YOUR FREEDOM AND IS JUST AN ELITIST!!1!! It’s annoying. We can’t have an honest discussion about this stuff. People who actually give a damn about health are over here saying, hey look, nutrition starts at birth. We need to make sure every child is as healthy as can be. And we also need to make sure we continue those good habits. That doesn’t mean being perfect or not having that big meal at Thanksgiving. It means keeping the salt down, cutting out the trans-fats, boosting the minerals and vitamins; it means exercising – go for a run or a walk, lift weights, play tennis. Every day? If you can, sure. But anyone who isn’t a polemic asshole knows that one doesn’t need to train like a star athlete to be healthy.

Take a look at this typical conservative response I got (via Facebook) about Limbaugh’s failed attack on Obama:

1) You’re right. Ribs are healthy.

2) “Individual splurges”? WAIT a minute! You just said it was healthy? Let’s take a poll: Ribs for dinner – healthy or unhealthy?

It’s this sort of polarization of which I am becoming increasingly intolerant. Anyone who bothered to follow the links from the Limbaugh story knows that Obama had a small serving of lean ribs with a series of healthy sides that most Americans would never touch; she went to that restaurant specifically because it was healthy. What’s more – and I’m sure I’ve lost the polemic audience at this point, what with my use of facts and junk – she was skiing. I personally make it a point to eat some fast food before I take the mountain. I want to give myself the most energy I can for the day because I know how quickly I’m going to burn it off – just because a food is generally not healthy does not mean it is always not healthy. Not that Obama ate unhealthy or had a fatty meal because she went skiing. She actually had a healthy meal. Limbaugh and every supporting conservative either just lied or was willfully ignorant.

That brings me to my next point: fast food. Yes, once in an absolute great while, I will indulge without the reason of some major activity. As shitty as the food is, I’ve never had a problem with admitting how great it tastes. I have it maybe once or twice a month. I’m sure I’ve also gone three or four months without it. And even if I wanted it twice a week, I could get away with it because of my metabolism and healthy activity. Does that make me a hypocrite? Does it make my pro-health arguments invalid? Does it mean Obama would disapprove? Nope, nope, nope. But despite that, I hear one conservative I know give me a shit every time he sees me with a fast food burger. I hate it. Not because it exposes some double-standard – I don’t have that in regards to health. I hate it because it’s an example of the sort of polemics that are more comfortable on conservative radio than in rational discussion. I wish we could banish these arguments wherever they rear their ugly little heads.

But don’t think my motivation here is personal. I’m seeing these pro-fat arguments being made all the time, not just by friends or on Facebook. Polemics are the annoying surface of the issue, but the real problem is that all these conservatives are promoting fatness. It is wrong to not try and be healthy. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be fat – though fat people tend to be the chubby face of the problem. It means people ought to make an honest effort to be healthy. That will vary from person to person. (It’s especially frustrating when the lying conservatives pretend like that isn’t true.) America faces a terrible problem right now: we’re getting fat and not enough people are angry about it.

Forcing one side to argue an extreme hurts a very noble cause. And despite the lying and unwillingness to engage in an honest dialogue, I think most conservatives also recognize that obesity is a serious problem. We need to tackle it. If we can get our arms around it. We need to take the politics out of all this, get rid of the asshole-ridden polemics. Michelle Obama is making a very good effort and everyone should be thanking her. We need to follow her lead. Fill our schools with healthy foods. Discourage kids from getting fast food. Make restaurants disclose what they’re feeding us. Encourage more activity. These are good things. Let’s not fight against them because of some unrelated ideology.

Two quick things:

First, I find it hilarious that conservatives are still whining about the child nutrition bill that was recently passed. Some jamoke filling in for the odious Glenn Beck said on the radio today that the bill takes control from the hands of parents, apparently countering a debate point that said otherwise. He’s wrong. The bill prevents kids from being able to buy as much crap at school. This empowers good parents who give their children lunch money for the purpose of buying substantial food, not snacks and soda. The only people who are having their control restricted are kids who want to buy junk. And if any crappy parents want to fill their kids with fat, they can buy it themselves. The government is not required to provide shitty food to children. Oh, and the bill also does all these other great things:

• The bill expands eligibility for lunch programs and sets nutrition standards for school meals.

• It is the first increase in school lunch funding since 1973.

• The act will allocate an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to school meal programs, boosting the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 percent. Maine would receive about $1.1 million annually.

• The number of children eligible for those school meals will increase.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture will use Medicaid data to certify students who meet income requirements, providing 115,000 new children with meals, and census data to determine schoolwide income eligibility.

• The act will allow program providers, such as day-care centers, at-risk after-school programs and emergency shelters, to be reimbursed for providing after-school meals.

• The act will allow the USDA to set nutrition standards for all school meals and require schools to make nutritional information readily available to parents.

Oh, the horror.

Second, it looks like the New START treaty with Russia is going to pass when it comes to a vote.

Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in a 67-28 proxy vote to wind up the debate and hold a final tally on Wednesday. They broke ranks with the Senate’s top two Republicans and were poised to give Obama a win on his top foreign policy priority.

“We know when we’ve been beaten,” Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah told reporters hours before the vote.

I’m just glad Obama doesn’t trust Russia as much as the Republicans do.

This one is really a no-brainer. In fact, as anyone who has bothered following this story knows, these treaties routinely get passed without much fuss; everyone recognizes that they are necessary and good. The only reason this one has become an issue is because Republicans either simply don’t want to give Obama any sort of victory or they want to wait until they hold power in the House and are stronger in the Senate so they can pass it and claim at least partial credit. It’s political pettiness run amok.

Republicans and being just a little fat

In my daily news trawl, I came across two articles listed right next to each other. Here’s the first:

House Republicans have temporarily blocked legislation to feed school meals to thousands more hungry children.

Republicans used a procedural maneuver Wednesday to try to amend the $4.5 billion bill, which would give more needy children the opportunity to eat free lunches at school and make those lunches healthier. First lady Michelle Obama has lobbied for the bill as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has also taken a swipe at the first lady’s campaign, bringing cookies to a speech at a Pennsylvania school last month and calling the campaign a “school cookie ban debate” and “nanny state run amok” on her Twitter feed.

It has been abundantly clear for a long, long time that Sarah Palin is intellectually inferior to most people. I really don’t see how this can even be debated. But it hasn’t always been clear that she’s also just a bad person. Now it is.

Now, if she was scientifically literate, maybe this second article would have an impact on her thinking:

The latest research involving about 1.5 million people concluded that healthy white adults who were overweight were 13 percent more likely to die during the time they were followed in the study than those whose weight is in an ideal range.

“Having a little extra meat on your bones — if that meat happens to be fat — is harmful, not beneficial,” said Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society, senior author of the study.

The study’s conclusions, published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, are similar to three other large studies, said the lead author, Amy Berrington of the National Cancer Institute.

“Now there’s really a very large body of evidence which supports the finding that being overweight is associated with a small increased risk of death,” Berrington said.

This is what I’m talking about when I say human beings are more important than the abstract ethical principle of liberty. Letting kids get fat is going to have real world consequences that no one wants. Human lives matter.

But kids do like cookies.