Archive | January, 2006

Don’t Super Size Me!

31 Jan

I may be a late arrival but last night I watched the documentary Super Size Me by New York filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. The film, as I’m sure you all know, follows Spurlock’s journey from lithe NY urbanite to fast-food junkie, as he consumes noting but McDonalds morning, noon, and indeed night, for a whole month.

Fat Ronald

Rather like singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who after a heroin-soaked few years got cleaned up before dying after a relapse, Spurlock enters his binge from a position of purity. In excellent health and living with the charming Alex, a vegan chef, Spurlock converts overnight to a burger-munching layabout – carefully limiting his level of exercise with a pedometer.

The results are both astonishing and unsettling, in only 21 days the effects of his ultra-high sugar and fat diet begin to seriously worry his team of doctors (assembled to monitor any effects on his health), and his General Practitioner requests that if he suffers any chest pains, he is to get himself admitted to an ER immediately. Statistical data collated prior to the experiment, and then periodically throughout, conveys a horrifying deterioration in Spurlock’s health. His cholesterol and blood sugar levels have become dangerously high and again the physicians are concerned, this time about possible long-term damage to his liver.

As an occasional procurer of the odd Big Mac, this was truly frightening. I probably visit McDonald’s around once a month (maybe not even that), so I am unlikely to be suffering any damage, but it has made me question allowing myself even this infrequent ‘sandwich’.

The natural question that the film poses it what we should do about the damage fast food is doing to the general health of society. Well as a libertarian I naturally rebuff any statist intervention beyond moderate health education, however we can ensure that our educational institutions are providing our sprogs with a nutritious diet. And we can also ensure that companies provide consumers (see parents) with clear and concise information about their products. After all every good capitalist understands that an informed consumer is vital to a successful market.

The film outlines the reality of the fast food industry, they profit from you gorging out on their cheap fodder. The high-salt content of their food ensures you consume large quantities of their soft drinks, which again loaded with sugar, offer serious profit margins compared to their sandwiches. As humans we tend to like what is bad for us; our brain triggers comfort when we consume sugar and fat (which is linked to our need for ample sustenance in pre-industrial society), and in this era of abundance and prosperity we can gorge ourselves into delirium for an inconsiderable sum.

But should we chastise companies that operate like any other in providing shareholders with returns on their investment. Well yes, we should condemn the million-dollar lobbying that ensures consumers are not protected by law or nutritional disclosure. We should condemn the deliberate targeting of impressionable minors, who are unable to make informed decisions on their diet. Products like the Happy Meal in particular charm children with toys, how can a healthy alternative possibly compare with a toy? I suppose the healthier restaurants should provide a plastic toy themselves – of course it will not be the latest Disney promotional character.

The power, as I always argue, is with the consumer. Spurlock has produced an excellent and informative documentary that highlights the insidious side to the Golden Arches. As consumers and parents we should take responsibility for what we, and our children, put in our body. Government should make certain we are informed; by ensuring consumers provide nutritional data, legible to everyone. But beyond that we should be accountable for our own consumption – I don’t advocate a Nanny State approach.

Kudos to Spurlock and Channel Four for producing and showing the film, and a huge raspberry to McDonalds for being such a nasty little enterprise.

Don’t Super Size Me!

31 Jan

I may be a late arrival but last night I watched the documentary Super Size Me by New York filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. The film, as I’m sure you all know, follows Spurlock’s journey from lithe NY urbanite to fast-food junkie, as he consumes noting but McDonalds morning, noon, and indeed night, for a whole month.

Fat Ronald

Rather like singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who after a heroin-soaked few years got cleaned up before dying after a relapse, Spurlock enters his binge from a position of purity. In excellent health and living with the charming Alex, a vegan chef, Spurlock converts overnight to a burger-munching layabout – carefully limiting his level of exercise with a pedometer.

The results are both astonishing and unsettling, in only 21 days the effects of his ultra-high sugar and fat diet begin to seriously worry his team of doctors (assembled to monitor any effects on his health), and his General Practitioner requests that if he suffers any chest pains, he is to get himself admitted to an ER immediately. Statistical data collated prior to the experiment, and then periodically throughout, conveys a horrifying deterioration in Spurlock’s health. His cholesterol and blood sugar levels have become dangerously high and again the physicians are concerned, this time about possible long-term damage to his liver.

As an occasional procurer of the odd Big Mac, this was truly frightening. I probably visit McDonald’s around once a month (maybe not even that), so I am unlikely to be suffering any damage, but it has made me question allowing myself even this infrequent ‘sandwich’.

The natural question that the film poses it what we should do about the damage fast food is doing to the general health of society. Well as a libertarian I naturally rebuff any statist intervention beyond moderate health education, however we can ensure that our educational institutions are providing our sprogs with a nutritious diet. And we can also ensure that companies provide consumers (see parents) with clear and concise information about their products. After all every good capitalist understands that an informed consumer is vital to a successful market.

The film outlines the reality of the fast food industry, they profit from you gorging out on their cheap fodder. The high-salt content of their food ensures you consume large quantities of their soft drinks, which again loaded with sugar, offer serious profit margins compared to their sandwiches. As humans we tend to like what is bad for us; our brain triggers comfort when we consume sugar and fat (which is linked to our need for ample sustenance in pre-industrial society), and in this era of abundance and prosperity we can gorge ourselves into delirium for an inconsiderable sum.

But should we chastise companies that operate like any other in providing shareholders with returns on their investment. Well yes, we should condemn the million-dollar lobbying that ensures consumers are not protected by law or nutritional disclosure. We should condemn the deliberate targeting of impressionable minors, who are unable to make informed decisions on their diet. Products like the Happy Meal in particular charm children with toys, how can a healthy alternative possibly compare with a toy? I suppose the healthier restaurants should provide a plastic toy themselves – of course it will not be the latest Disney promotional character.

The power, as I always argue, is with the consumer. Spurlock has produced an excellent and informative documentary that highlights the insidious side to the Golden Arches. As consumers and parents we should take responsibility for what we, and our children, put in our body. Government should make certain we are informed; by ensuring consumers provide nutritional data, legible to everyone. But beyond that we should be accountable for our own consumption – I don’t advocate a Nanny State approach.

Kudos to Spurlock and Channel Four for producing and showing the film, and a huge raspberry to McDonalds for being such a nasty little enterprise.

The IT Crowd

30 Jan

The 1st episode of the new sitcom from Father Ted creater Graham Linehan is available now to watch online here on the Channel Four website.

Enjoy!

Scott Adams on the Hamas election victory

30 Jan

There has been a great deal of rhetoric, both ideological and realist, since Hamas won the Palestinian Parliamentarian elections.  Some welcome the result, arguing Hamas will shake up the peace process, bringing Tel Aviv back to the table.  Other have condemned the result and labelled Hamas terrorists.

https://i1.wp.com/www.designboom.com/eng/interview/adams/8.jpg

My favourite assessment was a short post by cartoonist Scott Adams on his site DILBERT.BLOG.  Adam’s evades ideology and addresses the conundrum now facing Hamas as they wake up to the realities of power: –

You know the old joke about the dog that chases cars – “What would he do if he caught one?? I was reminded of that when I read that Hamas won an election victory. I imagine a room full of Hamas leaders looking at each other behind closed doors and saying, “Oh crap, we won.?

And I imagine the Israeli leaders sitting around behind closed doors and saying, “It just got a lot easier to find the people we want to kill.?

I have to think it will be difficult for Hamas to reconcile the whole “destroy Israel? platform with “We’ll all be at the Parliament building at noon talking about how to do it.?

I’m writing this on Thursday the 26th. I predict that Hamas will start softening their position by the time you read this. Or maybe they’ll wait a few weeks just to make it seem like they thought about it. But it’ll happen.

***

For another insightful commentary see The Skeptic الشكاك

On the Canadian election

30 Jan

From The Globe and Mail:

Conservatives win minority; Martin to step down as leader

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was headed to Parliament Hill as Canada’s next prime minister after capturing a fragile minority victory in Monday’s election, picking up votes in Quebec and making inroads in Ontario but failing to scale the heights early polls had predicted.

The Conservatives do not have a mandate in Canada, this will be Stephen Harper’s main goal and expect to see early elections in little over two years if he makes progress in cementing his authority.

I think this result is justified because of the shift in power westward towards Calgary, following the rising fuel prices. It’s ironic that Canada, who of course opposed military action in Iraq has been its main beneficiary – save for perhaps Tehran.

The Albertan oil sands are not a new discovery, but their economic viability has always been a problem with oil valued at less than $20-per-bl. Of course few industries are as resourceful and efficient as the petrochemical industry, and new techniques and economies of scale will drive down further the marginal cost of separating and refining the bitumen.

Canada is now second only to Saudi Arabia in the reserve stakes, and Northern Alberta will become one of the most important geo-political regions on earth.

One question this new Albertan affluence raises is the viability of a unified Canada. Long has the eastern French-speaking province of Quebec pondered dislocation from the rest of Canada, and the 1995 referendum on the subject was very tight, with the Quebecers eventually deciding to remain with Ottawa. Will a western conservative government alienate Quebecers – leading to a population increasingly disenfranchised with ‘Canada’, or will Canada’s newfound wealth ensure political stability? While Canadian Provinces have significant autonomy, will Albertans continue to allow ‘their’ wealth to be redistributed across the other regions?

What is clear is that Harper will have to sate both the Quebecers and Albertans if he hopes to maintain Canada’s current territorial integrity.

Republican staffers queer Wikipedia

29 Jan

https://i1.wp.com/prawfsblawg.blogs.com/photos/uncategorized/politicalparties1_2.jpg

I found this story via Slashdot; it conveys the level of politicised propaganda that is poisoning the online encyclopaedia WikipediaThe Lowell Sun has the story: –

WASHINGTON — The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the “world’s largest encyclopedia,” The Sun has learned.

The Meehan alterations on Wikipedia.com represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.

Matt Vogel, Meehan’s chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker.

Be evil; just don’t claim you’re not

29 Jan

gagged.jpg

I had always harboured a healthy suspicion of Google’s motto.  Don’t be evil is an admirable maxim, one that should be supported by admirable actions in support of its principle.

Google’s recent acquiescence to Beijing’s demands on censoring the content displayed by its worlds leading search engine (to users in China), has meant its name will be added to the list – including Yahoo and Microsoft – of neutered companies who have complied with the Communist leaderships demands.

Business is business, and China is a market that big players cannot ignore.  Google like all businesses must relent to the reality of reconciling shareholder value with its founder’s altruistic values. However this does not mean that Google should be beyond being called into account for the hypocrisy of portraying its corporate values as superior to its rivals.  Google has become no better than its competitors and should therefore drop its holier than thou axiom.

It is deeply reprehensible that freedom has yet again been sacrificed for profit – no surprise there – and corporate decisions have strengthened the hand of totalitarian regimes.  As consumers we should make our choices based on those businesses that adhere to our values, we should avoid brands and suppliers that change their operation to suit suppressive and malevolent dictatorships.