At times NobodyisFlyingthePlane will be a diatribe about the current state of affairs in the US and the world at large, at other times it will be an evidentiary discussion of the problem, and most of the time it will just be a collection of links I wanted to share.
“What we need,” Freudenberg said to me, “is to return to the public sector the right to set health policy and to limit corporations’ freedom to profit at the expense of public health.”
Bittman contributes to the ongoing discussion here at NobodyisFlyingthePlane about how certain industries deflect public discourse from what is best for our citizens to what makes the most profit, no matter the consequences.
The author he quotes poses a series of questions which get at the heart of the matter.
“Shouldn’t science and technology be used to improve human well-being, not to advance business goals that harm health?”
Similarly, we need to be asking not “Do junk food companies have the right to market to children?” but “Do children have the right to a healthy diet?”
Essentially its a PR game. Do we let whole industries spin how the conversation is framed or do we let the notion of the greater good underpin the conversations we have about our own well being?
Redefining the argument may help us find strategies that can actually bring about change. The turning point in the tobacco wars was when the question changed from the industry’s — “Do people have the right to smoke?” — to that of public health: “Do people have the right to breathe clean air?” Note that both questions are legitimate, but if you address the first (to which the answer is of course “yes”) without asking the second (to which the answer is of course also “yes”) you miss an opportunity to convert the answer from one that leads to greater industry profits to one that has literally cut smoking rates in half.
it’s become increasingly clear that food companies engineer hyperprocessed foods in ways precisely geared to most appeal to our tastes. This technologically advanced engineering is done, of course, with the goal of maximizing profits, regardless of the effects of the resulting foods on consumer health, natural resources, the environment or anything else.
Freudenberg details how six industries — food and beverage, tobacco, alcohol, firearms, pharmaceutical and automotive — use pretty much the same playbook to defend the sales of health-threatening products. This playbook, largely developed by the tobacco industry, disregards human health and poses greater threats to our existence than any communicable disease you can name.
All of these industries work hard to defend our “right” — to smoke, feed our children junk, carry handguns and so on — as matters of choice, freedom and responsibility. Their unified line is that anything that restricts those “rights” is un-American.
says Freudenberg: “The right to be healthy trumps the right of corporations to promote choices that lead to premature death and preventable illnesses. Protecting public health is a fundamental government responsibility; a decent society should not allow food companies to convince children to buy food that’s bad for them or to encourage a lifetime of unhealthy eating.”
NYTimes: Rethinking Our ‘Rights’ to Dangerous Behaviors
Friedman’s modern assessment of our foreign policy.
The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins.
But there is also now a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions like: Who are we? What are our boundaries? Who owns which olive tree? These countries include Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and other hot spots.
the states that are more focused on building prosperity are trying to avoid getting too involved in the world of disorder. Though ready to help mitigate humanitarian tragedies there, they know that when you “win” one of these countries in today’s geopolitical game, all you win is a bill.
In the Cold War, policy-making was straightforward. We had “containment.” It told us what to do and at almost any price. Today, Obama’s critics say he must do “something” about Syria. I get it. Chaos there can come around to bite us. If there is a policy that would fix Syria, or even just stop the killing there, in a way that was self-sustaining, at a cost we could tolerate and not detract from all the things we need to do at home to secure our own future, I’m for it.
But we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.
NYTimes: Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.
Rather than waiting for Big Data to regulate itself, or for the government to catch up, the author points out that many of us will begin to buy back our privacy little pieces at a time with various existing and yet to be developed technologies. The staff here has been waiting patiently for many such services. First on the list is a Mozilla or Ubuntu phone. Little else will be effective when the technology underlying our chief communications devices are developed for the express purpose of gathering and reselling data.
Not long ago, we would have bought services as important to us as mail and news. Now, however, we get all those services for free — and we pay with our personal data, which is spliced and diced and bought and sold.
Those who aren’t bothered by that exchange should keep in mind that our data is used not just for advertisements. It has also been used to charge people different prices based on their personal information. It has been used to provide different search results to different people based on their political interests. It has been used by the government to identify possible criminal and terrorist suspects.
The food industry can offer some possible answers to those questions. Our government enforces baseline standards for the safety of all food and has strict production and labeling requirements for organic food. It may be time to start doing the same for our data.
NYTimes: Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?
This is a huge victory no matter how you look at it. The food industry has done everything it can to make food less healthy, sweeter, fatter, and more addictive.
Obviously this isnt going to solve obesity and food related health problems. It will help though. Even if most people dont pay attention it will cause the industry to change things in an effort to appearing unhealthy on the packaging.
The food we consume today is not the same as it was 30, 50, and nothing like it was 100 years ago. But we often act as though Americans have always ate the same things and that its not the fault of the food. But it is the food. The food is different. We eat different types of food, more of everything, and many things we eat are not made from the same ingredients they were 30 years ago.
Its time to hold Big Ag and the food industry responsible for what they are filling our slop troughs with.
NYTimes: New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings
This article touches on things the staff has long thought about the changed nature of marriage in our time. People aren’t any better at deciding what makes a good partner. We’re just less dependent upon being married for success socially or economically. That freedom breaks up tons of marriages that in past times woild have stuck together either because farm work demanded it or the fact that most women had trouble supporting themselves outside of marriages.
The author equates three different eras of marriage in the US with a rise up Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Some marriages will be much better off, but many more will fail because they weren’t based on a good match based on the ideal of the current era.
Its interesting to wonder what would be the next era of marriage. Would be one in which many people marry multiple times based on their needs at that time in their life, moving on to subsequent marriages as their needs change or change level within Maslow’s heirarchy.
NYTimes: The All-or-Nothing Marriage
A good chart showing US military spending outpacing the next 10 biggest spenders combined, followed by an infographic showing why we needn’t worry about cutting military spending.
The military is a special interest just like all the rest. They want their dollars just the same and so do all the businesses dependent upon the uncontrolled river of DOD cash.
A great look at what Big Data has determined about hiring talent. There is a lot more to success than name schools and high GPA’s.
It goes without saying, of course, that the staff here at NobodyisFlyingthePlane have been vetted for similar qualities. This article mererly reinforces our self sense of superiority.
NYTimes: How to Get a Job at Google