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February 27, 2007

wait, so what you’re saying is that “colossal” isn’t a synonym for “diet lite?”

If you are like most people, when you look at these two meals you probably think to yourself, “say, that one on the left sure looks like it might possibly pack a calorie or two more than the other one perhaps even by a significant amount.”

Colossal_burger

Garden_salad


But if you are with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), you think “whoa, did you say one of these is a burger? Really? They both look to be of equal nutritional value. And in the absence of mandated caloric information I surely cannot tell which one is the healthier choice.”

And that is why the CSPI thought it essential that they alert the media to the very real possibility that a hamburger made up of a pound of ground meat might just constitute a rather large meal.

This is made necessary says the CSPI only because restaurants refuse to provide nutritional information on their menus resulting in a situation where “their customers don’t have a clue that they might be getting a whole day’s worth of calories in a single dish.”

Yes, one could argue that there are two possible tools that consumers could use to make a rough determination:

  1. Their eyes.
  2. That Internet thing all the kids keep talking about.

But otherwise, you are completely on your own.

And why? Because these restaurants are “keeping you in the dark about what [their meals] contain,” according to Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI.

What nefarious methods do these restaurants use to keep you in the dark? According to the CSPI: 

  • Offering a burger of colossal size on the menu and then calling it a “Colossal Burger.”
  • Surreptitiously selling a venti-sized White Chocolate Mocha and a blueberry scone and then describing it simply as a venti-sized White Chocolate Mocha and a blueberry scone.
  • Listing bacon cheeseburger pizzas on their menu and then adding bacon, cheese, and burger to the pizza when you actually order it. 

To be clear, the CSPI merely wants nutritional information added to menus and smaller portion sizes. "I would never dream of telling someone what to order in a restaurant” says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the CSPI.

Tell kids what kind of milk to drink in school? Sure! Tell restaurants what oils to use in cooking? Absolutely! Tell meat processors how much fat they can legally allow in their ground meat? Why not? Tell museums which restaurants to allow? You bet!

But interfere with menu choice? Now you're just being paranoid.

The problem is that when Ruby Tuesday experimented with providing nutritional information on menus all they got were crying children and complaints from their customers who said they didn’t want to know. And reducing portion sizes drew worse complaints and falling sales.

Which means the only person demanding smaller portion sizes and that nutritional information be provided on Ruby Tuesday’s menu is vegetarian Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI.  

Why should the opinion of someone who is not a Ruby Tuesday customer be more important than the opinions of the millions of people who are?  

Because Michael Jacobson is much smarter than you. How do we know?

He and the CSPI are credited with much of the responsibility for the widespread use of trans fatty acids throughout the restaurant industry.

Well, okay, so maybe that one didn’t work out so great. 

Hey, no one is perfect.

J.

February 27, 2007 at 01:23 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

SORTATISTICS – 2/23/2007

Part of an occasional series in which we make up interesting-sounding statistics that either can’t possibly be verified or are completely meaningless. The innovation that we bring to this exercise compared to more traditional media outlets is that we admit up front that we make up the statistics and that they can’t possibly be verified or are completely meaningless:

If, for every time Barack Obama used the word “hope” in a speech, you were to type in the word “hope” and print out the results, you would have enough 8.5x11 sheets of paper to accidentally fill Sandy Berger’s pants.

If you were to apply the number of mistakes, flubs, and errors in judgment that Circuit Court Judge Larry Seidlin has made during the Anna Nicole Smith custody trial to the O.J. Simpson trial, not only would O.J. still have gotten off, but Fred Goldman would have ended up going to jail.

If every office worker in the country were to spend one less wasted minute in a staff meeting per week, that would, in total, provide enough time to give every office worker in the country one less wasted minute a week in a staff meeting.

The only substance known to man to have a higher street value per ounce than Britney Spears’ shaved hair is pure uncut Brangelina baby drool.

The Lambert Glacier in Antarctica is the largest valley glacier in the world, and if broken up into cubes could provide enough ice to keep Paula Abdul in vodka tonics for the next 42 million seasons of American Idol.

The amount of energy Congress spent expressing their nonbinding disapproval of the Iraq war could have powered Ed Begley Jr.’s Prius through 2008 with enough energy left over to run Dick Cheney’s pacemaker 25 years beyond his death (which was believed to have taken place in 1997).

If you were able to read one book an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even after 75 years you would still not have found any pressing need to read something by Jimmy Carter.

J.

February 23, 2007 at 12:05 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2007

great moments in political discourse – 2/22/07

An occasional series highlighting the inspiring rhetoric and soaring political oratory that so marks these modern times.

In a moment clearly reminiscent of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in that they both used words, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged in a thoughtful and spirited exchange of ideas with David Geffen regarding the nature of objective truth and the important role personal bonds play in shaping public policy.

By way of background, Hillary and David used to be best friends until Hillary’s husband, Bill, said he didn’t want to be best friends with David’s best friend, Leonard, so David gave Bill and Hillary the cold shoulder.

But then when Hillary started getting all high and mighty anyway, David went and became best friends with Obama and then called Hillary a lying liar right in front of everyone!

So Hillary got mad and said Obama shouldn’t be best friends with David because he was being a meanie but Obama said that he wasn’t the one who said anything so why should he get in trouble and anyway if Hillary could be best friends with Harold then he could be best friends with David.

In other news, Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi engaged in an intellectual give-and-take over national security policy and the role of the legislative branch in foreign affairs but when Dick said mean things about her and her best friend Jack, Nancy got mad and said she was going to tell on Dick to George and boy was he going to be in trouble.

Elsewhere, political experts expressed puzzlement over the nation’s ongoing detachment from politics and its seeming displaced enthusiasm for the Anna Nicole Smith custody battle…

J.

February 22, 2007 at 09:09 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2007

the name will be changed to protect our innocence

The Museum of the Confederacy located in Richmond, Virginia, holds a vast array of artifacts from the Confederacy including Confederate uniforms, Confederate firearms and Confederate flags.

That is why the name must be changed from the “Museum of the Confederacy.”

Sure, you could argue that it is in fact a museum. 

And about the Confederacy. 

But that is where the similarities end.

According to a panel of museum experts assembled by the Board of Trustees, “The term ‘Confederacy’ increasingly congers up in the public mind images of slavery.” 

This is partly due to the fact that it is accurate. 

But regardless it is long past time that we put the “civil” back in Civil War.

Of course the Museum of the Confederacy provides a unique opportunity for generations of Americans to examine the extensive collection firsthand and carefully consider this tragic chapter of our nation’s history and the many ways it still resonates throughout our society, but let’s just say that isn’t doing anything for gift shop sales.

So the search is on for a name that does not possess the “enormous, intransigent and negative intellectual baggage,” that the word “Confederacy” carries regardless of how unfortunately descriptive it may be. What we need is something more neutral, something inoffensive that will cause only the barest minimum of interest and inquiry. 

Our guesses as to the possible new names for The Museum of the Confederacy:” 

The Museum of That Group of States That Seceded From The Union The Name of Which Escapes Me at the Moment

The Museum of Just Plain Old Friendly Country Folk Why Don’t Y’all Come on in and Set Awhile.

“Bob”

The Museum of Old Things, Nothing to See Here Really, Move Along

The Museum of We Have a Moon Bounce Out Back For The Kids 

This could very well be the start of a trend as museums across the nation try to brighten up their appeal by dispensing with the traditional drudgery of history:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: “Holocaust” carries enormous intransigent and negative intellectual baggage.
New: The Sgt. Schultz Museum of I Zee Nothink!

American Museum of Natural HistoryBadly in need of a freshening.
New: American Museum of Natural, Organic and Macrobiotic History (Now With 0% Trans Fats!)

National Museum of American History: Too America-Centric
New: National Museum of The Rich Tapestry of World Culture

The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum: Boring.
New: The Jimmy Carter Jews Out of Palestine and End the Occupation Now Museum

National Museum of the American Indian: Insufficiently penitent and will not bring in the younger crowd.
New: National Museum of Oppressed Indigenous People Hotel and Casino

J.

February 20, 2007 at 10:07 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 16, 2007

friday news bites

The Consequences of Crime

What’s the penalty for getting caught accepting a $100,000 bribe in an FBI corruption sting?

Serving Five to Ten.

In the United States House of Representatives on the Homeland Security Committee.

At least it’s a maximum security facility.


One Could Argue That The Germans Are a Special Case

A German court sentenced Ernst Zundel to five years in prison this week for engaging in Holocaust denial.

Canadian Jewish Human Rights group “Bnai Brith” praised the decision but decried the lack of similar laws in Canada which, like the United States, allows people to say what they want whether or not those statements have been officially approved of by the government.

Surely we can find a way on this side of the Atlantic to outlaw forms of political speech we find unpopular particularly since there are no possible downsides.


The Camera Lied, Mars Fried

Recent photographs from a NASA Mars probe are providing what some are saying is convincing evidence that water once flowed on the red planet.

Democrats questioned the reliability of the evidence pointing to the Bush administration’s damaged credibility over flawed pre-war intelligence and the lack of WMD’s in Iraq. And something about Hurricane Katrina. Also, Halliburton and the minimum wage.


Everything You Think You Know is Wrong

In a discovery sure to turn the world of prehistoric seasoning research on its head, scientists have discovered evidence of human chili pepper consumption dating back 6100 years.

White House science advisers believed the finding to be particularly significant with one aide noting how surprising it was to his colleagues to learn that mankind was cultivating the fiery pepper only a few hundred years after the creation of the universe and everything in it. 


But They Still Support The Troops

The King of Nepal was stoned by protesters today while traveling in his motorcade to a Hindu festival in Kathmandu.

Protestors were quick to point out that the stoning was non-binding and merely meant as a symbolic expression of their disapproval.

Sounds Like Powerful Seafood Industry Interests And Their Shills at the National Institutes of Health are at it Again

A surprising new study found that the consumption of larger amounts of seafood by pregnant women was broadly beneficial to their offspring despite years of scientific consensus and widespread, nearly unanimous agreement among nutritional experts that the consumption of seafood be limited due to fears that accumulations of trace amounts of mercury were hazardous.

At press time no one from the Food Channel had yet called for the American Medical Association to pull the license from any of these “Mercury Deniers.”

J.

February 16, 2007 at 11:46 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2007

consensus watch - 2/15/2007

An occasional series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, man-made, and must be addressed immediately if we are to forestall cataclysm. After all, without consensus, science is merely an ongoing journey of exploration and discovery.

The most recent attack on The Consensus comes from scientist Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center, whose experiments demonstrating the dramatic role that cosmic radiation plays in cloud formation and therefore global warming is documented in a book being published this week titled “The Chilling Stars.”

While his theory does much to explain the many environmental anomalies being observed such as the leveling off of atmospheric temperatures in recent years and the growing ice sheet in Antarctica, his credibility is in serious question on two counts: 

1)  “Svensmark” is much more difficult to pronounce than “Gore.”

2) There exists a clear conflict of interest tainting his research:
Gazole

An insidious attack percolating from within also bears watching. Scientists who have long been in broad agreement with The Consensus have started voicing opinions that deviate from the preferred 100% conformity so important to the ongoing vitality of The Consensus. For instance, Mike Hulme, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research refuses to engage in the necessary apocalyptic enthusiasm required to get citizens to break down and buy a Prius, saying, “I have found myself increasingly chastised by climate change campaigners when my public statements and lectures on climate change have not satisfied their thirst for environmental drama and exaggerated rhetoric.” 

These are not the words of The Consensus. That is why it gives us great sadness to report that he, too, appears to be in the pocket of the petroleum industry: 

Oil_company_shill

While these developments are disturbing, there are several programs in place to ensure the continuing inviolability of The Consensus.

First, is the ongoing successful implementation of programs designed to suppress Consensus-defying voices. From ridicule, to title stripping, to accusations of bias, those who challenge The Consensus are being driven to the sidelines. This is an important process since the only way to truly get consensus is to eliminate those who don’t consent.

Second, is the clever use of temporary warm snaps to create media discussions of global warming, thus subtly linking (all the while insisting that you are not) decades-long climate trends directly to people’s everyday lives. It is important, however, to keep in mind that cold snaps must not be allowed similar exposure that could raise questions about The Consensus. 

Va_daffodil_jan For example, this January picture taken of daffodils blooming in northern Virginia is perfectly suitable to launch a lengthy discussion about global warming and its dire consequences. 

Va_daffodil_feb1 This February picture of daffodils struggling up through inches of snow and ice taken in the same neighborhood is not.

Maintaining The Consensus is hard work, particularly considering the surprisingly high number of biased, extremist, out-of-the-mainstream scientists all of whom are in the pocket of the oil companies there are out there.

But with your help, we can do it. Should you come across one these numerously rare assaults on The Consensus, forward it to us at the email at the top of this page.

Because if you don't, we're all doomed.

J.

February 15, 2007 at 04:25 PM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

valentine’s day messages for the politically inclined

Moderate Republican: 

Our states are red
Theirs are all blue
Abortion is murder
But what can you do?


Moderate Democrat:
 

The war is illegal
That is our finding
That’s why we need resolutions
That are not at all binding


Extreme Right Wing Republican:

Pelosi’s a red
Reid is one too
I do like that Lieberman
But I hear he’s a Jew


Extreme Left Wing Democrat:

We must stand as one
No matter our views
Except for that Lieberman
I hear he’s a Jew


Amanda Marcotte:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
This holiday is a patriarchal construct meant to sustain a corrupt male-dominated culture which at its center is built upon the subjugation of women.


Planet Moron Readers
 

Campari is red
Curacao, blue
Add enough gin
And you’ll feel as we do

Happy Valentine’s Day!

J.

February 14, 2007 at 04:02 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

isn’t progress great? it creates all kinds of new and exciting things to make illegal

The GOP had some difficulty at first coming to terms with its November losses but after some deep soul searching, many party members believe they have found a wedge issue that if seized upon quickly could help them retake Congress:

An insufficient amount of government surveillance.

You hear it every day, from city streets to small-town coffee shops: “Can you believe that the federal government has almost no requirements for Internet Service Providers to record and monitor my web activity? Seriously, none at all.”

And so as a key element of the GOP’s “law and order agenda,” legislation is being introduced that would provide the Attorney General broad discretion to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to preserve records of their customers’ online activity, from the web sites they visit, to their emails and possibly to their instant message conversations and chat room sessions. Even better, this data would be available under subpoena in civil cases which sure would add some spice to what would otherwise be boring and routine divorce proceedings.

Given that current Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is of the belief that the Internet exists primarily for the pursuit of criminal activity (as opposed to its original purpose of making available a vast array of downloadable Xena wallpapers, providing hours of entertainment Googling yourself, and creating opportunities for people who, but for the Internet, would be quietly working in vegan cooperatives fashioning politically themed macramé  pot holders and ranting to the cats instead of pursuing an exciting career in torpedoing any chance of working on a presidential campaign) it is expected he will want to use this power extensively in order to address what he called the “failure” of Internet Service Providers to voluntarily spy on their customers.

Presidential candidate John McCain is championing another element of the law and order agenda by proposing that ISPs (under criminal penalty) be required to report any illegal images of cartoon minors their users might transmit.  

Finally, there is a champion who will speak for those victims who cannot speak for themselves. Because they don’t exist.

Of course it is notoriously difficult to accurately determine the age of cartoon characters particularly considering how easy it is for even a run-of-the-mill commercial illustrator to forge an animated ID. But regardless this initiative marks an important move on the part of the GOP which is clearly no longer satisfied merely protecting the unborn, but now feels compelled to protect the not born as well.

Naturally, Democrats are not going to cede the law-and-order issue to the GOP without a fight and so are busy crafting their own agenda. New York State Sen. Carl Krueger for instance plans to introduce legislation that would ban the use of iPods while crossing city streets.

As an aside, while it is commonly believed that Steve Jobs invented earphones, many of us were using similar devices twenty years ago. They were crude, yes, but did the job by either picking up radio (the kind you don’t have to subscribe to) or playing music from a storage medium known as the “cassette” in which music was deposited on thin ribbons of tape using a process long lost to time but believed to have involved elves.

Senator Krueger believes such devices are a distraction. To the contrary, we used to use these devices to specifically block out the many distractions of New York City life, including random swarms of gum-snapping receptionists, ongoing conversations as to the subtle nuances of why the Mets suck, and the crazy guy on the corner preaching about our impending doom (no doubt now gainfully employed writing about global warming).

The Senator’s bill includes not only iPod-like music  players but cell phones and Blackberry devices as well. With cell phone bans in place in cars, hospitals, movie theaters and now city streets the only place you will soon be able to make a call or check your email will be sitting at home.

Next to your phone.

By the computer.

Senator Krueger was motivated to introduce this legislation after a city resident was hit by a bus while using an iPod. In fact, this may be part of a disturbing trend in dire need of legislation as last year a 79-year-old woman was also killed by a bus and while her iPod use was not noted in the accident report, she was almost certainly getting down to the sick beats of Jay-Z.

What other reason could there have been?

J.

February 13, 2007 at 02:33 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

everyone is entitled to his opinion as long as it’s positive

Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s comments opposing Barack Obama’s call for a mandatory withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by March of next year caused quite a stir at Obama campaign headquarters.

“We, we just didn’t know what to make of it,” said one young campaign volunteer. “It was almost as if he didn’t agree with Senator Obama’s position. How weird is that?”

Having little experience with criticism of any kind, workers for Barack Obama were understandably confused at the unfamiliar tone and substance of the Prime Minister’s remarks.

“When we first heard the Prime Minister of Australia had made some comments about the Senator we were thrilled,” observed a senior campaign official. “We were curious whether he was congratulating the Senator on his entry into the race, noting that Senator Obama is a fresh face , or maybe just making some mention of his star power. When we were told that he was against the Senator’s position in Iraq, it was a real shock. I mean, that just came out of nowhere.”

“It’s as if the man never saw the easy grace with which he walks.”

“Fortunately, we were able to get some counselors down here,” the clearly shaken Obama enthusiast continued. “They helped us work through the stages. First denial (I can’t tell you how many times I told my folks to double-check the quotes), then anger, and so on. I know I feel better now that I’ve learned to accept that it happened and just move on.”

“But I can tell you I sure don’t want to have to go through that again any time soon.”

Despite the initial shock, Barack Obama was able to quickly regain his balance when he realized that he had never given the Prime Minister permission to criticize him. However, in a magnanimous gesture, the Senator said that he might agree to allow some criticism in the future but only on the condition that Australia sends another 20,000 troops to Iraq. Otherwise, it’s all just “empty rhetoric.”

Other Democrats were also quick to weigh in with Hillary Clinton advisor Terry McAuliffe laying out a detailed three-point defense of Senator Obama: 

  1. The Prime Minister has been a great friend of George Bush's. 
  2. He has been with him lock-step from day one on this war in Iraq.
  3. We don't care what he says.

And Senator Ron Wyden used a combination of careful logic and timeless eloquence in pointing out that the Prime Minister’s comments were “bizarre.”

Word out late last night had Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer defending Howard’s remarks and further describing Barack Obama’s position on Iraq as “fundamentally evil.”

Hopefully they have a crash cart and medical team on emergency standby at Obama Headquarters.

J.

February 12, 2007 at 01:24 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

they’re just getting warmed up, even if the planet isn’t

The conclusions reached in the latest report on global warming from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are truly alarming. Among the findings are:

  • Sea level increases will be far less than expected.
  • Atmospheric temperatures have been holding steady since 2001.
  • Ocean temperatures have been falling.
  • Methane levels are decreasing.
  • The frequency of hurricanes and typhoons will stay the same. 

“What?!” you are probably saying to yourself, “I just bought a freaking Prius.”

Not to worry. While clearly disturbing, these are facts you will only encounter if you recklessly choose to read the actual leaked scientific research behind the report rather than the far more apocalyptic summary carefully prepared by expert United Nations bureaucrats.  

“But what if word leaks out that we aren’t all doomed?” you ask, “Did I mention I just bought a freaking Prius? It’s like driving a hair dryer.”

UN officials have already anticipated just such a possibility. That is why they issued the conclusions FIRST, with the actual science to follow later. And because there still exists a slight chance that some non-alarmist information might accidentally slip through, the IPCC has put in place procedures to “ensure consistency” by mandating that all scientific conclusions agree with the “Summary for Policymakers” already released.  

But despite the tireless efforts of UN policymakers to ensure everyone keeps his story straight it appears that there remains a great deal of confusion about global warming. To help address this problem, we have put together this handy list of  Frequently Asked Questions:

Global Warming FAQ: 

Q: What is global warming?
A: It is the man-made catastrophe that 100% for-sure requires immediate government intervention in every aspect of your personal life.

Q: Is there a consensus among scientists on this?
A: Absolutely. The Debate is over. 

Q: What about all the scientists who disagree?
A: There aren’t any.

Q: What about this guy? And this guy? And this guy? And all these guys?…
A: Oh, those. They’re all shills for the oil companies. 

Q: But that still doesn’t mean there is a consensus.
A: We’re not even sure they’re human. They’ve been seen feasting on the blood of their own young, you know.

Q: But isn’t there plenty of research that calls into question global warming, its origins, and likely solutions if any?
A: Here’s a picture of some snow melting.

Q: What?
A: And here’s a picture of Al Gore with his shirt sleeves rolled up.

Q: I don’t understand.
A: Here’s a picture of him five years earlier. HE’S WEARING A JACKET!

Q: Now wait just one minute…
A: If you don’t believe us we’ll strip you of your credentials!

Q: My what?
A: We’ll fire you!

Q: You can’t fire…
A: We’ll throw you in jail!

Q: You’ll what?
A: Just shut up and believe. 

Q: I don’t think that’s…
A: You’re one of them, aren’t you? 

Q: One of who? No, I…
A: Denier! 

Q: What?
A: Blasphemer! 

Q: I’m not blaspheming any…
A: You work for the oil companies don’t you? 

Q: I work at Best Buy.
A: Liar! Blasphemer!

Q: That’s it. I’m going to contact the media about this.
A:
Good luck with that.

J.

February 10, 2007 at 12:04 AM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack