Sugary Drinks and Sodas are NOT An American Value

There’s a commercial out now that depicts a feisty American mom bemoaning the fact that “Washington” wants to tax fruit drinks and soda.

“They say it’s only pennies, but those pennies add up when you’re trying to feed a family,” says the mom, as she unloads bottles of soda from her car.

The 30-second spot is one of two in heavy rotation sponsored by Americans Against Food Taxes, a corporate food and beverage trade organization that opposes a proposed Senate Finance Committee plan to tax sugary sodas, juice drinks and flavored milks.

Proponents of the proposed 3 cent soda tax say it could generate $24 billion in four years to help pay for expanded health care insurance for Americans. The tax would not apply to diet soda or real juice.

With its angry faux-populism, the trade-group ad, along with another that scolds government for thinking about taxing Americans for “simple pleasures that we all enjoy, like juice drinks and soda,” fits right in with the angry chorus of people who say such a proposal is just more proof that the government is unfairly intruding into people’s private lives.

Let’s not lose the facts in all the shouting.

An overwhelming chorus of public health researchers agree that Americans’ increased consumption of sugary fruit drinks and sodas over the past 20 years has been the single largest driver of the debilitating epidemic of obesity currently affecting millions of us.

Obesity – and its related complications like diabetes and heart disease – is a public health issue – one that costs Americans billions of dollars every year in healthcare treatment and insurance claims.

Most notably, the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine, in the scholarly article “Ounces of Prevention – The Public Policy Case for Taxes on Sugared Beverages,” issued a clarion call for increased taxes.

The article, written by researchers Kelly D. Brownell and Thomas R. Frieden, lays out the devastating toll of increased soda consumption and presents compelling evidence that raising taxes on sodas will decrease consumption and cause people to seek healthier options.

Simply framing the soda tax debate as an issue of personal freedom and an increased food expense for families ignores the staggering cost that soda consumption has on our society – check out how New York Times economic columnist David Leonhardt breaks it down here.

So please, don’t be fooled by the faux-populism of those corporate-funded ads.

Sugary drinks and sodas are NOT an American value.

Note to Bingaman: Did you know Conrad is bat sh*t crazy?

Jeff, ye hardly knew him!

Seriously, Senator Bingaman. Did you know?  And if you did, why the hell didn’t you sit him down and explain it all to him?

I’m referring to the clueless one, your colleague, Senator Kent Conrad of South North Dakota.

For all those many weeks of that historic summer 2009, you labored behind closed doors alongside Conrad. As members of the very exclusive Baucus Gang of Six, you tried in vain to hammer out a “bipartisan” health care reform bill.

Two of the three Republican members of your group, Charles Grassley and Mike Enzi were only sticking around to kill reform. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

And let’s face it, Conrad, an early opponent of the public option (which you support), was always suspect. Grassley to Enzi to Conrad – to me that always sounded like a rally-killing double play turned by the visiting team.

Senator Bingaman, Sir… you are a man of tremendous forbearance.

And now this.

In Tuesday’s Finance Committee hearing, Conrad announced that he had finished reading a book over the weekend — T.R. Reid’s  Healing America – A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.

Conrad was inspired by his newly-found book learning –  so much so it prompted him to issue a stern lecture to progressive health care reformers, informing them of their ignorance about the ways of the world:

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A Surprising Position on Climate Change

owlIn the midst of an extended news cycle dominated by the health care debate, one player in the climate discussion has suddenly taken an unlikely and assertive view on climate change.

Yesterday, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG & E), one of the largest utility companies in California, left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce citing the Chamber’s “extreme position” on climate change as its reason for leaving.

Most utility companies do not tend to emphasize the impacts of climate change since their activities have been identified as one of the main sources of greenhouse emissions.  Not only that, but PG & E hasn’t been known as the most environmentally friendly company in the past (i.e. inspiration for the movie Erin Brockovich.

In fact, San Franciscans have seen fit to challenge PG & E’s claims of being eco-friendly, denouncing its practices as little more than greenwashing.

So you would only expect PG & E to fall right in line with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s extreme position on climate change. Instead, Pacific Gas and Electric elected to leave the Chamber. Now Nike has followed suit, releasing a statement expressing strong disagreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on climate change.

A utility company speaking out against big business in the defense of climate change — just when you didn’t think things get couldn’t any more bizarre in the political world, something like this happens.  But this is a strong indicator that some hard-nosed, profit-maximizing corporate heads really get it.  Preserving the earth is actually good for business.  Let’s hope the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can one day put aside its blind attachment to ideology  and see the light.

Not Your Typical Sob Story

This hilarious public service announcement parody from comedian Will Farrell’s Funny or Die project is more like an S.O.B story.

Watch as he and a panopoly of dramatic actors tearfully defend the people they think are the real victims in the health care debate!

“People are saying a lot of mean things about heath insurance companies and their executives….and it’s gotta stop.”

Check it out for a laugh.

Better Choices to meet New Mexico’s budget challenge

Better ChoicesThe global “Great Recession” that got rolling in 2008 has had a devastating impact on average Americans.  It also plunged the budgets of almost all of the states into an oceans of red ink. While most of these other states would envy New Mexico’s current fiscal situation, nonetheless our revenue losses have opened a yawning $400 million budget deficit.  Governor Richardson has announced he will call the legislature into an October special session to address this emergency.

With mounting job losses, disappointingly low high school graduation rates, and high rates of child poverty, it is essential to understand the problems facing New Mexico. The wrong policy choices at such a precarious time would put more stress on New Mexico families and would have major long-term consequences for our state’s future.

That’s where Better Choices New Mexico comes in.

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Do you take our public structures for granted?

Teabaggers say the darnedest things.

So when they weren’t protesting about  the evils of too much government at last week’s rally in DC, they were complaining to the Wall Street Journal that there wasn’t enough public mass transportation in DC.

Hold that thought.  Now take a look at this Albuquerque street scene.

CornellCentral3

A number of the public amenities are identified by arrows. (And there’s even more not IDed.  Under the street there are sewer and water lines. Oh, and the building on the left — that’s the University of New Mexico.)

With so much over the top rhetoric out there these days, it’s easy for us to overlook all of the publicly funded structures right there before our eyes, under our feet and over our heads — structures that are essential to our quality of life every minute of every day. They just blend into the background.

Ask yourself:  What would the situation be like at this busy intersection in Albuquerque if the publicly-funded structures in the picture disappeared? Poof gone.

(I almost forgot. That building on the right — it’s the good old Frontier, a hallowed university area institution.  By golly, I’m thankful for private enterprise too.  Thinking of a sweet roll right now! And onion rings. Glad there’s a road so I can get there. Which reminds me. Publicly funded restaurant inspections are a really good thing too.)

Conservatives, Are You Listening?

I know it’s a bit long, but please watch this clip of Tea Party movement leader Mark Williams on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” last night.

In it, Williams sticks to his standard Tea Party talking points quite well until Cooper brings up something Williams wrote recently on his blog.

Here’s the exchange:

COOPER: What you are saying makes sense to me here when I’m hearing what you say but then I read on your blog, you say, you call the President, an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, that’s the way he’s behaving.

Watch the clip to see Cooper’s reaction, and the reaction of presidential advisor (to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton) David Gergen.  And then, watch as Williams shovels himself in even deeper.

From the mouth of its leader, this is what the Tea Party movement stands for.

Conservatives, are you listening?

Lies of the Unhinged: Joe Wilson and the Perfect Match

AdultsAreTalkngIn the matter of Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during Wednesday night’s presidential address to Congress – Wilson is the liar, not President Obama. See the fact-checking, courtesy of PolitFact.org and Factcheck.org. (See also CNN).

Capturing the true essence of Wilson’s jaw-dropping eruption was Eileen at In the Pink:

South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, mistaking the House Chamber for an Obama Is Hitler town hall rally, screamed “YOU LIE” when Obama tried to dispel the rumor that illegal immigrants would be covered under the new plan. Wilson should’ve gotten his mother to write a note excusing him from attending the speech since it would be filled with socialist propaganda.

So was Wilson really mistaking a Joint Session of the United States Congress for a town hall shout down – or did he have some place else in mind?

How about the British House of Commons?

Credit Albuquerque Journal columnist and Tea Party organizer Jim Scarantino with this one. In his post on the blog/discussion forum he moderates for a crew of local libertarians and John Birchers (yeah, they’re back), Scarantino nominated Wilson for “folk hero” status and actually tried to justify his behavior, asserting that it would have been perfectly normal at Westminster.

Look how the British Prime minister gets treated during the PM’s Moment. “You lie!” shouted once is tame compared to what Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher have faced.

I think Jim is referring to the weekly “Prime Minister’s Questions” period.  Whatever. The trouble with the analogy is that it’s dead wrong.

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Uranium mining cleanup report derailed

Senator Vernon Asbill

Senator Vernon Asbill

Is contamination from past uranium mining good or bad for New Mexico?

Apparently, some members of the New Mexico State Legislature’s interim Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee aren’t so sure.

The committee held a hearing today at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to discuss the legacy of past uranium mining in New Mexico.

Members spent much of the day-long meeting hearing grim reports from local, state and federal officials about uranium mining in New Mexico and the deep and lasting contamination it has left behind in the water, air and soil.  Reports included recaps of the extensive efforts to measure and manage hundreds of contamination sites in New Mexico – and an accounting of many more than have yet to be remediated or reclaimed.

As part of the meeting, the committee heard recommendations from the legislature’s Uranium Policy Subcommittee, which, as co-chair Sen. Lynda Lovejoy (D-Crownpoint) noted, recently held a two-day hearing to gather the input of “all the stakeholders” in the uranium contamination issue, whether they be policymakers, mining companies, landowners or people who believe they’ve suffered from health concerns because of contamination.

The subcommittees’ recommendations, as listed in a report drafted by the Legislative Council Service, included such measures as enlisting Gov. Bill Richardson’s help during the next legislative session; enlisting the state’s congressional delegation’s help in asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to help free up federal money for uranium cleanup; ordering a National Academy of Sciences study for the reclamation of uranium mines and remediation of groundwater contamination caused by uranium mining and milling – all fairly innocuous and long-overdue measures to address an industry that’s been proven to be responsible for an enormous amount of contamination in New Mexico.

But the subcommittee’s recommendations were stopped in their tracks when subcommittee member Sen. Vernon Asbill (R-Carlsbad), said he didn’t remember the subcommittee reaching consensus on all of the recommendations.

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Van Jones: Still an inspiration to me (Updated)

VanJones (UPDATE – 9/10/09: Van Jones was viciously attacked because he believes America can be a better place for all people. To express your support for Van, sign the petition on the new website sponsored by the League of Young Voters.)

I got some news this weekend that came as somewhat of a surprise to me.  In fact I woke up to multiple texts early Sunday morning from friends notifying me that Van Jones, the special advisor for green jobs to our nation’s administration, had just stepped down from his position.

During the past year and a half, I have worked with the organization Green for All to help push for good, green jobs in our state of New Mexico.  Throughout this time I was able to meet Van a few times, and I even had the honor of introducing him in front of thousands of people on the opening night of the 2009 Powershift conference.

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