Monday, November 01, 2010

Farley From the Truth

In Saturday's NY Post, the paper follows up on our attack on the Big Lie technique of NYC Health Commissioner Tom Farley-someone who believes that saving everyone from the scourge of obesity means that you can simply lie threw your teeth: "The city Department of Health shot a gross-out viral video last year showing a man drinking a glass of fat. The video's shock claim: Slurping a can of soda every day can make you "10 pounds fatter a year." It was bold, it was sickening -- and it was all a lie, according to internal e-mails made public Thursday."

We can't wait to see if Morticia weighs in on this scandal-because if anyone deserves the Daily News' prized Knucklehead Award it is Tall Tale Tom: "So the Health Department's claim is simply untrue. But that didn't stop Health Commissioner Thomas Farley from overruling the chorus of objectors: He approved the ad anyway. "I understand that there is inter-individual variation and the experts' caution. But I think what people fear is getting fat," Farley wrote. Translation: The science is against us, so we'll scare New Yorkers with lies."

We're wondering, if this news reaches the mayor in Bermuda, will he act on it? Will Mike Bloomberg take a stand against a blatant attempt to mislead the public? After all, as small business and restaurant advocate Rob Bookman informed us: "sounds like the Dept of Consumer Affairs needs to issue a deceptive advertising violation to the DOH, something it does hundreds of times a year to businesses."

But folks, this is serious business-and self righteousness is not an excuse for covering up the facts, or corrupting science. Just ask the climategate scholars: "Farley's claim to credibility -- to legitimacy -- is that he is a scientist, a man whose principal allegiance is to the truth. But it turns out that he is just another administration propagandist of the sort Mayor Bloomberg hires by the boatload. Politicized science is used to justify wrongheaded public policy all the time -- usually because the real thing undercuts the outcomes politicians are seeking. But when the truth emerges, as it usually does, the result is a heavy blow to the public's confidence in all science. Who knows what to think about man-made global warming after the ClimateGate e-mail scandal?"

Can you hear us now Mike? And what this means to us is that a big fat red stop light needs to be placed right in front of the Farley/Bloomberg food stamp experiment-a blatant attempt to meddle in the lives of poor people that, while it certainly doesn't rise to the level of other more scandalous examples of such intrusion, it does come out of the same, poor people of color as guinea pigs, impulse. But, once the scientific underpinning all of this is exposed, any excuse for the so-called pilot program (like the bike lanes?) is rendered bogus.

Healthy eating is important-and equally important is the methods government employs to help educate its citizens. One of the responders to the original NY Times story on this scandal understands the import of what Farley is trying to do-and the danger in his approach: "The politicization of nutrition and health thanks to Bloomberg and his puppet health commissioner. If you're going to take on and educate the public over serious health issues then do it honestly, don't use reprehensible methods. We had enough of that with Bush and Karl Rove."

But education is hard; it's much easier to dictate. The danger, however, is the limited knowledge of the dictators themselves-and their reckless use of these half truths to gain even more control over our lives. In the end, this is about individual choice and overall eating patterns-and sometimes genetics. Another letter writer highlights the issue: "Maybe there is no link between sugar and weight gain. All I know is after trying to lose weight for years through exercise alone, I've dropped 15 pounds this year after I stopped adding sugar to my coffee, drinking sodas, eating cake, cookies and candy and otherwise limiting sugar in my diet. (I also have reduced red meat by 75 percent, avoid processed snacks and watch portion size more closely. But nothing worked until I attacked sugar.)"

The exclusive focus on soda, as the above correspondent points out, is no answer to the obesity scourge-and when the all out assault on soda fails, the cookies, cakes and snacks are next. There is literally no end to this kind of dictatorial public health mindset; and we can be certain that, while the focus today is on the low income food stamp recipient, we'll all soon find ourselves in the meddler's cross hairs.

We'll give the Post the last word on this: "Now Mayor Mike has his own e-mail issue: From this point forward, how can the public be expected to take seriously anything emerging from the city Health Department? Tom Farley lied. That should matter."


We've remarked on how the DOH has strayed from what should be its central public health mission-the control of epidemics, sanitary conditions and pests-into the area of controlling how people live. This tendency has left the department vulnerable to criticism when the city experiences an outbreak of bed bugs-as it has currently.

But the bed bug epidemic-ridiculed by the mayor-has really become a problem; and it now is having a chilling effect on the sex lives of New Yorkers:

"Are bedbugs the new crabs? CNN recently investigated how the unstoppable critters have invaded the love lives of itchy, bewildered New Yorkers. Although the city's been dealing with bedbugs for decades, the past year's infestations are making people paranoid about who they date.

Stacie Handwerker, a real estate attorney, said that one man asked her point blank if she had bed bugs in her apartment. If she said yes, her date would have ditched. He didn't even ask her if she carried any sexually-transmitted diseases. "Well, a condom can't protect you from bedbugs," Handwerker said."

Now, isn't this more important than who's using food stamps to buy a Coke or a Pepsi? Tom Farley and the mayor don't think so.