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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Killing Cows for Butter

I always make it a point to make a swing through Media Matters at least once a day. It's great because you can find out what crazy stuff the rightwing media has been saying without actually sitting through their lousy shows. So it was that I came across this posting about Rush Limbaugh:

Summary: Rush Limbaugh blamed "the left" and the United Nations' Children Fund (UNICEF) for "the latest crisis" of "obesity among those who are impoverished," adding that Americans "[d]idn't teach them how to ... slaughter a cow to get the butter; we gave them the butter." Limbaugh also called the "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" campaign "[o]ne of the biggest scams on the face of the earth" because its goal was to "get everybody thinking the United Nations is feeding poor people."

There's just so much wrong here that it's almost hard to know where to start. I say 'almost' because one thing leaped out at me -- you milk cows to get butterfat to make butter, you don't kill them and pull a stick out of their gut. Allow me to state the obvious -- Rush Limbaugh's a freakin' moron. I can imagine Rush standing over the gutted carcass of a dairy cow bellowing, "Where's the butter? Where's the cheese?!?" The Limbaugh Dairy would be a short-lived operation.

Let's move on to the problem of poverty and obesity (and point out that Limbaugh's got a lot of guts getting bent out of shape of anyone else's obesity). It does seem counter-intuitive that people who are poor tend to be overweight. We generally think of the obese as people who enjoy excess -- something people living in poverty wouldn't be able to afford.

But there are more paths to obesity than overeating. For an explanation of the connection between poverty and obesity, we can turn to the experts -- not some radio talk show host who makes his living misinforming gullible idiots. In this case, we'll check with The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and their explanation:

First, the highest rates of obesity occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates and the least education. Second, there is an inverse relation between energy density (MJ/kg) and energy cost ($/MJ), such that energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars, or fats may represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer. Third, the high energy density and palatability of sweets and fats are associated with higher energy intakes, at least in clinical and laboratory studies. Fourth, poverty and food insecurity are associated with lower food expenditures, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and lower-quality diets.

The short version -- cheap, crappy food ain't all that good for you. If your diet consists of fifty cent mac and cheese dinners washed down with grape Faygo from Aldi's, you're going to be overweight. And you're going to get there on the cheap.

And, of course, Limbaugh gets UNICEF all wrong. UNICEF is the United Nations Children's Fund, shortened from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. According to Wikipedia, "UNICEF is currently focused on 5 primary priorities: Young Child Survival and Development, Primary Education and Gender Equality, Child protection, HIV/AIDS, and Early childhood. Other priorities include child survival, the child in the family, and sports for development."

He's confusing UNICEF with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which has absolutely nothing to do with trick-or-treating. Rush is just pulling stuff out of his considerable ass again. He clearly has no idea what he's talking about and couldn't be bothered to even look it up. WFP feeds the hungry, but it also funds development projects to help people feed themselves.

I'm constantly amazed that anyone listens to this fool. Getting off drugs hasn't made him any smarter.


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