Count Chocula Must Die

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Yesterday an Institute of Medicine committee released a report on food marketing and children that called for congressional acton "if voluntary efforts by industry fail to successfully shift the emphasis of television advertising during children's programming away from high-calorie, low-nutrient products to healthier fare." According to The New York Times, the IOM report "links TV ads and childhood obesity." According to The Washington Post, it says "TV ads entice kids to overeat." (An earlier Post headline said the report "charges junk food advertising leads to increased obesity in kids.") Yet according to the report, "the current evidence is not sufficient to arrive at any finding about a causal relationship from television advertising to adiposity."

The committee did find "strong evidence" that TV ads influence the "food and beverage preferences," "purchase requests," and "short-term consumption" of children between the ages of 2 and 11. I have no doubt that TV ads have an impact on the products kids request; if they didn't, what would be the point? But the important question for those concerned about weight trends among children is whether advertising has increased their overall calorie consumption. The problem for those who believe it has is that neither "high-calorie, low-nutrient products" nor ads for them are new. Indeed, as George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki (formerly head of the Federal Trade Commission's Office of Policy Planning) argues, there is reason to believe kids see fewer of these ads nowadays than they did when they were thinner. It is therefore hard to see how advertising can account for the dramatic increase during the last couple of decades in the share of children and teenagers who are overweight.

The issue of causation is also complicated by what the IOM committee calls "mediators"–factors "through which causal influence passes." The particular mediators I have in mind are known as "parents." If TV ads magically and instantaneously deposited fat in children's guts (and if the ads were unavoidable), there would be a strong argument for the sort of legal restrictions the report suggests. But the ads work mainly by stimulating kids to ask for certain products, and parents always have the power to say no. Not only that, but they have a great deal of control over whether and to what extent their kids are exposed to the ads in the first place (especially when their kids are at their most impressionable). The argument for censorship, then, comes down to rescuing children from their parents' laxness.

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  1. Maybe one of the ingredients in Count Chocula is different now than when I used to eat it in the early 70s and the kids were all Brady Bunch thin. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but sometimes it is a good hint. I think it makes more sense to look at what is actually in Count Chocula than what is on TV anyway.

  2. It’s true that the ads for Frosted Chocolate Sugar Bombs are intended to make kids beg their parents to buy them, but so what? Whatever happened to the novel idea of telling kids no?

    My mother did it all the time when I was a kid. My cereal choices consisted of rice crispies, cheerios, Special K, corn flakes or raisin bran. As I had no money of my own, I had no argument.

    But today’s more cowardly parents don’t want to tell their kids no, the want the possibility eliminated altogther.

  3. I thought the argument on this had been somewhat settled re: lack of exercise being a bigger factor than caloric intake. That is too say, kids today eat about the same amount and type of food as they did in the 70s, but get less physical activity than the same time period. I suppose the problem is its much harder to find a defendent if you subscribe to the latter theory.

  4. Then we can file a suit! The discovery phase will tell us whether or not the makers of Count Chocula are using high-fructose corn syrup to give kids diabetes on purpose! They must be in league with those bastards at Coke!

    Special Message To Fat, Lazy Kids:

    Stop watching TV and get some exercise. You know when it’s nice out and you want to play X-box? Go the hell outside and play. NOW! When I was your age, mister, my mother wouldn’t have tolerated that kind of back-talk. Now, go out and play or I’m lighting the X-box on fire.

    Message To Parents:

    You have a right to tell your kids what to do up to a certain point. Make them go outside and stop being lazy fatasses. I know you don’t want to crush their inner spirit or whatever, hippie, but if you don’t do a little bit of discipline Little Johnny’s big fat ass is going to crush his lungs and he’ll suffocate; you won’t have to worry about his precious little inner-spirit, because the fat fuck will be dead.

  5. jf,

    I’m fairly certain that they’ll blame it on the video game industry.

  6. Chocula can live. But The Freakies must be driven out of the village with torches.

  7. Does anybody else remember when Mr. Wizard would assure us that the perfect breakfast consisted of fruit, cereal, milk, bread and butter? Note that four out of five of those foods involved dairy products, and that Mr. Wizard’s major sponsor was the Dairy Council.
    Now I drink soy milk and rarely have butter.

    jf, You are correct. Lack of enough exercise is the real culprit.

  8. They don’t even carry Count Chocula where I live. I think because of racism.

  9. I think it makes more sense to look at what is actually in Count Chocula than what is on TV anyway.

    As a prelude to buying it for your kids, sure.

    As a prelude to state control of the content of cereal, count me out.

  10. I will also add that the restrictions already put on stations concerning the amount of ads-per-hour and the commercial/PSA ratio during kids programming were sold to the FCC on the grounds that would greatly reduce the influence of advertising on youth.
    Gee, did that not work?

    Stations pay $10,000 for violations, even if it’s a network error.

  11. Why don’t they just lobby Congress to ban televisions?

    And once they do that, why don’t they send their kids to Capitol Hill and let Congress raise them? All hail the omniscient Congress! Huzzah!

  12. I for one welcome our new Congressional overlords….wait…no I don’t.

  13. One could ask why it is that kids get less exercise in the first place? I think that it’s the unrealistic expection that life can and should be be totally safe.

    Parents don’t allow their kids out as much because they imagine bogeymen(abductors, molesters, etc.) around every corner. Playgrounds are stripped of any fun equipment because someone might fall, get hurt, and sue. It’s a huge financial risk to allow the neighbors kids to play in your own yard for the same reason.

  14. Whatever happened to the novel idea of telling kids no?

    Well, it’s just like the issue of “indecency” on TV; the child might go behind their health-conscious parent’s backs and eat Frosted Chocolate Sugar Bombs at a friend’s house. Therefore, like “changing the channel,” “telling kids no” isn’t enough when faced with the hypnotic effects of evil, evil, advertising. 😉

  15. There are things government can do short of regulating commercials or banning them. When I was a kid (in the liberal 70’s) we had a section of one class devoted to exposing the ways in which commercials mislead and manipulate you. For me it was very effective. For instance, it was pointed out that many cereal commercials would claim that their product “can be part of this nutritious breakfast” – not that it was actually nutritious. Thirty years later I still remember that.

  16. It’s not a question of what is in the TV advertisements. It’s a question of why the kids are watching TV for 6-8 hours per day.

  17. Instead of cutting back on advertising, up the prescriptions for Ritalin which, in addition to controlling behaviors, also suppresses the appetite. It’s a win-win situation: kids are dopey and thin, consumerism continues apace.

    There’s no problem with consumerism that can’t be solved with more consumerism.

  18. It’s a huge financial risk to allow the neighbors kids to play in your own yard for the same reason.

    Haven’t you heard? We’re replacing the Bill of Rights with an annual report from the insurance industry to determine what’s safe/legal and what’s expensive/illegal.

  19. Dave W, kids realy were that thin in the early 70s? Oh, I see, must have been the 1870s. Or the 1770s?

  20. Jeff P., I can’t even find Freakies or Boo Berry’s. I think they already have been!

  21. As a parent, I have the right to stick my kid in front of a television set without having to worry that what he sees will be bad for him! I also have the right to take my kid grocery shopping and NOT have to deal with his requests that I purchase non-healthy food. Curse you libertarians–between your insistence that it’s okay for TV shows to have themes more appropriate for adults than kindergartners, AND your insistence that I am somehow more responsible than the cereal companies for how my kids turn out, it is obvious that what you call “freedom” is actually “selfish contempt for the children, who are the future, so we must teach them well and let them lead the way and the ONLY way to do this is with lots and lots of government involvement!”

  22. You guys beat me to my Grandpa Simpson rant about how in the 70s we ate box after box of Super Sugar Crisp and there wasn’t a single butterball in the hood because we went outside.

  23. It’s a huge financial risk to allow the neighbors kids to play in your own yard for the same reason.

    When I think of things those Congresscritters should actually be doing, tort reform immediately comes to mind. The lawsuit mentality is one of the worst current societal plagues.

    Unfortunately, my desire to constrain our litigious society is in immediate conflict with my desire to scrap Planning & Zoning and move dispute resolution back to the courts. And I’m just a casual observer of the legal system, so I can’t offer any well thought through solutions. Oh woe is me…

  24. In addition to the increase in the use of video games, and subsequent decrease in at-home, after-school, outdoor play is the growth in the organized after-school sports like soccer — where most of the kids just stand around waiting to get into the game. There is also the stop at “Mickey D’s” for a cheeseburger, fries and Coke since Mom didn’t have time to cook dinner.
    (Yes, I place most of the blame on the Soccer Moms.)
    And don’t try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen it.

  25. Unfortunately, my desire to constrain our litigious society is in immediate conflict with my desire to scrap Planning & Zoning and move dispute resolution back to the courts.

    Not at all. You can

    (a) scrap Planning and Zoning; and

    (b) implement “loser pays” rules for litigants, so the loser pays the winner’s court costs, which will dramatically cut down on the number of lawsuits all around.

    Now, you may say that loser pays stands in the way of moving dispute resolution back to the courts. Well, yes and no. It stands in the way of moving petty disputes, and crappy claims back to the courts, sure.

    But not every dispute needs to be resolved in court. You got your mediation, your arbitration, your talking to your friggin’ neighbor, your kidnapping your neighbor’s dog and . . . well, you get the picture.

  26. implement “loser pays” rules for litigants, so the loser pays the winner’s court costs, which will dramatically cut down on the number of lawsuits all around.

    In theory this sounds good, RC, but what worries me about a loser-pays system is: sometimes, in court, the verdicts are not always just. Suppose MegaCorp does something scuzzy to Little Nobody, and of course MegaCorp can afford to spend more money on one day’s worth of lawyer fees than Little Nobody will make in his entire life. If you say “loser pays,” will there at least be a limit to how much the loser must pay? Otherwise, what’s to stop the wealthy and powerful from doing basically whatever they want, knowing no poor person will sue them because the risk of losing would utterly destroy them, financially? What is to stop MegaCorp from hiring 300 hundred lawyers when one will do the trick?

  27. “The argument for censorship, then, comes down to rescuing children from their parents’ laxness.”

    When you think about it, there are a LOT of ways we are forced to rescue children from their parents’ laxness, and censorship is only one of them. Welfare and government schools are the same thing.

  28. Chocula can live. But The Freakies must be driven out of the village with torches.

    Hey, fuck you, man! I was in the Freaky Fan Club.

    *sniff*

  29. My objection to “loser pays” is a little more nuanced than fears that Goliath will beat David.

    Civil cases are decided by preponderance of evidence. It could be that both cases are strong, and so the case is close. There will still be an outcome one way or the other, but it’s hard to say that the plaintiff erred in bringing the case to court when it was close. There was a valid question that needed to be decided, and the fact that the plaintiff lost doesn’t change the fact that the issue was worth deciding.

    OTOH, there are clearly some instances where the plaintiff is wasting everybody’s time with a claim that isn’t worth hearing. (“It’s Smith & Wesson’s fault that somebody stole a gun from a lawful owner and then sold it to a guy who shot somebody.”)

    I would favor a limited “loser pays” with 3 types of outcomes:

    1) Defendant loses and pays the plaintiff’s bills.

    2) Plaintiff loses but doesn’t pay the plaintiff’s bills because the plaintiff’s case was still strong.

    3) Plaintiff loses and pays because his claim was ridiculous.

  30. Does anybody else remember when Mr. Wizard would assure us that the perfect breakfast consisted of fruit, cereal, milk, bread and butter?

    I remember when the test pattern was still on television when I got home from school. Programming didn’t even start until 4:00 PM, when The Howdy Doody Show was brought to us by Wonder Bread, which built strong bodies 12 ways.

  31. I don’t know whether corn syrup is a big factor in the growing obesity problem or not. I do know that those who dismiss this possibility out of hand are overly credulous.

  32. That’s okay about Count Chocula. He was just an Affirmative Action hire. Feel free to call him by his first name, Token, now.

  33. Random thought: Is there any correlation between the average amount of money kids have to spend and obesity? It seems to me that kids today (of the same general income bracket that I hung out in as a kid) have a lot more money in their own pockets from larger allowances, generous relatives, etc. My parents gave me a very small allowance and never brought home junk food, and most of my peers were in the same situation; I couldn’t have gotten fat if I tried. I’m not saying my personal experience and observations are evidence of anything, just wondering if there’s any data on kids and money through the years, and if any attempt has been made to see if this may be a contributing factor to obesity.

  34. In theory this sounds good, RC, but what worries me about a loser-pays system is: sometimes, in court, the verdicts are not always just.

    As usual, the devil is in the details. Loser pays also doesn’t address Cavanaugh’s pet peeve, the idiot factor on juries. I’ve heard convincing arguments that medical malpractice cases should be heard by a medical board. Why shouldn’t this concept extend to other areas of civil litigation? What are the negative consequences of investing such power in a body of “professionals” rather than laymen?

    But that goes back to my original point…if there is anything a legislature should be working on, it is the structure of the legal system.

  35. This is funny, ’cause I go grocery shopping two or three times a week, and not once in the past 20 years have I ever seen a 2-11 year-old pushing a shopping cart full of sugary cereal and junk food to the checkout line. Not once.

  36. Otherwise, what’s to stop the wealthy and powerful from doing basically whatever they want, knowing no poor person will sue them because the risk of losing would utterly destroy them, financially?

    You could have bonds or insurance available to the little guy, to cover the costs if they lose. These bonds could even be paid for by the lawyers. Believe me, the plaintiff’s bar isn’t short on cash, and already fronts the costs for most lawsuits these days anyhow.

    There will still be an outcome one way or the other, but it’s hard to say that the plaintiff erred in bringing the case to court when it was close.

    Trust me, the victorious defendant doesn’t exactly think its fair that he won, but still is out hundreds of thousands of dollars. Given a choice between “loser pays” and “winner still has to suck up big-time financial losses”, which do you think is more fair?

    And why should fairness turn on which party had more money going in? Is it unjust for, say, a big corporation that brings some kind of harassment suit against a small competitor to have to pay the bills when its suit gets thrown out? If not, since when did fairness turn on whether you can afford the consequences of your actions?

  37. Anyone have an idea about about you would go abouyt killing Count Chocula? The only thing I can come up with is a graham cracker stake though a marshmallow heart filled with gooey fudge. That sounds too delicious to help our little obesity “epidemic”.

    In addition to the increase in the use of video games, and subsequent decrease in at-home, after-school, outdoor play is the growth in the organized after-school sports like soccer — where most of the kids just stand around waiting to get into the game.

    Good point, Slainte’. I think not letting the kids out for anything that’s not supervised, organized, and using appoved safety equipment is part of the fear for safety.

    Dave W, there might be something to the idea that the ingredients in processed food chunking us up. I’ve found that I have been in great shape when I avoided most processed foods, and gained weight when preparing everything myself became inconvenient. My exercise level throughout has been fairly consistent.

  38. Alot of people here have made interesting observations and put forward suggestions about alterations to our legal system that are worth considering.

    I can’t contribute anything like that, so I will just add that I think Count Chocula is delicious, and that I do not want to hear anybody defaming the Count’s good name. Even if he was given preferential treatment by the hiring board under its “Building Bridsges to the Vampiric and Lycanthropic Community” program (which is an affirmative action program, not a quota program, by the way) as some have alleged, he has proven to be a credit to his race, at least when it comes to producing breakfast food. Have you seen what Nosefaratu and Blade serve for breakfast?

  39. david – probably not.

    energy in > expended = weight gain.

    that’s still the basic formula.

  40. By the way, Daniel Johnston (44) is hospitalized now from kidney damage due years of super human soda drinking combined with lithium. Not a potential plaintiff, of course, but perhaps the best songwriter ever when he was good.

  41. Dudes,

    There’s already sanction rules in place for frivolous legal claims (Federal Rule 11 for example, which has a companion rule in every state court as well). There are also places that have “vexatious litigant” statutes that punish chronic suit filers or gadflies who only file suits to harass or annoy. And court costs, attorney’s fees, etc., are commonly awarded to an aggrieved and vindicated defendant.

    As is usually the case with proposed reforms, there is no need for new rules, only for enforcement of the existing rules.

  42. R C-

    Maybe the biggest problem is that some cases shouldn’t even be heard in the first place. How much latitude do judges have to throw out a case on the grounds that, even if the plaintiff’s version of events is true, there’s still no way that the other party should be held liable?

  43. Looks like independent worm answered my question.

    What would it take to get more suits thrown out before trial?

    For instance, suppose some students are expelled for handing in identical term papers. They say that nobody told them they couldn’t cheat. Can a judge just throw it out on the grounds that cheating is commonly known to be unacceptable in an academic environment?

  44. Fed Rules Civ Pro 12(c):

    “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.
    After the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings. If, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in [the rule dedicated to summary judgement], and all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by [summary judgement].”

    In ohter words, T., the judge gets 2 bites at the apple: motion on the pleadings (rule 12(c)) and summary judgment (rule 56).

  45. I should emphasize that the students knew that the school could expel them for cheating. But they were never specifically told that they couldn’t copy off of each other on this assignment.

  46. thoreau,

    That’s called a judgment on the pleadings. AKA Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief can be granted. In just about every case I’ve ever been a part of, at least some of the suit has been thrown out for this. So if they plead a whole bunch of things, like breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, civil RICO, etc…. you reply with a motion to dismiss (or after the facts are in file a summary judgment motion where you argue that even given these facts, plaintiff hasn’t stated a claim), and often end up with just a breach of contract case going forward. For example.

  47. Further for T.: many cases are disposed of using the two rules. they are not useless tools by any means.

  48. So, Dave W., what you’re saying is that judges can throw out bullshit claims but are refusing to do so?

  49. We’re cross-posting. You said “many cases are disposed of” while I was typing “but are refusing to do so?”

  50. A couple of you have posited that the spike in obesity since the mid-1980’s is due to a reduction in energy expenditure rather than an increase in caloric consumption. Actually, however, the opposite is true.

    According the the CDC, the average weight gain in America can be entirely explained by an increase in average daily caloric consumption of about 300 calories per day. The average amount of exercise has remained unchanged over the past 20 years.

    As an economist, I would suggest looking a graph of food availability compared to caloric consumption. You’ll find that as calories becomes cheaper and easier to acquire, demand increases – to a point. Clearly, we are past the point of diminishing marginal returns and have entered negative returns, so demand may stabalize at this new higher level (probably not, though).

  51. I am saying don’t make a rule 12(c) decision unless and until you have carefully reviewed the pleadings and relevant law. I am no more willing to take your advice on what claims are meritless than you would be to take my advice about fluid pressure in a capillary. Sure I have used a hose before, but I know my limitations.

  52. the plaintiff is wasting everybody’s time with a claim that isn’t worth hearing. (“It’s Smith & Wesson’s fault that somebody stole a gun from a lawful owner and then sold it to a guy who shot somebody.”)

    link pls

  53. They say that nobody told them they couldn’t cheat. Can a judge just throw it out on the grounds that cheating is commonly known to be unacceptable in an academic environment?

    In this scenario, if they admit to cheating in their pleading, the judge could take that as an admission of their own wrongdoing in the matter, and if an appropriate defense has been pled by the defendants, throw it out on that basis.

    Theoretically, i guess it’s possible there was no code of conduct established at the school, and no policy against cheating? I guess that could become a matter of proof. If the school didn’t bother to prohibit cheating then I guess you could argue they have no right to complain about it now. If a credit card agreement doesn’t say you have to pay them 18% interest, and then they try and collect that interest from you, can they just say “well, everybody knows credit cards charge a lot of interest”.

    What would be wrong with that, in either scenario? You wanna have rules, put ’em in writing. Otherwise you do subject yourself to a lot of problems, only one of which is litigation.

  54. Concerning that high-fructose corn syrup Dave keeps mentioning: I think that yeah, it probably is worse than regular sugar so far as getting fat is concerned. And perhaps HFCS is also more likely to cause diabetes; I think there’s certainly enough anecdotal evidence to warrant a serious study of the matter, at least.

    But suppose we indisputably determine that yes, HFCS is X times more likely than sugar to make you fat, and Y times more likely than sugar to make you diabetic. So what should the legal consequences be, for those food manufacturers who use HFCS?

    I say, nothing. HFCS is not like cyanide, in that any amount is inherently bad for you; it’s only bad for people who consume WAY the hell too much of it. Just like any kind of sugar, fat, oil, carbohydrate or calorie. Should soda companies be sued because people who drink a six-pack of Coke each day can eventually develop health problems? No.

    If adults eat too much that is their own fault. If kids eat too much (or get insufficient exercise) it is their parent’s fault. We’re fortunate to live in practically the only time and place in history where food is cheap and plentiful enough that we don’t have to worry about starving to death. And if some people lack sufficient willpower to see a cornucopia without gorging themselves on the contents that is their problem, not the problem of the foodgrowers who fill it.

  55. IW-

    The case never went to trial. The decision to expel was over-ruled by higher administrators on the advice of lawyers. There were plenty of rules in place, but they were concerned that, as written, the rules weren’t quite tight enough to stand up in court.

    The following session, lots of rules were written down in lots of places to make sure that future cheaters could be expelled.

    I have no problem with dotting i’s and crossing t’s. If it makes life easier, do it. But I don’t think a plagiarist should be able to slide through a loophole either.

    As I think about it, I wonder how much of our fear of lawsuits is a response to the advice of counsel, and how much is a response to actual lawsuits. I read in the paper that a lot of municipalities are removing fun equipment from playgrounds on the advice of lawyers. Yes, I know, somebody will show up and say that there should be no public playgrounds, yadda yadda. Fine. But I assume that a private playground would face the same fears. Are these fears grounded in adverse judgements, or are lawyers just erring on the side of avoiding even the most remote liability when they advise municipalities?

    And are schools actually losing in obvious plagiarism cases because the policy was written down but not quite worded right? Or are lawyers for schools just giving the most cautious advice possible?

    I know that it’s a lawyer’s job to give careful advice, but I also know that the safest advice would be to just stay inside and never interact with anybody. Since that is clearly ridiculous, lawyers need to give advice that will protect their clients from liability risks, while still enabling their clients to conduct business. Why are lawyers advising so much more caution these days?

  56. As I think about it, I wonder how much of our fear of lawsuits is a response to the advice of counsel, and how much is a response to actual lawsuits.

    Based on my own anecdotal experiences in public schools, at least, I’d say almost ALL of the stupidity in my old system was advice-of-counsel fear, not actual-lawsuit-threat fear.

  57. “I remember when the test pattern was still on television when I got home from school. Programming didn’t even start until 4:00 PM”

    Larry A,
    You and I should start a subsection of Hit and Run called Bump and Shuffle Off.

  58. Wouldn’t that be another reason to privatise things? If it’s a private school or playground, couldn’t whomever runs said school or playground charge more to offset costs of possible lawsuits?

  59. Hey, I ate nothing but Cap’n Crunchberries during my freshman year of college, and I turned out ok. Didn’t I?

    As to judicially created tort reform, so to speak, that’s already a dead issue. In past eras, judges wouldn’t have allowed much of today’s mass tort actions to go to trial, but decades worth of bad caselaw precedent has built up to the point that even judges bitterly opposed to John Banzaf-style activist tort litigation can’t do anything about it, because they’ll simply be overturned on appeal. It will take legislative action to shut down the tort mill.

  60. Wouldn’t that be another reason to privatise things? If it’s a private school or playground, couldn’t whomever runs said school or playground charge more to offset costs of possible lawsuits?

    Right. But the question I’m asking is whether the fear is actually warranted. If the fear is well-grounded, then regardless of who runs the playground it sucks: Either the private playground becomes more expensive than it would otherwise be without fear of frivolous suits, or the public playground is devoid of fun equipment. Either way, the situation has been made worse by lawsuits.

    My question is, are these actions grounded in reasonable fears? Or are lawyers just giving hyper-cautious advice?

  61. thoreau,

    I don’t know the scoiology, or the institutional psychology of banning everything fun. But I would hazard a guess it’s the advice of the lawyeres.

    But these lawyers, they’re not just any lawyers. They’re the lawyers for the insurance companies, who have to pay if someone is hurt. Companies that will not insure a piece of property unless X, Y and Z are prohibited. They don’t have any reason to care if you have fun or not; their only interest is in not paying claims. What’s it to them if a kid only has a 1 in a billion chance of putting an eye out? Why take the risk? Tell the landowner you’re pulling the policy if any kids play there and if they don’t like it, tough. The insurance industry doesn’t need anyone’s business. It’s easier to just not serve entire markets (like OB GYN) than it is to compete, because they can always just collect the interest on their billions of dollars they have in reserve.

    So they are just more and more writing draconian requirements into policies, with a take it or leave it approach. Beacuse they really… do… not… need … your… money. But they’ll take it as long as you promise to never do anything they could ever be liable for.

    As for the plagiarism case, I don’t know what to say, not knowing what really happened or what the policy was. Could be some kids out-foxed the admin. Wouldn’t be the first time. I wonder how hard it could be to write a bulletproof no-cheating policy that grants the admin enough leeway to cover them in cases where the conduct doesn’t perfectly fit the letter of any rule. This stuff ain’t rocket science.

  62. My question is, are these actions grounded in reasonable fears? Or are lawyers just giving hyper-cautious advice?

    All it takes is the loss of one million dollar lawsuit to force a major policy consideration. Greenwich, CT (where I live) lost a $6 million suit over a sledding injury. As a taxpayer and a member of town politics, I’ll vote for banning activities instead of paying higher insurance premiums, since that $6 million comes right out of my pocket (after insurance coverage).

  63. As I think about it, the private playground could always require people to sign a waiver. Hell, the public playground could put up a fence and have somebody stand at the gate to only admit kids whose parents signed waivers. That would make the problem go away.

    My question is, are waivers really necessary? Aren’t the risks of getting on a swing set fairly obvious? Aren’t parents accepting those risks when they let their kids play on swings or jungle gyms or whatever? And if unsupervised kids are playing on those swings without parental supervision, aren’t the parents at fault for not supervising the kids?

    So, are parks (public or private) actually losing cases like this? Or are they acting out of unwarranted fears?

  64. thoreau,

    You should read overlawyered.com more. Remember this story about the No Diving Sign?

  65. cross-posting strikes again.

  66. There’s already sanction rules in place for frivolous legal claims (Federal Rule 11 for example, which has a companion rule in every state court as well).

    Which, because the bench and bar are notoriously bad at policing themselves, is chronically underused.

    There are also places that have “vexatious litigant” statutes that punish chronic suit filers or gadflies who only file suits to harass or annoy.

    Used how often? And wouldn’t this come a little late for all those who were harassed and annoyed? Do they give any relief to the victims of the vexatious litigants?

    The problem isn’t so much vexatious litigants, as it is vexatious litigation, anyway.

    And court costs, attorney’s fees, etc., are commonly awarded to an aggrieved and vindicated defendant.

    Sure, it happens, but I would take serious issue with your characterization of it as “common.” In my experience, it is highly unusual, and much more the exception than the rule.

    As for Rule 12(c), it addresses the form of the pleadings, and does nothing to address cases that are well-plead (that is, tick off all the elements of the claim, are filed in the right court, etc.) but have no real basis in the facts.

    There is also a built-in bias against dismissals before trial, namely, that judges are almost never embarrassed (that is, reversed on appeal) for letting a case go to trial, but are occassionally embarrassed for dismissing on motion. In short, there’s no (professional) upside to dismiss early, and a potential downside, if you are a judge.

  67. I hate it, because I would never sue somebody for something unless I really did believe they were negligent or whatever. Like that sledding asshole in the example above. Hello? You were sledding down a fucking hill, didn’t you think about possible consequences?

    thoreau – waiver, yes, I meant to mention that, too. When I was a kid, we built a skateboard ramp at a neighbour’s house. They made every kid that came over sign a waiver (their parents, actually). I’m sure it wasn’t a very well-drafted document, but at least it was something. My parents laughed because they were the ones that taught me you don’t sue unless you’ve got a reason to.

    And I agree that it’s probably over-lawyering and that insurance companies are driving us to the bottom where everything will be banned. But in most of the examples I see, it’s a public or gov’t entity that gets the shaft, like playgrounds. If more things like that were private, isn’t there more of a buffer against lawsuits? And either way, there’s got to be something we can do to save fun!

  68. I can remember the ads for sugar coated cereals and junk food on the television when I was a kid. I can remember asking my mother to buy them over and over and over.

    I can remember that she said no. EVERY TIME.

    Parents just don’t know how to say “no” anymore.

  69. But in most of the examples I see, it’s a public or gov’t entity that gets the shaft, like playgrounds. If more things like that were private, isn’t there more of a buffer against lawsuits?

    I dunno. Isn’t the state somewhat harder to sue?

    I’m not here to argue against privatization, I’m just suggesting that the problem seems to have more to do with courts and legal advice, not with who owns the playground.

    The stuff on insurance makes sense. I can see why they’re so risk-averse: They can afford to be.

    I guess I just get pissed at the thought that somebody can sue over bullshit and maybe even win. The lawyers who advise to not do things lest you get sued certainly make it seem like the risks are substantial. I know Dave W. will say that the talk of frivolous lawsuits is fueled by companies who want to be exempted from meritorious suits. Some of that is probably true. But some of the message is also sent by people who act on the advice of hyper-cautious counsel.

    There’s enough blame to go around.

  70. I can remember the ads for sugar coated cereals and junk food on the television when I was a kid. I can remember asking my mother to buy them over and over and over. I can remember that she said no. EVERY TIME.

    There is absolutely no reason why your mother should have had to tolerate this–childrearing is difficult enough already. That is why the government needs to ensure that, when you procreate, it’s not your life that needs to change for benefit of your child’s upbringing–it’s everybody else in society who needs to alter their behavior according to what you think best for your kid.

  71. To get back to cereals, my mother never gave me sugared cereals, and so my taste buds can’t stand the sugared cereals. To me, “Honey Bunches of Oats” is already plenty sweet. Any cereal sweeter than that is too much for me.

    I’m not averse to other sugared foods, but with cereals I have a low tolerance for sugar.

    The lesson? Don’t feed your kids too much junk. If you don’t, you’ll have no need to sue.

  72. I wonder how hard it could be to write a bulletproof no-cheating policy that grants the admin enough leeway to cover them in cases where the conduct doesn’t perfectly fit the letter of any rule. This stuff ain’t rocket science.

    This is why I prefer broad rules and common sense to overly precise definitions. Once you have a clearly definied rule, you have to keep adding to it to cover all the loopholes people find. Make the arbiters of these things earn their money, by actually making a decision.

    Problem is, people don’t want the possibilty of a decision they might lose or that might be wrong. They’d prefer that everything work in the manner that a computer does. Simple data in, simple result out, no abstract thinking involved.

  73. Back to the count…the sweetest cereal my parents would buy for me was Honeycombs, and that was maybe once every few months. ‘Course, I did put copious amounts of sugar in my Cheerios and on my Shredded Wheat, so make of that what you will.

    But my parents also only rarely allowed me to drink soda and we never had much candy. At the same time I was extremely active in sports, played outside all the time, climbed trees, played with our animals, rode horses, etc, etc.

    Come to think of it, I gained weight when I got a little older and moved outta the house. Not only did my diet get worse, but I started drinking quite a bit of beer (as well as doing other mind-altering substances, some appetite-inducing, others appetite-suppressing), and my level of activity dropped after a while, although that may have been due to my other behaviour changes. *shrugs*

    I don’t really have an answer, but more gov’t intervention is definitely not it!

  74. I am no more willing to take your advice on what claims are meritless than you would be to take my advice about fluid pressure in a capillary.

    See, there’s a problem there, because many lawyers have a vested interest in taking claims that are meritless, because they can get a settlement out of the defendant rather than going to court. The difference is that a physicist or engineer isn’t interested, in general, in having a certain amount of fluid pressure in a capillary. A lawyer often does have a vested interest in whether a certain case is meritless or not.

    Not that lawyers are entirely to blame for the present level of litigiousness. I have a friend who’s a lawyer, who has a large backlog of cases accepted by his deceased former boss, who was rich enough and unscrupulousness enough to take pretty meritless cases. Oftentimes he is offered a settlement in these cases, of much more than he thinks the case is worth, but his clients refuse the settlement, against his advice, because they insist that they’ll get more if they go to court. There’s become this lottery mentality in the U.S. for some reason – “If I get hurt, I become rich.” One lady wanted $50 000 because a hospital had refused her Oxycontin for an insect bite, and she was embarrassed when they refused. He told her he wanted a $25 000 bond to go forward with the case, and she refused. 🙂

    To get back to my original point, the law is often written to provide employment for lawyers. Just because a case has legal merit, doesn’t mean that the law is well written. Yes, technically, cities can be held liable for injuries that occur on their playgrounds, according to the law. But they shouldn’t be, unless they were actually negligent, and just putting up a swing set isn’t negligence. I don’t care what some lawyer says in court to get a large fee, it’s simply not, no matter what the law says. If the law says that it is negligence, it’s a bad law, and should be changed. So don’t tell me to keep my nose out of your business because you’re an expert. You can say it all day long, but those of us with no legal training have a vested interest in this subject, because it affects our lives all the time, mostly in adverse ways.

  75. They don’t even carry Count Chocula where I live. I think because of racism.

    I am HOWLING laughter. On the inside, of course 🙂

  76. I know Dave W. will say that the talk of frivolous lawsuits is fueled by companies who want to be exempted from meritorious suits. Some of that is probably true. But some of the message is also sent by people who act on the advice of hyper-cautious counsel.

    T., I have helped write a couple Rule 11 motions back when I was a litigator. At least one of them won some substantial $$$ sanctions. I have also researched the law for at least one response to a Rule 11 motion (not one directed at me!). All this relevant experience is part of the reason that I have so little patience for the way you are arguing on these civil law legal threads.

  77. Dave, what exactly are the cereal manufacturers liable for? It’s not like they filled their cereal with actual poison, with one bowl being guaranteed to make you sick (or make you gain an instant five pounds). What–should they implement a system to ensure that no child is able to consume (and thus, no parent able to purchase) more than one box per month? What exactly shoud they do differently to prevent kids who eat too much from getting fat?

  78. On the original topic, I think Jacob Sullum made the best argument:

    The argument for censorship, then, comes down to rescuing children from their parents’ laxness.

  79. What exactly shoud they do differently to prevent kids who eat too much from getting fat?

    Sell off all their assets and give the proceeds to the American Trial Lawyers Association. That’ll keep them from making sweet cereals!

    ‘Cause see, once the cereal gets made, there is no way to absolutely 100% guarantee that no one will eat to much of it. Better to just do away with it altogether.

  80. Then, RC, we can sue the makers of baking flour, because you can use flour to make a LOT of high-calorie treats like cookies and cakes and holiday breads, which can make you fat if you eat too much and don’t get any exercise.

    Also, after studying my cookbook collection I have concluded that every time a recipe calls for vanilla extract, that recipe is fattening. So vanilla extract should be banned, too. At the very least make it illegal to sell to minors–it IS 35% alcohol, after all.

  81. Vanilla extract isn’t itself fattening, Jennifer.

    Rather, it is “obesity paraphernalia.” It should be placed on the same list as bongs.

  82. Vanilla extract by itself might not make you fat, Thoreau, but it can damn sure make you drunk. The bottles of vanilla extract I have at home are 35 percent alcohol–that’s 70 proof! And yet The Children can buy it whenever they like!

    If they drink it they’ll become alcoholics. If they cook with it they’ll become fat. Ergo, there is no reason children should be allowed to have vanilla extract.

    Or sugar, either. All you can do with sugar is sweeten foods and add calories. And if you let it ferment it becomes rum, which is even more potent, alcohol-wise, than vanilla.

  83. Lawyers are positioned to know whether they can win a given case, or, even better, get a settlement. The argument in these parts is that these judgements are completely different from a determination of meritoriousness.

    Libertarians in general have a broad appreciation for the assumption of risk, which wins something approaching zero cases that anyone hears about. Any randomly chosen liability theory beats assumption of risk. A poorly lit parking lot is not an unattractive feature of a store, it is an invitation to exempt every shopper to absolve themselves of the choice to walk in a poorly lit parking lot. In TN recently, a highschool senior breaks into an absent neighbor’s house to gain access to a pool. Drunk, he clibs onto the roof, jumps, and misses the pool. Now he’s got money coming from the owner of the property and the manufacuturer of the pool. That is stupid, and it has ripple effects into every manufactured product. Trial lawyers routinely call themselves the 4th branch of government. That is insane.

    Trial lawyers certainly do some good, and the right to sue is important, but knowing what malpractice insurance looks like, and knowing what the cost of litigation mitigation is in a number of businesses, and knowing that that there is no incentive for lawyers to ever stop pushing on this front, I can’t help but think we have passed the harmful threshold a while back.

  84. In TN recently, a highschool senior breaks into an absent neighbor’s house to gain access to a pool. Drunk, he clibs onto the roof, jumps, and misses the pool. Now he’s got money coming from the owner of the property and the manufacuturer of the pool.

    One question: Was this a jury verdict? Or did the lawyers (maybe lawyers for the insurance companies) advise the property owner and pool maker to settle, to keep the losses known and predictable?

    As I think back on my stint in teaching, most of the lawsuit fears had nothing to do with actual suits against the school. It was always “On the advice of counsel, we will refrain from [insert normal, reasonable thing here] so we can’t be sued.” IW suggested that this advice comes from the risk management strategies of insurance companies.

    So, did a jury award those damages? If so, that’s just plain messed up.

  85. With regard to the original posting, I think the only logical thing to do is to ban all televisions and computers in residences that house minors. It’s the only way to really give these guys what they want, and it’s more in line with the constitution than anything else that’s been proposed.

    (Note: yes, I do realize that this would, in fact, be a horrible idea. That’s most of the point — actually putting the responsiblity in the parents’ hands in the same way they want to put the responsiblity in corporations’ hands. Parents are all about upsetting everyone else’s life for their babies, rarely about upsetting their own).

  86. Concerning that high-fructose corn syrup Dave keeps mentioning: I think that yeah, it probably is worse than regular sugar so far as getting fat is concerned. And perhaps HFCS is also more likely to cause diabetes; I think there’s certainly enough anecdotal evidence to warrant a serious study of the matter, at least.

    But suppose we indisputably determine that yes, HFCS is X times more likely than sugar to make you fat, and Y times more likely than sugar to make you diabetic. So what should the legal consequences be, for those food manufacturers who use HFCS?

    I say, nothing. HFCS is not like cyanide, in that any amount is inherently bad for you; it’s only bad for people who consume WAY the hell too much of it. Just like any kind of sugar, fat, oil, carbohydrate or calorie. Should soda companies be sued because people who drink a six-pack of Coke each day can eventually develop health problems? No.

    If adults eat too much that is their own fault. If kids eat too much (or get insufficient exercise) it is their parent’s fault. We’re fortunate to live in practically the only time and place in history where food is cheap and plentiful enough that we don’t have to worry about starving to death. And if some people lack sufficient willpower to see a cornucopia without gorging themselves on the contents that is their problem, not the problem of the foodgrowers who fill it.

    __________________________________

    While I agree with all this, realize that the overuse of HFCS is a direct result of 2 government policies: tariffs on imported sugar and subsidies on domestic corn. Conclusion: People are getting fatter and more diabetic, notwithstanding their insatiable appetites, so that politicians can score well at the Iowa primaries.

  87. what exactly are the cereal manufacturers liable for?

    Nothing so far as I know. That is why you read the pleadings first to see if they have a well grounded claim in the law. Then (assuming you survive the 12(c) and rule 11 motions), you collect the evidence and see if the judge is confident enough to settle the thing on summary judgements. In this context, “confident enough” means very, very confident indeed because our common law and Constitutional traditions are very suspicious about replacing what might be called commonsense judgements of jurors (eg, poor black people) with that of judges (eg, Scalia). the law, for issues like deciding who is lying, prefers the judgments of rank amateurs to that of professional government employees. You can see a glint or 2 of libetarianism in these fine traditions. (more on judges versus juries after a direct answer to your question)

    What could cereal makers be liable for? health risks they actively hid from the public, risks they hid from the fda, fda tampering, hiring bad drivers to drive, making packaging out of poison, tiny toys that tots choke on, cereal with undisclosed peanuts, cereal tat is unusually susceptible to harboring e coli, poison cereal, exploding ceral, ceral with little green men that kill kids with tiny lasers, etc, etc

    There are plenty of things ceral makers shouldn’t be liable for either, like people who eat many bowls of cereal everyday and get sick and die from that. Or people who leave their cereal box on the ground and trip over it. Or people who give their tot the tiny toy, even though the box warned them not to in big screaming letters. Or people who eat nothing but cereal and get rickets. Or people who add gunpowder to their cereal to make it explode more powerfully. Or people who shove creal in their kids throat until the kid asphixiates.

    Now T. blithely wants the lobbyists and Congress to separate category a from B because he does not understand how difficult, both politically and factually this is. As a matter of fact, T.’s analysis is so unrefined that he would like to have Congress determine how all the cases are to be disposed of before we even know what they are. There is a basic lack of respect there for the legal background in which he has grown up so successfully. He is like a surly ungrateful teen who knows he could do his dad’s job better than dad if they would just let him.

    More on the balance between judge and jury:

    If the judge believes that there is only one way that a reasonable person can see the facts, or if the parties themselves agree on the facts (which happens frequently), then the judge can proceed to decide the case on summary judgement.

    Some case get past the rule 12(c) pleadings stage, the summary judgement stage and the ongoing escape hatch of settlement to make it to jury trial. However, this only happens for a small fraction of civil cases (maybe 1%, certainly less than 5%). For example, in patent law, which is my speciality, the law has gradually taken active issues away from the jury and given them to the judge, using legal logic that is both: (1) ridiculous doubletalk; and (2) helpful as a practical matter.

    Sticking with the patent law that I know so well, this movement of issues from jury to judge has had some mixed effects. One is that very few patent cases go to trial. None of my patent cases ever got to jury trial. I liked that because an arrogant prick like me is much more comfortable talking to a judge than a jury. Also, judges tend to defend their results more eloquently than jurors, so it is difficult to find truly absurd verdicts, at least if you limit yourself to the written record of a case.

    On the other hand, the “rush to judges” that has occurred in patent law has had some negative effects, I think. One portion of patent law that has suffered is the issue of “obviousness” (is this a true invention, or is this an unworthy pedestrian tweak? that issue). This is one of those patent issues that is still a jury issue, largely, and it gets short shrift. Furthermore, most of the judges that are sitting now were appointed in an era where it was thought that there were not enough patents (70s, 80s). These geezers are not sympathetic to obviousness claims, even though the patent context has changed drastically since they were appointed. In other words, political influence is bleeding into the judiciary a bit and mucking up the development of the law that common sense jurors would otherwise being doing in a more fluid and decentralized way.

    Perhaps (at least I think) the policy result of this is that we have a lot of patents out there that are obvious, that are unworthy of clogging up the economy with a 16 year monopolies. Commentators have called this problem the “patent thicket.” In the thicket, inventors don’t try very hard because they have learned that pretty every margin is patentable and patents are so numerous and useless that the whole sitch looks more like an expensive sham, rather than an intelligible incentivization of smarter thoughts. Right now I think we are in a holding pattern on patents. Neither Bush nor Clinton think about them except as a new source of revenue (patent fees, that is); or for use as a foreign policy club. Hopefully something will happen so that everybody gets less cynical about the patent system, but I am not holding my breath. My career has become a “cost of doing business” over the years, rather than a way to get companies to take some technological risks, at least within the context of documents they write and make public. That is sad because I am a believer in technology and think patents are the only way that small businesses can efficiently trade superior ideas for real money. What I am saying is that all this is an indirect problem of too many politically-culled judges and not enough commonsense jurors.

    Ok, so that was a mighty long detour. What has been accomplished? I hope some of the ppl who have simple-minded conceptions about the role of civil law and judges and juries can see that people do think about these things at a much deeper level than you would ever expect from reading legal juvenalia like overlawyered or h’n’r. Thoreau is trying to figure out football by watching blooper reels. He needs to be more seriously involved in more serious and realistic, typical cases b4 he runs around trying to convince everybody to chuck the whole system out the window.

  88. Thoreau is trying to figure out football by watching blooper reels. He needs to be more seriously involved in more serious and realistic, typical cases b4 he runs around trying to convince everybody to chuck the whole system out the window.

    So. . . . Thoreau and Jason and the like, when complaining about a system they find unjust, shouldn’t focus on examples where the system is being unjust?

    And I think people are calling to reform the system, not chuck it out the window.

  89. jennifer,
    I complain about the system too, probably more often than Thoreau. However Thoreau is very ham-fisted in his complaints and he seems to have a blind spot about the good things. He thinks the way his employers want him to think because someday he wants to be his employer. that is pretty clear, but it also makes him kind of a tool. I complain about cancer and how nobody is curing it, too, but I don’t for a second think I can go in there and tell Thoreau and his colleagues how to reform their research so that the next 30 years of cancer research are more fruitful than the previous 30 years. Some humility is really in order here.

    People often complain about the media being influenced by its conservative, pro-war, pro – e d ownership. Guess what those same owners think about things like juries and compensating injured people? that is right — they hate all that because it costs them money and they don’t believe in Hell. It is time that T. takes a step or two out of that rut they made for his mind. I don’t care if his bosses don’t want to hear it. There are more important things than succeeding at work.

  90. He thinks the way his employers want him to think because someday he wants to be his employer. that is pretty clear

    This clarity of which you speak eludes me. How is it clear that Thoreau is biased in his view toward lawsuits, based on his complaints of plagiarizing students?

  91. “Well, it’s just like the issue of “indecency” on TV; the child might go behind their health-conscious parent’s backs and eat Frosted Chocolate Sugar Bombs at a friend’s house. Therefore, like “changing the channel,” “telling kids no” isn’t enough when faced with the hypnotic effects of evil, evil, advertising. ;)”

    As a kid, Mom and Dad wouldn’t allow me to watch R-rated movies.

    Like every kid, I had a friend whose parents didn’t care. So I went over there to watch them.

    Well, that was the plan. But I was so nervous about the whole thing that I wasn’t really able to enjoy the R-rated vice.

    In retrospect, that’s some good parenting…

  92. As a professional software engineer, I think most software patents should fail due to obviousness or prior art. The problem is twofold: an engineering degree isn’t an acceptable prerequisite for a patent examiner, and patent judges are lawyers, not engineers. Try convincing a judge that you, a lowly (in his mind) engineer, know a lot more about the subject than he does. I’d bet a lot of judges have no substantial understanding of the subject matter under litigation.

  93. I don’t know whether corn syrup is a big factor in the growing obesity problem or not. I do know that those who dismiss this possibility out of hand are overly credulous.

    Concerning that high-fructose corn syrup Dave keeps mentioning: I think that yeah, it probably is worse than regular sugar so far as getting fat is concerned. And perhaps HFCS is also more likely to cause diabetes;

    Why not let Dave provide any substantiation whatsoever before accepting his claim?

    Wait, that’s right, his response is that an undetectable conspiracy prevents anyone from doing any studies on HFCS, and that anyone who wants any evidence is “credulous”…

  94. People often complain about the media being influenced by its conservative, pro-war,…

    People also complain about the media’s hyper-liberal war-opposition.

  95. Thank god joe isn’t part of this thread. I shudder to think about his views on the state’s role re: obesity and health…

    nmg

  96. “if voluntary efforts by industry fail to successfully shift the emphasis of television advertising during children’s programming away from high-calorie, low-nutrient products to healthier fare.” According to The New York Times, the IOM report “links TV ads and childhood obesity.” According to The Washington Post, it says “TV ads entice kids to overeat.”

    Clearly, none of the ‘tards have ever tried ‘parenting’. (Here we go again). Anyone here, I say ANYONE here who can get my three year old to ‘overeat’, be my guest. The gauntlet has done been a’throwed.

  97. we had a section of one class devoted to exposing the ways in which commercials mislead and manipulate you. For me it was very effective.

    Dude, you were totally manuplated. None of the ways in which you were manipulated were true.

  98. On the issue of causation, a funny note: the San Fran Chron ran the story, saying that kids who sat in front of the TV and saw commercials were fatter. *laugh* Really? Kids who laze around all day are less healthy than those who don’t have time, after homework and sports? The Chron was not aware that is was being funny, and they didn’t report on the study’s methodology (beyond that mentioned in the next paragraph).

    Second, the study supposedly reviewed 120 previous studies, and yet the strongest conclusion that the scientists could reach is “strong evidence”. That’s actually not very strong, with 120 studies under the belt. Why not move on, maybe devote proportional funding to cancer or heart disease?

  99. On the issue of causation, a funny note: the San Fran Chron ran the story, saying that kids who sat in front of the TV and saw commercials were fatter. *laugh* Really? Kids who laze around all day are less healthy than those who don’t have time, after homework and sports? The Chron was not aware that is was being funny, and they didn’t report on the study’s methodology (beyond that mentioned in the next paragraph).

    Second, the study supposedly reviewed 120 previous studies, and yet the strongest conclusion that the scientists could reach is “strong evidence”. That’s actually not very strong, with 120 studies under the belt. Why not move on, maybe devote proportional funding to cancer or heart disease?

  100. On the issue of causation, a funny note: the San Fran Chron ran the story, saying that kids who sat in front of the TV and saw commercials were fatter. *laugh* Really? Kids who laze around all day are less healthy than those who don’t have time, after homework and sports? The Chron was not aware that is was being funny, and they didn’t report on the study’s methodology (beyond that mentioned in the next paragraph).

    Second, the study supposedly reviewed 120 previous studies, and yet the strongest conclusion that the scientists could reach is “strong evidence”. That’s actually not very strong, with 120 studies under the belt. Why not move on, maybe devote proportional funding to cancer or heart disease?

  101. One thing I could never understand about the whole HFCS=bad thing is that HFCS is almost identical to table sugar. Most HFCS is like 55% fructose/45% glucose, while table sugar is 50/50. How could a such a small change in the fructose/glucose ratio make much of a difference?

  102. The Snap Cracle Pop Criminal Syndicate

    Recently the debate regarding the newest project in America’s obsession over weight has heated up again under the heading, “childhood obesity.” Where is the “inactivity crisis?”

    Remember, sports hurt junior’s feelings and the playground is lawsuit central.

    In a recent report by the IOM commissioned by the CDC the blame falls quite squarely on the shoulders of the marketing department of “big food.” Basically, any corporation that makes money on providing Americans foods and beverages is fair game.

    They have really just come to the conclusion some policy makers had all along.

    Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who pushed Congress to approve $1 million for the institute’s study, said, “This landmark study comes as no surprise to me, and it will come at no surprise to the junk food industry.” He said the industry does not spend billions of dollars a year “marketing junk food to kids in order to waste money.” They do it “because it works brilliantly.”

    This has also made other food police nanny naysayers real happy like the Center for Science and the Public Interest. Look forward to lawsuits to follow in a courtroom near you, citing reports like this.

    Sitting in the press conference, I could not help but notice the majority of folks inculding some of the “experts” pontificating were at least over weight. This is an a inactive lifestyle issue.

    A report about a recent Harvard Medical School study shows some blame may even directed at the mum expecting her bundle of joy.

    Blaming marketing and specific foods and atributes (sugary, fatty etc.) of them are pardon me, “Fat Targets” and easy for our blame someone else its not my fault America.

    The real obesity problem and solutions belong to parents. Raising the “gameboy gereration” daily lifestyle choices are parents, not food and beverage companies.

    Are parents so tired, lazy, or guilt ridden to say no to kids wanting to eat only unhealthy foods? I unscienctifically conclude yes, based on the number of little gamers and DVDers there are found when you go out to your average family restaurant. Remember when parents forced you to talk to them and had the guts to say no and provide discipline?

    So, what is the big government solution?

    First, use the regulatory powers of the FTC and FCC to force radical changes in advertising to kids.

    The second, and most radical proposal is regarding the use of licensed characters.

    The panel urges the “banning” of there use in marketing “unhealthy” options, but delined to define what this meant. (Folks at the press conference asked anyway, to no avail.)

    So Dr. Happy Apple and Ms. Sweet Cherry are fine, but SpongeBob hawking Mac and Cheese are not, so says the panel.

    If you read various reports there is confusion in the media if this means TV and movie characters kids like Mr. SquarePants, or characters made up by brands to make there product distinct, Tony the Tiger for example, who knows, maybe both it was not made clear.

    Before the Food Police activists attempt to kill off Snap Cracle and Popa and there criminal syndicate, maybe they should take a look at what foods and beverage options the government subsidizes to some of the most at risk children via the school breakfast and lunch program. Have attended public school and eaten the food for 12 years, I can attest to the lack of “healthy options,” both in quanity and quality. The foods that are available and taste like food are the exact foods the food police hate.

    If you were eating two meals a day, 180 days of public school subsidized food, surely would surely be in the same obesity boat. Now, here is a real challenge to the supersizing Morgan Spurlock.

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