August 3, 2014

“Your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from someone else’s plate.” – Dave Barry

Once upon a time, the only question about food was quantity; too much here, too little there. “Here” usually meant America or the free world and “there” was usually the undeveloped or Third World. The clear broth of hunger and poverty has now been muddied by political rhetoric; the “have nots” are now patronized by ambiguous phrases like “the developing world.” Individual victims of poverty are called underserved or less “fortunate,” as if luck or the whims of Gods were in play. If Fortuna plays any role in social improvement schemes, surely she helps those who help themselves.

All nations are developing in one way or another. The problem with the optimism of gerunds is that words like “developing” are meant to suggest a process, positive progress. The alternative, social recidivism is seldom discussed or even expected. The Muslim world and Africa are but two examples of cultures where progress defies aid, assistance, history, and the best intentions. Domestic minority communities have developed similar immunities. Nonetheless, hope and wishful thinking are still the perennial toppings for most international or domestic social buffets.

Alas, the welfare state drains the energy of poverty at the expense of motivation, achievement, and initiative. To mix a metaphor, the wolf at the door has been tamed by national, state, and municipal sugar teats. Yet, poverty is still the rapier of politics. No matter that “poor” in America means subsidized housing, bad food, an automobile, air conditioning, television, the internet, obesity, and a government check.

Cynical politicians are wont to save us from ourselves for a price.   Dependents make for a permanent voting bloc. Political parties give back just enough to pacify, insure loyalty, and stifle ambition.

Rhetoric plays a major role in poverty manipulations. A handout is now a “hand up.” A sorry meal in a feral school is an “investment.” The president’s wife has now commandeered the bully pulpit on poverty; especially, the subordinate issues of diet, nutrition, and exercise.

The idea that the First Lady gardens, goes to the market, or prepares food for her children is an insult to common sense.  Michelle Obama has access to the best take-out, health care, and life-style coaching in Washington, DC – at tax payer expense. Indeed, the First Lady’s posturing on weight control is disingenuous also.

This is not to suggest the president’s wife doesn’t have a little junk in her trunk too, but Michelle’s figure, like that of any American woman, is more a function of genetics, domestic culture, and social class than it is of eating habits. Thin says as much about class as diction.

The fat shaming that comes from the White House is weak gruel, not unlike the personal poverty posturing we hear from Bill and Hillary Clinton these days. Mrs Obama’s insensitivity about the zaftig demographic is of a piece with her ignorance about Gypsies when she or her husband refers to frauds as “gyps’. MS Magazine put it best when they took Michelle to task with an editorial about “Health and Hatred.”

American taxpayers subsidize an overweight demographic and then ultimately pay for the predictable health consequences of obesity. Free lunch and free health care are package deals sustained by social fictions. There are no incentives for restraint with means or ends. Individual intemperance is aggravated by pork barrels, self-serving rent seekers, and lobbyists countrywide.

America has the only obese poor on the planet. Michelle’s target audience isn’t poverty stricken so much as they are victims of affluence. The dependent demographic has access to all things necessary to be fat, dumb, unhealthy, and unhappy. Drugs, alcohol, and a junk diet often make for a critical mass of dysfunction. Government with no sense of restraint is not likely to cultivate that public virtue among the underclass.

The end game is political. A dependent political demographic is a permanent voting bloc.  Democracy always contains the potential to succumb to the lowest common denominators. Modern social democracy, especially, has all the earmarks of an elaborate vote buying scheme. Eric Hoffer put it best: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  The poor and uneducated may not have much, but they do have the vote — and the fate of the nation in their hands.

The end game is political. A dependent political demographic is a permanent voting bloc.  Democracy always contains the potential to succumb to the lowest common denominators. Modern social democracy, especially, has all the earmarks of an elaborate vote buying scheme. Eric Hoffer put it best: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  The poor and uneducated may not have much, but they do have the vote — and the fate of the nation in their hands.

Everyone seems to benefit except kids. Children in turn do what any intelligent waif does. Kids don’t eat food they don’t like.

Modern palates are educated by fast foods; salt, sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. The junk food industry knows what children like. With the assistance of clueless, lazy parents and venal politicians, the child marketing niche is a free fire zone. Eating in a government financed cafeteria is also an exercise in humiliation, an admission that parents cannot or will not prepare a healthy, edible meal.

More to the point, kids don’t eat government food because it’s awful; ill prepared and badly presented. Most school cafeteria food looks like road kill on a plate. If Michelle Obama wants to understand what’s wrong with the diet of poor children; she, and her daughters, need to try to eat 15 meals a week at a public school cafeteria. Indeed, every school principal, teacher, and education bureaucrat should be forced to eat at public school cafeterias too. If politicians and administrative deadwood ate at the government trough, then and only then, they would know what kids know.

The food stinks!

School cafeteria chow is not just awful. Much of what is served ends up in the trash. Eating is not just another political hustle; it’s a matter of taste and habit. Ignoring qualitative factors (setting, presentation, and taste) in the child diet equation is a little trying to hit a fastball with a jump rope.

The junk food industry may not know much about health food, but they do know everything about setting and taste. How many fast food restaurants are located in basements? And junk food moguls test what they sell too. If a grasshopper burrito doesn’t sell, it’s off the menu.  Only when government food programs worry as much about preparation and taste as they do about poverty propaganda will free lunch be a good “investment.”

Some university presidents make a million dollars or more as public servants. Principals, education apparatchiks, and tenured teachers routinely make six figure salaries with elaborate benefits. What is the average food service manager paid at any public school?

Better still, take a long look at the average school cafeteria worker; overweight, overworked, underpaid, tattooed, and truly scary in hairnets. Have you ever seen Wolfgang Puck, Rachael Ray, or Papa John preparing food in a hairnet?  What’s the point of keeping hair, or toenails for that matter, out of food that’s inedible anyway?

Food in public cafeterias is not just bad; the windowless, basement settings – and the employees – would mute the appetite of vampires. Urban school cafeterias are like municipal post offices, employers of last resort.

The tax dollars that might be saved from waste alone by local school districts could hire the best executive chefs, cooks, and attractive kitchen staffs. A school lunch in could be equal of any Sunday brunch out.

If academic outcomes are a measure of effectiveness, pricey education bureaucrats are a poor investment. A competent chef, cook, or school food service manager is another, indeed an a priori, matter. The proof is in the eating. The effects of good cooking, like good parenting, are measurable.

Parents seem unwilling or unable to prepare food for children. Why not invest in better dining rooms, better kitchens, and only the best food service professionals for schools?  Call it affirmative action eating. We are all, after all, what we eat. Lip service from the Oval Office on hunger and poverty is no substitute for a sunny room and the flavor and taste of a good spinach pie.


The author keeps a garden and cooks nearly every day. He believes that good ingredients and a tasty lunch are national security issues.

Key Words; cooking, school lunch, junk food, hunger, poverty, and public schools.






August 1, 2014

Character is the decisive factor in individuals and nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt

So now we have John Walsh. Another flag officer who steps on his crank and then pretends he was ill at the time. Maybe it’s a David Patraeus thing, a kind of self-love, a lust for advancement and the values lost in the heat of that pursuit. Just as the former CIA director gave sexual harassment a boost with Paula Broadwell; the former Montana Adjutant General, now Senator, Walsh is giving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a bad name, throwing true combat fatigue victims under the bus in the process. PTSD is already the dubious ‘medical’ default setting for any soldier or veteran who behaves badly.

Modern abuse of a combat vitae dates to John Kerry and Vietnam. Kerry parlayed three months in a combat zone to a chest full of medals and service ribbons which he promptly threw on the White House lawn in a fit of feigned political pique.

Playing both sides of the street, war hero/anti-war hero, Kerry used his Navy service as a stepping stone in Massachusetts’ politics. It worked, it still works for Kerry. Lieutenant Kerry, and allies like Jane Fonda, made allegations about American atrocities that were unsupported by evidence. The Secretary of State is still reviled by many veterans for good reasons. Kerry was no Audie Murphy.

Walsh is a disturbing echo of the Kerry military ethos of the 1970s.

Alas, the real problem here isn’t personal integrity so much as national security institutions at risk. Kerry and Walsh raise questions about the standards in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the erosion of national military values like “duty, honor, and country.”

With Kerry, where was the US Navy brass when he collected all those decorations, including three purple hearts for trivial injuries? Kerry never lost a day of duty for his “wounds.” Even by Vietnam standards, Kerry’s fruit salad orgy still amazes contemporaries.

Upon coming home, Kerry morphed into a very different, and very politicized naval officer; often half in and half out of uniform, often wearing/not wearing military decorations at anti-war protest rallies. Where was the admiralty then and subsequently when his Swift Boat shipmates challenged Kerry’s Vietnam resume during that pyrrhic presidential bid?

Now we have General Walsh in another political campaign. Put aside the banal stupidity of plagiarism in an era where any high school sophomore can screen a paper for fraud. Put aside also, for the moment, the question of why a US Army colonel can’t write an original 14 page (sic) “thesis.” Put aside also the questions of how this guy got to be a state adjutant, a lieutenant governor, and an appointed US senator.

Instead, ask how did this fellow ever got a military commission, let alone a flag officer slot? He was promoted from colonel to general after cheating at the Army War College (AWC)! Speaking of the AWC, how is an institution credentialed to grant graduate degrees not able to screen for resume hustlers and plagiarists? And how is a fourteen-page cribbed essay a “thesis” in any post-graduate program? On the academic credibility scale, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, now joins the ranks of degree factories.

The Air Force has not escaped the depression in military values. Ninety-two missile launch officers were implicated in a recent cheating scandal associated with procedural competence. Subsequent inquiries suggest that cheating on proficiency tests has been part of the “culture” at all three ICBM bases for years. The USAF men and women with their fingers on the nuclear button can’t be trusted? Good grief, what’s next?

So here we are once again, with the Walsh fiasco, left to wonder about the integrity of Department of Defense leadership and institutions. And predictably, all of the usual suspects are out on soapboxes defending the indefensible. Excuses suggest that Walsh is a stress victim or he was just distracted, or just guilty of trivial neglect. Even the Clinton defense has been deployed again; Walsh’s behavior is likened to small or private matters, not something that could taint his public professional judgment.

Senator John Walsh’s defenders are probably correct in their calculations. Character flaws like cheating or plagiarism do not matter. After all, one of two major American political parties is behind Walsh “100 percent.” Keep in mind that Walsh didn’t fudge the truth as a junior officer, he cheated as a colonel. Cheating doesn’t matter in the officer corps because apparently character doesn’t matter either.  Among politicians, character seldom matters; and now flag officers have lowered that bar too.  Prudens Futuri  indeed!