Friday, December 08, 2006


Post lifted from Bruce Bawer's blog -- dated October 29, 2006

I have before me two news items dated October 24th. One of them is from the Gay Community News, which reports that "The leading imam in Manchester...thinks the execution of sexually active gay men is justified."  The imam made his comments in a discussion with a Manchester psychotherapist, John Casson, who wanted the imam to clarify the Islamic position on the execution of gays in Iran.  Both Jihad Watch and Little Green Footballs linked to this story at GCN.  I've looked in vain for it in the major British newspapers.

The other item is a story from reporting that the BBC "has admitted to a marked bias against Christianity and a strong inclination to pro-Muslim reporting among the network's executives and key anchors."  It has also admitted that "the corporation is dominated by homosexuals."  These admissions came at a secret "impartiality summit" that the Daily Mail reported on last Sunday.  The Telegraph ran an opinion column about this summit, but otherwise I can't find any reference to it on the websites of other major UK papers.

So the question is this: did the gay-dominated but Muslim-friendly BBC report on the Manchester imam's comments?  I searched the BBC site and found a brief story dated Thursday, October 26 -- meaning that apparently the BBC took two days to get around to reporting this.  And look how they spun it.  The story is framed not as a report of a Muslim leader's affirmation of the legitimacy under Islam of executions of gay people, but as a report of an effort to smear Muslims. 

The headline: "Imam accused of 'gay death' slur."  The lead: "A gay rights campaigner has accused an Imam of saying the execution of gay Muslims to stop the spread of disease is 'for the common good of man.'"  The brief story that follows seems designed to raise doubts about the accuracy of Casson's account of his conversation with the imam.  And the piece concludes with comments from Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, who essentially dismisses the issue of Muslim executions of gay people -- "He said homosexuality was 'not compatible' with Islam, just as it was not compatible with other orthodox religions, such as Catholicism" -- and who complains that giving attention to this issue "is part of demonising Muslims."

That's right -- to draw attention to the fact that orthodox Muslim belief approves of the execution of homosexuals is to demonize Muslims. The BBC story ends there.  There's no indication of any effort to pin Shadjareh down on Muslim attitudes toward gays, no mention of the many previous occasions on which Muslim religious leaders have said essentially the same thing the Manchester imam did, no quote from a gay-rights activist, and (of course) no quote from a straight-talking Islam expert like Robert Spencer who might have explained that sharia law does indeed prescribe capital punishment for homosexuals

If the BBC is in fact dominated by gays, I as a gay man am ashamed of and disgusted by every last one of them.  What can they possibly think they're accomplishing by whitewashing Islam in this fashion?  It's as if a Jewish media organization in the 1930s kept itself busy propagandizing for the Nazis and covering up plans for the Holocaust.


It's a prescription that has the charm of not costing the NHS anything

The unfit, overweight and elderly will be told this week to take up the tango in the interests of their health. Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, is expected to publish a new report showing that prescribing exercise is a cost-effective way of improving health. She will recommend that street dancing, tango classes and trampolining should be encouraged. "Anything you enjoy that makes you more active is good thing," a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said yesterday. "People love dancing." But the actual cost of a visit to the local disco or th, dansant would not be paid by the NHS, she said. It would be more a case of GPs making clear to their patients that all forms of exercise, not just working out in a gym, have their value.

The report to be published this week is the final evaluation of pilot programmes backed by the department, Sport England and the Countryside Agency to try to encourage people with a sedentary lifestyle to take more exercise. For at least a decade the department has been promoting "exercise on prescription" in local areas and as pilot programmes. But funding has been sporadic and enthusiasm from GPs not always wholehearted. And there is little evidence that the programmes are cost-effective. The 2.5 million pound local exercise action pilots began in 2004 and have been evaluated by Leeds Metropolitan University. Its report is expected to say that GP referrals to exercise and walking classes have worked for the older adults, while swimming works better for younger people. "Different categories of intervention engage users with different demographic profiles and baseline levels of physical activity," it found.

The evidence suggests that this kind of intervention can reduce the number of inactive people by about a third. The data also indicate that all those involved increased their activity levels to some degree. Sedentary people exercised about an hour-and-a-half more each week.

Ms Flint will emphasise that activity can take many different forms. One primary care trust sent teachers into schools to encourage girls between 10 and 16 to spend time dancing. While Ms Flint will not suggest that dancing classes are the solution to Britain's obesity epidemic, they have a role.

In another programme, over-50s were encouraged to box, skip and take part in a "tango warm-down". Yet others were taken for walks in the woods where they built shelters out of sticks.

Twenty or 30 years ago, higher levels of activity would have been considered part of a normal life, but Britain has become increasingly sofa-bound. A plethora of small initiatives, such as the promise of "personal trainers" paid for by NHS, has given the impression of government activity, but the rise in obesity has not been halted. The report is expected to make a series of recommendations about how physical activity interventions should be planned and organised in future. It says that such schemes require a broad mix of skills not easily found, and that consultation with the target groups and with community groups is needed to ensure that people participate. Participants also need to know that the schemes will not last for ever, but are simply designed to give them a short-term boost. They will need then to continue without support. The report is expected to conclude that more investment would be justified, as persuading people to be more active saves money in the long run. Ms Flint will announce that GPs will be asked to discuss physical activity with their patients, and complete questionaires recording how active they are.



Property developers were given the go-ahead yesterday to build on the green belt with radical proposals to speed up the construction of homes and shops. Kate Barker, the economist commissioned by Gordon Brown to address planning delays, called for an urgent review of green-belt boundaries. She suggested that some of it could meet housing needs. Ms Barker also proposed giving the go-ahead for more supermarkets and shopping malls, both in town centres and on their outskirts. She made it clear that the market, rather than councils, should dictate development.

The Barker Review of Land Use Planning argues that economic and social benefit should take precedence in siting future developments, even if that meant encroaching on undeveloped land. Many of her proposals, including a new planning commission for national projects such as nuclear power stations, are expected to be contained in a White Paper next year.

The report, which enraged environment and rural groups such as Friends of the Earth, says that business developers and communities face high costs due to a slow and bureacratic planning system. Current restrictions had also stifled competition and choice while more houses were desperately needed.

Ms Barker, a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, argued that green belt boundaries often led to increased emissions and pollution caused by commuters in cars, buses and trains. She recommends redrawing the green belt to include "green wedges" or "green corridors" with spaces for homes and other developments. Much of the green belt, which accounts for 12.9 per cent of all land in England, was "low value agricultural land with little landscape quality and limited public access", Ms Barker said. Much of the urban fringe was run down and could be used to develop homes or businesses, she argued, citing a poll suggesting that most people were unaware how little land was already developed. But Friends of the Earth said that her recommendations would give business and supermarket chains a much bigger say and have a "devastating impact on the environment and local democracy".

Hugh Ellis, Friends of the Earth's planning adviser, said: "Barker's vision of uncontrolled development will mean communities have little or no say in how their local area is developed." The Campaign to Protect Rural England said that her recommendations would speed up urban sprawl all over the countryside. "Green belts have never been entirely sacrosanct, nor should they be, but they are one of England's most effective, best known and most popular planning tools," Shaun Spiers, the CPRE's chief executive, said.

Caroline Spelman, the Shadow Communities Secretary, said: "The Conservatives will oppose the plans for a new, undemocratic government quango to impose development on local communities. I fear that Gordon Brown, the arch-centraliser, is consigning local democracy to the scrapheap."

Although Ms Barker has suggested that the current presumption in favour of building first in town centres should remain, her proposals will encourage building on outskirts. Property experts said that retailers would be given freer rein to develop out-of-town hypermarkets and warehouse-style stores if her recommendations are accepted.

Ms Barker has suggested the removal of the "needs test", under which local authorities can block retail, housing or commercial property development if a community is already well served with such facilities. "Investors who are risking their capital and whose business it is to assess likely customer demand are better placed than local authorities to determine the nature and scale of demand," she said.

However, Stuart Robinson, head of planning at CB Richard Ellis, the property company, said: "She might as well rip up the whole town-centre-first policy. There is no way local authorities could prevent a whole raft of different buildings going straight out to unsustainable locations."

Ms Barker argues that other guidelines, including a "sequential test", which determines that developments must opt for a town-centre location if at all possible, and an "impact assessment", which examines the economic and environmental impact of developments, would promote towncentre development. But her report indicates that more out-of-town development would be desirable in promoting competition among retailers. They gave a cautious welcome to Ms Barker's recommendations. Tesco said that the proposals would speed up planning decisions and reduce the complexity of the system.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's corporate and legal affairs director, said: "This should lead to smoother and faster development, wind turbines included, but it reiterates support for the town-centres-first policy." A spokesman for Asda said: "We believe these changes in the planning regime would be good for customers by increasing choice, while being consistent with sustainable development."


Can British Wine Grapes Resolve a Global Warming Question?

By Dennis T. Avery

British wine grapes are suddenly in the midst of the global warming controversy. Historic records tell us that Britain grew wine grapes 2000 years ago during the Roman Warming, and 1000 years ago during the Medieval Warming. Since 1300, however, Britain has been too cold for wine grapes. The debate: Is human-induced warming boosting British temperatures to "unnatural" levels, or is the gradual warming a repeat of previous cycles?

The website says there are more than 400 vineyards in Britain today, and ". . . the good news about English wine [is] how good, even superb, it can be." It certainly sounds like Britain has gotten warmer recently, but why? The same web site has a "History" section, which reveals: "In England [today], it is only in about 2 years in every 10 that grape production will be really good, 4 years will be average and 4 years poor or terrible-largely due to weather and/or disease exacerbated by weather." (Sounds as if we aren't quite to "wine country warmth yet, doesn't it?)

The same web site also says: "In the 1990s the increase in the number of vineyards and the acreage under cultivation has leveled off, maybe even declined a little. There are a number of reasons for this- many English vineyards have undoubtedly been established with little knowledge of, or even concern for, their financial viability. A saying has grown up that the best way to get a small fortune is to have a large fortune and buy an English vineyard. Whilst this is cruel, it is also pretty certain that it is true."

The web site RealClimate, though it believes fervently in man-made global warming, accurately laid out the last 1000 years of British wine-making on July 12, 2006: "The earliest documentation that is better than anecdotal is from the Domesday Book (1087 AD) . . . Selley quotes Unwin (J. Wine Research, 1990) who records 46 vineyards across Southern England [at that time] . . . production clearly declined after the 13th century, and had a modest resurgence in the 17th and 18th centuries, only to decline to historic lows in the 19th century when only 8 vineyards are recorded. . . . English and Welsh wine production started to have a renaissance in the 1950s. By 1977, there were 124 reasonable-sized vineyards in production-more than at any other time over the previous millennium."

So, British wine-making thrived during the Medieval Warming, failed during the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850), and began to make a comeback in the 1950s, after major world temperature surges between 1850-70 and 1920-40. The uncertain quality of today's British wine grapes indicates that Britain still isn't as warm now as during the Roman and Medieval Warmings.

This argues that we're in a long, natural climate cycle. So does the fact that more than 70 percent of the planet's recent warming occurred before 1940, and thus before humans emitted much CO2. Ice cores and seabed sediments show the 1500-year cycle extending back 900,000 years, and carbon 14 isotopes say it's linked to variations in the sun's irradiance.

British wine-growers are likely to have several more moderately warmer centuries in which to prosper. And wine-lovers will have more-pleasant weather in which to enjoy the wines than they did during the cold, cloudy and stormy Little Ice Age. A reduction in fossil fuel use might be a good strategy for the future, but apparently would have little impact on earth's climate.


Mr Avery might also have mentioned that modern British winegrowing is materially assisted by modern agricultural techniques, including selective breeding of varieties suited to different climates and the use of hardy American rootstocks that were not available in Britain prior to a certain voyage by Christopher Columbus

Creativity by numbers

The UK Creative Partnerships scheme for deprived schools seems more interested in exercising children’s bodies rather than their minds.

‘School should be anything but uniform’, says Creative Partnerships (CP), a £140million scheme brought in by the UK government in 2002 to put the arts back into the timetable for schools in deprived areas. CP was conceived because many teachers were complaining about the straitjacket conformism produced by grade targets, literacy hours and league tables. As former arts minister Estelle Morris said in 2003: ‘It is often said that arts and creative work in schools have been squeezed out…. There is a need to build on that and to recognise the place of arts and culture in our curriculum.’

Schools play a vital role in bringing cultural experience to the next generation. But a closer inspection of CP raises serious questions about what ‘creativity’ has come to mean today, and how teachers are supposed to engage with young people’s minds.

CP’s stated aim is to widen pupils’ cultural experiences and ‘develop imaginative ways of thinking and learning’. Its focus has not been on strengthening traditional subjects, such as art and design, drama or music, but on the more vague concept of ‘creativity’. The scheme has worked with 2,500 schools, setting up partnerships with organisations so that pupils can have the experience of working alongside creative practitioners, such as writers, designers, entrepreneurs, artists and performers.

But a glance through a sample of projects shows that while there is much stress on creativity, risk-taking, innovation and imagination, there is very little attention given to the importance of cultural knowledge. This seems to lead to a preoccupation with how to develop students psychologically, rather than how to give them greater knowledge of the world in order to engage in it.

For instance, in one CP project, Reigate Primary School in Derby took 120 children from years four and five off timetable for a whole week to run an imaginary recycling plant, ‘taking on different roles and responding to events in a rapidly unfolding narrative, with the help of a theatre company’. Sounds like fun, but is this creative learning or play-acting? What are students learning except how they, as inexperienced children, might react to a slightly unreal situation?

CP also seems to be about telling students how to live their lives. CP Black Country sent pupils to a nightclub where they worked with a theatre company to ‘get students to talk about what a bad night out might be like’. After flashing lights and loud music, they were given talks by the police and community safety officers about the risks of carrying weapons, getting home safely, drink-spiking and teenage pregnancy. Usually young people will do anything to get out of the classroom for a day, but it is hard to believe their imaginations are really ignited by this stuff.

Although the original idea of CP was to return arts and culture back to the school timetable, the word ‘creativity’ has become more about a particular style of education, rather than an understanding of arts practice. One London-based filmmaker I spoke to was very positive about CP but stressed that her role was more about encouraging creative thinking and ‘school change’. She said it didn’t matter if the creative person was an artist or a doctor or a scientist – so long as they were ‘creative’. She valued CP because it showed that not all pupils learn by pen and paper; in other words, not all students can be expected to achieve good academic standards because they have different kinds of ‘intelligences’.

The fascination with creativity reflects the influence of modern educational theories since the 1970s, which privilege the psychological process and ‘student-centred’ education. The thrust of these theories was to suggest that each child has a different way of learning, which makes them more or less receptive to different kinds of knowledge. Probably the most influential in popularising this approach is Howard Gardner’s 1983 book Frames of Mind, which promoted the notion of numerous ‘intelligences’ (linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal). Implicit within this approach was a belief that some students were inherently unsuited to academic teaching.

The importance of personalised learning has been rapidly institutionalised under New Labour (see for instance the Department for Education and Skills’ policy document Every Child Matters), with dramatic effect. As Mark Taylor, a history teacher and commentator on educational trends has noted, ‘The re-orientated education system is increasingly interested in diagnosing the intelligences of the particular child rather than educating the general child to be intelligent’ (2). The particular mind of the child determines the teaching content, not the general body of knowledge judged to be worth imparting. Teachers are preoccupied with the process of engagement over what the child is actually learning.

With this in mind, creative education projects are now self-consciously designed to be the opposite of ‘conventional’ teaching methods – getting children out of the classroom, talking and moving around, using mixed media, relaxing with teachers, and even in some cases asking the children what they want to do. The assumption is that children are more engaged if they’re moving around and talking than if they are sitting quietly and learning from a book.

It is certainly difficult to get young people to sit down and read without distraction, but to give up on this as a form of education and act as if it is ‘second best’ is to fundamentally misunderstand the process of learning. Engagement is ultimately gauged by what goes on in the head, not the classroom.

Few teachers want to admit this to their students, but acquiring knowledge often requires self-discipline, working quietly, memorising information, and repeated practice. Without some of these elements, it is impossible to give young people the ability to grasp complex ideas, deal in abstract thought, and remember vast amounts of information. These capacities are not opposed to creative experiences; they are a necessary part of creative experiences. Indeed, it is this ability to master language that makes literature interesting, or listening to an orchestra a newly discovered pleasure.

In fact, scanning the CP projects, one has to wonder whether they are actually more interesting than normal lessons. Year threes at Accrington Peel Park Primary School are designing banners which will ‘illustrate the themes of aspiration, creativity, communication and play’, as well as providing an ‘experience of working in the creative industries’ and ‘developing their team work skills’. CP projects often seem more like training to become a New Labour citizen: decision-making, consultation, risk assessment, emotionally engaging with others, participating and developing dialogue. Yet while personal development is important in schooling, it is hard to see how this can be taught as an end in itself. As Oftsed’s report into CP noted, the students ‘were often unclear about how to apply these qualities independently to develop original ideas and outcomes’.

It would be wrong to dismiss CP altogether – many of the projects are impressive, ambitious and seem enjoyable for all involved. For example, schools in Manchester have teamed up with the prestigious Halle Orchestra to ‘adopt a player’ so that children can experience (often for the first time) a visit to a music concert. Schools in Plymouth have teamed up with the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra to give their A-level music students a chance to hear their digital compositions played on string instruments. These are no doubt valuable experiences pushed through by teachers and artists who are passionate about art. For many headteachers, CP can offer a much-needed pot of money that allows them to run imaginative schemes they could not otherwise afford. Yet at the same time, CP reinforces the notion that ‘creativity’ is something one does outside normal learning, as a wacky project in a different environment and not something that can be developed through teaching itself.

And while the CP machine rumbles on with praise, other areas of musical instrument training, technical drawing and art history are practically non-existent in schools in deprived areas. For instance, half of all students in the independent sector learn a musical instrument, while only eight per cent of students in the state sector do so. The government has made some positive moves to address this problem, but there is still a long way to go.

Everyone agrees that young people need access to varied cultural experiences and should be taught in a way that stretches their hearts and minds. The better projects of CP might allow some teachers to do this, but the overall philosophy of ‘creativity’ and personalised learning might make things worse.


Four big, fat food myths

A comprehensive debunking of the obesity crusade from Britain

The Government wants to set up a database to monitor every child in the country - including their diet. But are our children as obese and unhealthy as we are told? And what about us? Health researchers argue that being overweight is actually beneficial: it's dieting that kills

Big Brother has an ambition: to become Big Nanny. The Government wants to introduce a o224 million "Children's Index", a massive database of every child in the country, charting progress from birth to adulthood and flagging up "concerns" about each child's development. Two "flags" on a child's record would trigger an official investigation into his or her family.

Not surprisingly, Parliament's Information Commissioner, in a report last week, was highly critical of the scheme. "Government policy proposes treating all parents as if they cannot be trusted to bring up their children," the report said. Increasingly, this is just what the Government and health campaigners believe. One of the proposed danger signs on the Children's Index, after all, would be if the child were not eating the requisite, government-approved amount of fruit and vegetables each day.

These health campaigners tell us that British children - and their parents - must be slimmed down because we, like much of the developed world, are in the grip of an obesity epidemic that threatens a health catastrophe. Indeed, the US surgeon general has claimed that obesity is "a greater threat than weapons of mass destruction". The media has picked up on the scares and turned them into a kind of orthodoxy. For instance, the term "childhood obesity" occurred only twice in The Guardian in 1999. In 2004, it occurred 201 times, almost four times a week. The public have become convinced that the "epidemic" is a fact.

Yet the obesity epidemic is a myth manufactured by public health officials in concert with assorted academics and special-interest lobbyists. These crusaders preach a sermon consisting of four obesity myths: that we and our children are fat; that being fat is a certain recipe for early death; that our fatness stems from the manufacturing and marketing practices of the food industry (hence Ofcom's recently announced ban on junk food advertising to children); and that we will lengthen our lives if only we eat less and lose weight. The trouble is, there is no scientific evidence to support these myths.

Let's start with the myth of an epidemic of childhood obesity. The just-published Health Survey for England, 2004 does not show a significant increase in the weight of children in recent years. The Department of Health report found that from 1995 to 2003 there was only a one-pound increase in children's average weight.

Nor is there any evidence in claims that overweight and obese children are destined to become overweight and obese adults. The Thousand Families Study has researched 1,000 Newcastle families since 1954. Researchers have found little connection between overweight children and adult obesity. In the study, four out of five obese people became obese as adults, not as children.

There is not even any compelling scientific evidence to support the Government's claim that childhood obesity results in long-term health problems and lowers one's life expectancy. In fact, the opposite may be true: we could be in danger of creating a generation of children obsessed with their weight with the consequent risk of eating disorders that really do threaten their health. Statistics on the numbers of children with eating disorders are hard to come by, but in the US it is estimated that 10 per cent of high school pupils suffer from them. Recent studies show adults' attempts to control children's eating habits result in children eating more rather than less. Parental finger wagging increases the likelihood that children develop body-image problems as well as eating disorders.

One of the principal targets of the obesity crusaders has been the school vending machine. However, the banning of these machines and their stocks of snacks and sweets is very much at odds with the most recent science on children, junk food, and obesity. In 2004, a World Health Organisation study of 8,904 British pupils found that overweight children ate sweets less frequently than normal-weight children did. Children who ate larger amounts of junk food actually had less chance of being overweight.

One large-scale American study spent three years tracking almost 15,000 boys and girls aged between nine and 14 to investigate the links between body mass index and the consumption of fruit and vegetables. It found no correlation, and concluded that "the recommendation for consumption of fruit and vegetables may be well founded, but should not be based on a beneficial effect on weight regulation".

The parallel claim of an adult obesity epidemic is equally unsubstantiated. There has been significant weight gain among the very heaviest segment of the adult population. However, this has not been true of most of the individuals who are labelled overweight and obese, whose weights have only slightly increased. In America, it is true that there was a rapid increase in the number of overweight people in the early years of this decade: but only because the classification of what was "overweight" was reduced from those with a body mass index of 27 to those of 25. Overnight, previously normal weight people discovered they were overweight.

The science linking weight to early death is flimsy, at best. Neither being fat nor moderately obese is associated with increased mortality risks. Last year, a US Centres for Disease Control study found the lowest death rates among overweight people. Furthermore, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that normal- weight individuals did not outlive their mildly obese counterparts. These findings are replicated in many studies over the past 30 years that have found maximum longevity is associated with being above, rather than below, average weight.

Nor, as is often claimed, does the nature of our diet seem to have much impact on mortality. Comparative studies analysing fat and blood cholesterol levels across different cultures fail to sustain the claims of a cause-and-effect connection between life expectancies and diets. Crete, with its Mediterranean diet, has one of the lowest incidences of heart disease, yet has a fat intake of 40 per cent, similar to the British level.

It is now well established that a low-fat diet does little to reduce the risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. The only certainty about the obesity-diet-mortality connection is that, as the late epidemiologist Petr Skrabanek observed: "People who eat, die."

There is not even evidence that the heavily-advertised, much-criticised foods such as sugary breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks make children obese. A 2004 Harvard University study examined 14,000 children and found that junk food did not lead to obesity.

Extensive econometric studies debunk the connection between food advertising and overall food consumption. Food advertising may influence the consumption of particular food brands. It does not, however, increase either total food consumption or the consumption of specific categories of food. All of which is consistent with the fact that caloric intake for British children has not changed significantly over recent decades. The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that, since 1983, both boys' and girls' energy intake had actually declined.

Equally unsupported is the obesity crusaders' campaign for population-wide weight loss. While they try to convince us that we are desperately fat and that our fatness will kill us, the truth about the risks of thinness and the large numbers of thinness-related deaths is quietly ignored. Large numbers of women suffer from anorexia, with one in five hospital cases ending in death. A survey of 5,000 British women in 2000 found that four in 10 had suffered from an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia. These numbers do not take into account the many men and women, neither anorexic nor bulimic, who place themselves at risk through their fixation with dieting.

Contemporary weight gain is not the result of higher food consumption; rather, it reflects a lack of exercise. For the first time in many years, membership of British gyms is in decline. A survey found that most overweight British women seeking to shed pounds choose a fashionable diet over cardiovascular exercise or lifting weights at a gym. Overweight women are more likely to turn to cosmetic surgery, slimming pills or starvation to solve their problems, than to exercise.

But the sad truth is that attempts at weight loss are largely unsuccessful, even in highly controlled situations. Of every 100 people who respond to the crusaders' sermon that they should lose weight, only four will be able to maintain their post-diet weight. Ninety-five per cent of dieters are fatter five years after their diet then when they started to trim.

Weight-loss campaigners also ignore evidence of an association between weight loss and increased mortality. Two American studies - the Iowa Women's Health Study and the American Cancer Society study - found that weight loss was associated with higher rates of mortality. Research following up the ACS study found that healthy obese women were, in fact, better off not losing weight. They were at less risk from cancer and cardiovascular disease than healthy women who dieted.

Obesity crusaders believe that the nanny state has the right to define and enforce a single vision of what constitutes healthy living a good life. The government's judgment is considered inherently superior to any individual's judgment that fatness is at least personally tolerable. The obesity crusade presumes a nursery nation comprised of docile infant-citizens too uncertain of their own values to be left to make their own way in a world in which an evil Ronald McDonald lurks under every archway. Obesity crusaders believe the individual has an obligation to order his life according to their judgment about health, and that the government may justifiably force him to conform if he demurs.

The lasting legacy of the obesity crusade will be both a much fatter government and a much thinner citizenry. The government will be fatter through its expanded power to shape inappropriately the lives of its citizens. Britons will be thinner in their capacity for choice, self-government, and personal responsibility.


No comments: