When DrRich was a little tyke, he always loved it when Uncle Harry came to visit. Uncle Harry was a large, rotund man with a ready smile and a jolly laugh, who was genuinely delighted to spend hours entertaining little DrRich and all the other children with his jokes, stories, magic tricks, and samples from the large stash of candies he always kept in his coat pockets. We all loved Uncle Harry.
But we were deceived.
Little did DrRich know, in his youthful innocence, that far from being the cheerful and beloved amateur prestidigitator delighting us with his his egg trick, Uncle Harry was actually a menace. For Uncle Harry was obese.
We now know, of course, that obese people, through their gluttony, sloth and lack of self-control, are causing untold harm to our society. They are unpleasant to sit next to on buses and airplanes. They use more than their rightful share of healthcare resources. They snore. They cause excessive tire wear (and if they sit in the same seat all the time, the tire wear will be asymmetrical, probably leading to an increase in automobile accidents).
And now, thanks to a recently published academic article, we know that the obese are largely responsible for global warming.
That global warming is taking place, and that it is being produced by mankind, of course, is a settled issue. DrRich is led to understand that a great council of hand-picked environmental scientists, taking a lesson from the Council of Nicaea, has met and has decreed it to be so. The entire body of scientific evidence has been formally considered, and like the Holy Scripture has been carefully locked down into its final form, and has been divided into orthodoxy (the study of which is holy) and heresy (the study of which leads to perdition). And having accomplished this task, the scientific community will hereafter countenance no dissension on the matter, and will admit no further debate or even any further data (unless it is corroborative data). For this is how science is supposed to work, at least for matters as critically important as global warming.
DrRich calls it Environmental Scholasticism, and believes it is about time we returned to a system of thought that was good enough for some pretty important Saints. The notion that scientific viewpoints should never be considered “closed,” and should always be open to challenge as new evidence and new ideas come to light, is a relatively recent invention initiated by the likes of Galileo and Newton, and has led to nothing but trouble (such as, for instance, global warming).
In any case, now that we know once and for all that global warming is man-made, it behooves us to figure out which men (and women) are causing it. And now, according to two eminent scholars at the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, we know that among the chief culprits are the fat. That is, fat people, through the office of their obesity itself, are responsible for a significant degree of the carbon emissions that are unarguably (and officially) destroying our planet.
This fact, heralded by radio and newspaper reports proclaiming, “Fatties Cause Global Warming,” was revealed in a “scientific” paper written by Professors Edwards and Roberts and published by the prestigious Oxford Press in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
The paper really ought to be perused directly to appreciate the elevated level of scholasticism employed by the authors, which would make even Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus themselves sit up and take notice. For this paper, which indicts a whole class of individuals with the supreme crime of global warming, a crime whose disastrous effect on our planet eventually will make the atrocities perpetrated by even Hitler and Stalin seem mere trifles in comparison, reaches its conclusions without ever offering even one tiny glimmer of actual data or evidence.
Rather, the authors rely (as true scholastics must) on the approved body of scientific work, choosing from that body an array of assumptions based on bits of sanctified data from physiology here (e.g., Basal Metabolic Rate = 11.5 X body weight in KG + 873kcal), and behavioral science there (e.g., that the average daily activities of humans consists of 7 hours sleeping, 7 hours of office work, 4 hours of light home activities, 4 hours sitting, 1 hour standing, 30 min of driving and 30 min of walking at 5 km/h), then applying these bits to an incredible chain of assumptions and estimations, to demonstrate that the negative impact of the obese on our society goes far beyond what we currently think. Indeed, through such machinations it can be concluded that the obese are melting the ice caps, killing polar bears, flooding the seacoasts, and turning our farmland, forests and fields into hot, dry, desert.
Anyone with a cheap telescope can conclude from all this that Martians, when they existed, must have been really fat.
This information, of course, will come in very handy when we are forced at last to reduce our healthcare costs, and we find we need somebody to blame. We can already discriminate against smokers with a clear conscience. And now discriminating against the obese can be accomplished not only with a clear conscience, but with a sense of duty. For, far from merely costing the healthcare system a lot of money, they are killing us all and ruining our planet.
Indeed, DrRich himself was sharpening his pitchfork, when a thought occurred to him.
The paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology comports to the classical scholastic practice of “lectio,” whereby a learned person expounds on a certain interpretation of the approved texts, and allows no dissension or questioning. But scholasticism also offers a process for “disputatio,” whereby alternative interpretations of the approved texts are permitted to be offered, and the two viewpoints are then subjected to logical analysis through which the truth is determined. (Though in classical scholasticism, the “truth” is ultimately determined by the scholar who delivered the original lectio, and the disputant is put in his/her place.*)
*This, of course is where Martin Luther went wrong. The 95 Theses he nailed to the church door at Wittenberg was essentially an offer to engage in a classical scholastic “disputatio.” He was merely inviting a debate, like any other scholastic debate, and nothing more. The clergy, however, proved a bit too easily offended, and Luther proved a bit too tetchy, and the intended academic exercise turned into 300-years of bloodshed. DrRich sincerely hopes to avoid such a result here.
So in the spirit of Environmental Scholasticism (but for the ultimate purpose of discovering whether the healthcare system ought to cure, ignore or euthanize the obese), DrRich would like to propose an alternative interpretation of the argument that the obese are causing global warming. That is, he will offer a disputation.
The logic of the two eminent scholars Edwards and Roberts, once you wade through the incredible morass of scientific-sounding language they have produced, essentially rests on two arguments. First, that the obese require more food energy for their basal metabolic requirements, and second, that because they are so fat they travel in cars (and very big cars at that) much more than normal people do. For these two reasons the obese produce way more carbon emissions than they are supposed to. The authors go on to calculate the excess carbon emissions produced by the obese via the aforesaid impressive chain of assumptions and estimations, and the magnitude of that excess shows us plainly that the fat are largely to blame for global warming.
This is when it occurred to DrRich that both of the basic arguments of Professors Edwards and Roberts can be easily countered, well within the bounds of the scholastic arts, using only the approved texts and without introducing any new (which is to say, heretical) data.
So, to their lectio, DrRich advances this disputation:
First, DrRich asserts that while the basal metabolic rates of the fat are indeed higher than those of the thin, one reason the thin are thin is that their non-basal metabolism is high. That is, often they habitually engage in exercise, even running marathons and triathalons, which burns many calories and produces much CO2. Scientific studies have shown that the obese tend to be still, serene, relatively inanimate. On the other hand thin people are fidgety, they pace about, wave their hands, bounce their legs, and excrete much CO2 through largely habitual and non-useful activity. Perhaps we should punish the calorie-burning thin rather than the fat. At least when the obese burn calories they are generally doing something useful.
Second, while thin people do ambulate more than the obese (indeed, this is DrRich’s first point), the assumption that the obese must make up that mileage by driving cars is entirely ridiculous. The thin actually drive far more than the obese, because they have places to go and things to do, and they’re in a hurry to get there and do it. In contrast the obese are efficient in their movements, they preserve their energy. Thus, they do not drive to the grocery for a pint of milk on a whim. They plan their trips carefully, and shop for the entire week with one trip. There is no evidence that the obese require more support from internal combustion engines than do the thin, and simple observation in fact suggests the opposite.
DrRich could, with some effort, produce a paper just as scientific-sounding as that of the Professors to “prove” his points, but will not do so here. Instead, he will just state his points as bald assertions – which (despite all the fancy math they attached to it) is just what his opponents have done.
DrRich maintains that his two assertions – which entirely counterbalance those of his opponents – make his argument equally compelling to theirs. So thus far we have a draw. But DrRich’s third assertion, which follows, wins the day.
To wit: The obese are unarguably sequestering carbon.
Storing fat, in fact, is simply a relatively efficient way to store carbon. The obese consume massive amounts of carbon in the form of food, and then they fail to burn it off (unlike thin people, who convert their food to CO2 immediately through their habitually wasteful activities). Instead, the obese store their carbon intake in massive reservoirs of fatty tissue, taking it out of circulation forever, and removing it from the carbon cycle which (we find) is so fatally damaging to the earth. Indeed (at least according to the zero-sum crowd for whom redistribution is invariably the answer to all problems), the more food consumed by the obese, the less food remains available for the thin people who would just go ahead and metabolize it, with all their jogging and whatnot, excreting lots of excess CO2 in the process.
When we finally institute our cap-and-trade economy, the obese should get a tax break based on their weight.
Carbon sequestration, of course, is one of the holy grails for environmentalists. Lots of methods for sequestration have been proposed, but none seem particularly practical. One method that has been considered is called “Biomass Burial,” in which we would take some form of biomass (plants have been the main source proposed) and bury it under the earth. The carbon from the buried biomass will stay in the ground, and will not contribute to global warming, at least not for a long time. (This is how fossil fuels are said to form in the first place.)
As long as we insist that fat people are buried (preferably after they die), and make cremation of the obese illegal, then putting the obese into the ground will constitute the much-sought biomass burial. When we bury deceased fat people, it is plain to see that we are removing tons and tons of carbon from the carbon cycle and thus from the atmosphere, and instead sequestering it in the ground. It brings a tear to DrRich’s eye to imagine that his king-sized Uncle Harry, gone now for the better part of three decades, by virtue of all that carbon he took with him under the earth continues to make the world a better place for all us former kids he used to delight with his card tricks and his stupid jokes.
And finally, this happy conclusion at which we have arrived – that the obese actually reduce global warming – at last informs those of us who are interested in healthcare how we ought to behave toward the obese. As long as fat people are maintaining (or better yet adding to) their weight – that is, as long as they continue to remove large amounts of carbon from circulation – we should encourage their continued good health. If, however, they start exercising or in some other fashion begin to burn off their large carbon deposits, then of course we might logically withhold medical care from them, or even encourage euthanasia.
But please, for the love of our precious planet and for the sake of our polar bear citizens, let us not discriminate against the obese, or discourage them from their important work.
DrRich explains it all in, Fixing American Healthcare – Wonkonians, Gekkonians and the Grand Unification Theory of Healthcare.
(A Heartfelt Plea To Certain Authors Of The Health Care Renewal Blog)
The other day, President Obama gave a commencement speech in which he pointed out one of the downsides of living in a new age of electronic communication:
“Meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. . . .[I]nformation becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”
In other words, too much information can be bad (since it can be untruthful, and places pressure on our country and democracy). Clearly implied in this statement is the idea that something ought to be done about all that extraneous information out there. Presumably, disinterested truth-tellers in our unbiased government bureaucracies ought to sort out fact from fiction, and take the necessary steps to get rid of the fiction. This is not the first time the White House has offered to monitor the utterings of wrong-thinking Americans, and to do what is needed to correct their misapprehensions. Rather, it is simply another reinforcement of a consistent theme under our current administration.
We had best take it seriously.
And so, it is with some reluctance that DrRich finds it necessary at this time to perform an intervention. He does so with the kindest of motives, namely, to protect two people he greatly admires from finding themselves on the wrong side of a Federal disinformation bust.
DrRich speaks, of course, of Dr. Roy Poses and his colleague MedInformaticsMD (who had best not rely on an easily-decoded pseudonym for protection), two of the principle authors of the excellent Health Care Renewal blog. Both of these highly respected physicians and bloggers have posted articles this week which are critical of individuals who have spoken out against obese Americans.
Dr. Poses started it, pointing out that certain high-profile executives who have made recent public statements decrying obesity, and ridiculing (and offering to discriminate against) the obese, are pontificating on an issue about which they have no professional expertise.
MedInformaticsMD upped the ante by referring to these same executives as obesity bigots, and pointing out (rather colorfully) that such a person “talks stupidly and discriminatorily out of his anal orifice about how much people put in the other end of their GI tracts.”
Now, DrRich does not know how likely it is that Federal truth-tellers will stumble across these offensive posts. Given the stuff DrRich himself has said about healthcare reform and our government, he hopes it is unlikely indeed.
But Gentlemen of the HCR blog! Whereas DrRich habitually employs enough irony in his writings that most stone-witted bureaucrats (he hopes!) will have trouble discerning what he actually thinks, your prose is uncomfortably straightforward, and leaves no room for interpretation. If they find it, you are screwed.
And so, DrRich begs you to allow him an opportunity to set you straight on American obesity, and the importance of the anti-obesity movement.
To understand this, one must understand the underlying premise: Under any soup-to-nuts universal healthcare system (which, DrRich submits, is the ultimate goal), our central authorities, in the name of controlling costs, have got to be able to restrict, control and tax virtually any human behavior they can claim may lead to an increased risk of healthcare expenditures – which, really, encompasses virtually any human behavior you can think of.
Such power on the part of our central authorities will feel “unnatural” to many if not most Americans, if not developed judiciously. And so, it makes sense to develop such power – to set precedents which, once set, will be impossible to stop – by demonizing the obese, and making it not only OK, but imperative, for the government to control their unutterably selfish behavior, and, failing that, to punish them.
It is not difficult to demonize the obese. In literature and films the obese have long been portrayed as unreasonably jolly, slovenly and lazy, or just plain evil. (Hello, Newman!) Nobody likes to sit next to them on airplanes or buses. They block the aisles at the grocery store (their favorite haunts), and they reduce miles-per-gallon (and cause excessive tire wear) when they ride in our cars. On humid days, they sweat (and thus smell) more than you and I. So, with rare exceptions (and it is unfortunate that you two Gentlemen comprise one of these), nobody complains when the obese are criticized and attacked.
Given the current hypersensitivity to anything smacking of criticism of various races, ethnic groups, professions, political movements, sexual orientations, immigration status, victims of certain diseases, and scores of other categories of Americans, the obese present us with a refreshingly – and indeed the only – safe target. As the authors of the HCR blog point out, prominent and respected figures feel no compunction whatsoever against making the most offensive public statements against the obese, and when they do they receive (with rare exceptions such as provided by you HRC Gentlemen) applause rather than condemnation.
Obesity is a condition which is immediately visible to all – and from a great distance – and which immediately labels one as being selfish and lazy, and, now, as entirely unconcerned that their bad behavior is costing the rest of us our healthcare dollars, and thus, potentially our lives. Hating the obese has become nearly a patriotic imperative.
Fully government-funded and government-controlled healthcare (by whatever subterfuge we finally get there) permits – nay, demands! – that we declare to the obese that their unsightly physiques are no longer a matter of personal choice, but are now a matter of legitimate public concern. The choices they are making – that is, their gluttony, sloth and all other manner of self-indulgence – are placing unwanted and unsustainable demands on us purer, svelter, fellow-citizens, not to mention placing us in danger of not receiving the healthcare which we (in contrast) actually deserve.
It is already far too late, Gentlemen, to appeal to mere reasonableness, rationality, or, especially civility. We are well past that stage. Observe: It has become acceptable to write, and accept for publication, “scientific” papers claiming that the obese are the chief cause of global warming. Observe again: It has become acceptable to write, and accept for publication, “scientific” papers claiming that obesity is contagious, and that – never mind associating with the obese themselves – it is risky associating with the very friends of the obese. (That is, even those who like, or tolerate, fat people are to be shunned.)
By their own selfish actions, actions which threaten the collective far more than merely themselves, the obese have become fair game for whatever manipulations our government can devise to cause them to either lose weight, or pay for their sins. Such maneuvers may begin with simple taxes on foodstuffs favored by the obese, but the sky’s the limit. A special “carbon tax” based on their BMI would be legitimate, for instance, since it will always cost a lot of energy to move a fat person from point A to point B, whatever the mode of transportation. The periodic mandatory public “weigh-ins” such a tax would justify would serve the useful purpose of public humiliation, an important incentive to weight loss. And it goes without saying that the ultimate censure – already employed in more enlightened cultures such as Great Britain – would be simply to withhold certain healthcare services if one is deemed too fat.
Demonizing the obese provides several important precedents to our central authorities. That it sets an important precedent – and establishes the mechanisms and techniques – for controlling the private behaviors of American citizens is obvious. But it also allows us to place the blame for a medical condition, which largely depends on genetic predisposition, solely on the chosen behavior of its victims. Discriminating against those who have genetically-mediated conditions thus becomes possible.
Discriminating against obesity also sets a precedent for discriminating against the lower economic classes (since obesity, rather than starvation, is the chief nutritional problem of the poor in America). This will prove a useful tool when we set future behavioral standards to reduce healthcare spending, since so much of that spending is for the economically disadvantaged.
And so, Gentlemen of the HRC blog, it ought to be painfully clear that successfully demonizing the obese is a vital pillar of our new healthcare system. And when you express the unfortunate ideas the two of you have published this week (namely, that discrimination against the obese is somehow unhelpful), you are placing a large target on yourselves, and on your otherwise excellent blog. (And by extension, you may be placing more innocent blogs, like this one, under more official scrutiny than might be comfortable.)
DrRich sincerely hopes you will take these comments in the communal spirit in which they are intended.