There’s a place in New Brunswick that serves up a hot dog known as the “crackler.” A strip of bacon is wrapped around the dog like an armature, and the dog and bacon are deep fried. I used to frequent that place — Tido ‘n His Junkyard Dogs — before the Gannett Co. discovered that I was of no further use and I had to find work in another neighborhood. I thought to myself at first that it might be easier to forego the cracker and simply put a loaded revolver to my head, but my watering palate got the best of me, and indulged myself from time to time. I suppose one could make the argument that I was putting my family’s future at risk by abusing my arteries in that manner, but I was, after all, accepted “for better or for worse,” and if this was as bad as “worse” got, perhaps it wasn’t a bad bargain for anyone concerned.

I have often wondered, standing in a checkout line while some bloke at the front asks the clerk for an eight-dollar pack of cigarettes from the vault, whether I would still lay down that much money if I had been a smoker. I have never been a smoker, so I have never had to confront that dilemma, but it seems as if New York Times columnist Mark Bittman would like to come at me from a different direction.

Bittman wrote this week that the federal government should heavily tax unhealthy foods so as to discourage people like me from becoming a drain on the health care system.

This is the approach that has already been taken with cigarettes, which the feds and the states have gleefully taxed and taxed again, boasting that they’re only looking out for people who can’t look out for themselves, whereas what they’re really doing is compensating for their own inability to control government spending by making scapegoats of people engaged in an unpopular but legal activity. The last I heard, beer wasn’t a healthy drink. Why don’t governments tax the hell out of that? I think you know why.

Bittman isn’t in government, and I don’t suspect him of such a cynical motive — although he does mention the potential for billions in tax revenues from consumers of donuts and Pepsi. I think he means well, and in a way that’s almost worse. Government can do whatever it wants in the way of public education — things such as Mayor Bloomberg’s calorie-posting requirement — but slapping what amounts to a financial penalty on people exercising their freedom to eat what they choose, which is perfectly legal, is too much government in private life.

You can read Mark Bittman’s column by clicking HERE.

lambsIt turns out that the crisis in the global environment may relieve me of a cultural disgrace – the fact that I don’t like lamb. I’m half Lebanese by heritage, for heaven’s sake, and I can’t stand the smell, never mind the taste of lamb. It wasn’t always so; I ate lamb when I was a kid, but somewhere along the line I lost my taste for it. That’s putting mildly.

But now the Britain’s Committee on Climate Change is recommending that folks stop eating so-called “high-carbon food,” and lamb is on the list. The reason lamb is in the crosshairs – this is serious, now, folks – is that sheep burp too much. From The Times of London:

A government-sponsored study into greenhouse gases found that producing 2.2lb of lamb released the equivalent of 37lb of carbon dioxide.

The problem is because sheep burp so much methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Cows are only slightly better behaved. The production of 2.2lb of beef releases methane equivalent to 35lb of CO2 Tomatoes, most of which are grown in heated glasshouses, are the most “carbon-intensive” vegetable, each 2.2lb generating more than 20lb of CO2 Potatoes, in contrast, release only about 1lb of CO2 for each 2.2lb of food. The figures are similar for most other native fruit and vegetables. 

And don’t look now, quaffers, but that brew is on the government’s chopping block, too. The Times:

Alcoholic drinks are another significant contributory factor, with the growing and processing of crops such as hops and malt into beer and whisky helping to generate 1.5% of the nation’s greenhouse gases. 

Well, at least now, when I go to a Middle Eastern restaurant, I can decline the lamb – and the heritage of countless generations of my ancestors – on the grounds that I’m “green.”